The KHL season is in full swing and it has been an exciting first month. The threat of COVID is still lurking though and we have seen games postponed and forfeited as a result. Teams like Jokerit, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and SKA St. Petersburg have been particularly affected. It will be something to monitor as the season continues but the KHL has been very clear that it wants to continue playing at all costs.
October has presented another unusual moment with the NHL Draft taking place during the KHL season for the first time. It is hard to imagine that this wasn’t a distraction for some of the draft-eligible players so I will be interested to see if any of them can push on from here. In this article, I will recap the main players picked, as well as providing updates on how the existing NHL prospects are faring.
NHL Draft Selections
Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA St. Petersburg (Nashville Predators, 11th overall)
It was always expected that Askarov would be the first Russian player off the board and Nashville seemed like the most logical team to select him. They are getting a potential superstar who has been nothing short of exceptional in his short stint in the KHL this season. After stopping 14 of 15 shots in relief against Avangard Omsk, he then posted a 33-save shutout against Spartak Moscow in the next game. Three days later, he stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 2-1 win over Torpedo. Unfortunately, SKA’s depth in goal will likely mean that he sees little KHL game time the rest of the season. But he is undoubtedly the most promising goalie prospect in Russia (and maybe all of Europe) and Preds fans should be extremely pleased to have him in their organization.
Rodion Amirov, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Toronto Maple Leafs, 15th overall)
A lot of mock drafts had Amirov going to the Leafs, so it was not surprising when his name was finally called as the 15th overall pick. Amirov is a fluid skater who draws pressure extremely well, which either leads to space opening up for his teammates or draws a penalty. Although he isn’t the biggest player (6-0, 168lbs), he protects the puck very well and isn’t afraid to go to the front of the net. For the past few weeks, Salavat’s lineup has been depleted and this has seen Amirov log more minutes, and he has certainly made the most of this opportunity. I really like this pick by Toronto and I expect them to have an exciting player to add to their lineup in a few years.
Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (New Jersey Devils, 20th overall)
Mukhamadullin was a surprise pick at 20th overall and may have benefited from his strong start to the season with Salavat. He has been afforded the opportunity to log big minutes as a result of the number of players currently missing from the Salavat lineup. His seven points in 19 games, aided heavily by his big shot, certainly helped him stand out. You can see why he would appeal to teams – he is 6-4 and can skate well for his size. I have serious concerns though about how he sees the game and I think taking him at 20 was at least a round too high for my liking.
Yegor Chinakhov, RW, Avangard Omsk (Columbus Blue Jackets, 21st overall)
I think it is fair to say that nobody expected Chinakhov to go this high. There was almost a stunned silence in the Sportsnet studio as the hosts scrambled to try and find information to tell their viewers. But Chinakhov is far from some unknown prospect. The overager has gotten his 2020-21 season off to a flier, putting up six goals and nine points in 16 games. He has high-end puck skills and an eye for goal. In my viewings, I have also been impressed with his willingness to take the puck to the net and create chances. Ultimately, I think he was a significant reach by Columbus who still has a long way to go to justify his 21st overall selection.
Maxim Groshev, RW/LW, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (Tampa Bay Lightning, 85th overall)
Groshev is an interesting prospect who I felt was taken a bit high for my liking. He could be described as a KHL tweener, where he is too good to play at the MHL level but is struggling to make an impact at the KHL level. There is a lot to like about his game though. He is a big man at 6-2 who skates well and plays at a high pace. He is always looking to gain the blueline using his skill and attack the net, but his efforts are yet to really pay off, with just one assist to his name in 12 games. Groshev will likely be a bottom-six player if he makes it to the NHL given his lack of true offensive upside.
Artyom Galimov, C, Ak Bars Kazan (Anaheim Ducks, 129th overall)
Galimov is a double overager who has been a key member of a strong Ak Bars Kazan team this season. He has been able to contribute offensively with nine points in 16 games. His game is built around hard work and he is effective in all three zones. He does possess some skill and the ability to create offense but I don’t know if it is to the level that is required to play in the NHL. Although his skating is average, I would question whether he is quick enough to be effective in the NHL.
Dmitri Voronkov, C, Ak Bars Kazan (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Voronkov returned to action on October 5th after nearly three weeks out of the lineup due to injury. He has been feeling his way back to full fitness, putting up a point and an assist in the six games since his return. I have been impressed with his play recently, and his contribution to Ak Bars is more than you see on the scoresheet. In the most recent game I watched against Traktor, he used his big frame to set a perfect screen on the powerplay which led to the tying goal. He is an ever-present force around the net and that is where his value will be if he makes it to the NHL level. I would still like to see a more consistent effort from him though, as he can be anonymous for large portions of games.
Dmitri Samorukov, LHD, CSKA Moscow (Edmonton Oilers)
It has been a great start to the season for Samorukov. He has put up seven points in 16 games whilst averaging 17:27 of ice time per game. He has also been named Rookie of the Week twice in the opening six weeks. His play has been very strong in the offensive zone, using his accurate wrist shot to create scoring opportunities. In his own zone, he has been good at tying up his man around the net and has seen plenty of penalty kill time as a result. There are a few areas of his game though which I feel need improvement. In the games that I have watched, he hasn’t moved the puck very well on breakouts, leading to a loss of momentum or a turnover. He also doesn’t try to activate into the rush, even though he is a decent skater. As a result, it is hard to project him as much more than, at best, a second-pairing defenseman at this stage. I think he’ll ultimately end up being a bottom-pairing guy who can move up the lineup if needed.
- Kirill Marchenko (CBJ) returned to the SKA St.Petersburg lineup after over three weeks out. He has been playing on the first line and has put up two goals and an assist in his first two games back.
- Vitali Kravtsov (NYR) has not played since 29th September due to injury. He has been in great form, with six goals in 11 games so hopefully he will return soon.
- German Rubtsov (PHI) has also been out injured since 29th September. He has been a key member for Sochi, playing in all situations and averaging over 14 minutes of ice time per game.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on Twitter @a_coulterhockey for more updates on the KHL