Vitali Kravtsov is heading back home.
According to Russian outlet Championat, the 23-year-old winger has signed a two-year deal to return to Traktor Chelyabinsk, starting with the 2023-24 season.
The team has not made the deal official as of yet.
Kravtsov was drafted ninth overall by the New York Rangers in 2018 after winning rookie of the year honors in the KHL. He then led all Russian-born junior players with 21 points the following year, which is nothing to sneeze at. Kravtsov moved over to North America the following year but didn’t make the Rangers and was ultimately returned back to Traktor, where he struggled to produce.
Kravtsov finally made his NHL debut in 2020-21 but had just four points, while seeing his performance improve with Traktor again during another stint with the club. Kravtsov only played 19 KHL games in 2021-22, but looked good with 13 points.
He returned back to the NHL for 2022-23 and couldn’t get into full-time duty with the Rangers. Kravtsov was moved ahead of the NHL trade deadline in order to clear some cap space for New York to bring in Patrick Kane, sending him to Vancouver. Kravtsov had some opportunities with some quality linemates, but only scored once and added an assist for two points in 16 games.
As a pending RFA, the Rangers could still give him a qualifying offer to at least hold on to his rights. At this point, it seems like Kravtsov’s NHL career isn’t going to pan out, but he’s still young. It’s worth it for the Canucks to at least hold on to him while they can, and potentially bring him back or trade him away in the future.
Kravtsov will look to help Traktor Chelyabinsk make it back to the playoffs after missing it this season, a big fall after making it to the conference final in 2022. The team has never won the KHL championship but did win a title in the old Russian second league back in 2006.