Prospect Ramblings: Cold Caufield, Rashevsky’s Red-Hot Start, a Word on Kayumov

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-11-02

Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, and let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.

Glad we’re all back here for another week — hope you are all in good health, and that life’s been kind to you. Let’s get started:

Cole Caufield Sent Down

I wanted to start off with a well-deserved rant regarding one of my favorite prospects in Caufield, a winger I had naively envisioned spending the entire year on the first line and being a Calder-favorite by the end of it. After being jumped from line to line and averaging 14 minutes of ice-time per game, Caufield was sent down to the AHL afer only posting one assist in 10 games.

How silly of me to believe in the Canadiens’ ability to identify top-tier talent, and provide the best-possible opportunity to extract and maximize it: just prior to being sent down, Caufield played less than 11 minutes with Adam Brooks and Joel Armia, despite the team being down to 11 forwards due to a game misconduct. The team has a long-standing history (Kotkaniemi, Poehling, Mete, Fleury, Galchenyuk, Lehkonen, the list goes on) of hyper-focusing on their prospects’ weaknesses and playing them in a role that will round out their profile, rather than leveraging their strengths to elevate their game.

What results is a cookie-cutter development system that creates prospects who are average or above-average in most aspects of the game, without being exceptional in any measure. In other words, the reason the Habs lack stars in their lineup is that they refuse to let them become stars. Rather than benching him and sending him down, and then playing Jake Evans in his former spot on the first line with Suzuki and Toffoli, the scoring winger would likely be better deployed on every offensive zone faceoff, playing with two offensive play-drivers in Suzuki and Drouin who can find him anywhere on the ice — a configuration that was not tried at all before resorting to sending down the prospect.

In that role, Caufield could learn to diversify and adapt his offensive game to NHL-level competition (leveraging his strengths – scoring and offensive adaptability) while playing with top playmakers who will find him in space (leveraging his teammates’ strengths), without having to spend his time worrying about his game away from the puck or his physicality (delaying intervention on low-event weaknesses).

If the Habs are truly as invested as they claim to be in developing their prospects, they will need to hold off on their Stanley Cup hopes until the team has some proper stars to work with. If they’re unable to produce them, perhaps they will need to acquire or draft them. The Habs’ offseason moves over the two seasons have loaded their pool with potential trade pieces, while putting them in a lottery-pick position. If their draft pick this year is top-10, the Habs will give up Carolina’s 2022 first-rounder (obtained via the Kotkaniemi offer sheet) to the Arizona Coyotes, rather than their own.

The worst-case scenario is one where the Canadiens try to claw themselves out of this historically deep hole with ”grit” and ”experience”, end up with the 11th overall pick and give that up to the Yotes instead of the Canes’ pick. Just play the kids, accept defeat and try again next year. 2022 is a great draft to have a top-10 pick, and the team can’t afford another B-level prospect in their pool. I still believe Caufield is too good to be ruined by this organization, but the Habs will need to clean up their treatment of young players in order to get anything meaningful accomplished in the near future.

Dmitri Rashevsky Dominating the KHL

I’ve been talking about this prospect since early 2020, when one of my favorite video scouts (Yannick St-Pierre, currently employed by the Montreal Canadiens) broke down his game in a scouting report which enticed me to watch more of his games. I then realized what a weapon Rashevsky was on an MHL team that wasn’t nearly as good as he was. A lot of his pinpoint passes through traffic ended up on a teammate’s stick before being thrown three feet wide of the net, while he was able to use his scoring touch to circumvent his teammates’ inaccuracies (44 goals in 61 games). He was first eligible for the NHL draft in 2019, but had only played 24 MHL games and had five points, which makes his offensive explosion since a mystery. The prospect managed six points in as many VHL games last season, and was picked up as a fifth-round flyer by the Jets; Russia’s second division of men’s hockey rarely sees under-21 players score a point per game, but reaching that mark without exceeding it isn’t exceptional.

 

What’s exceptional, however, is scoring 23 points in 24 KHL games after only just turning 21 years old, and earning the trust of a top Russian team’s coach as a kid, which the winger accomplished post-draft. Rashevsky currently sits second on a stacked Dinamo Moskva team in points, only behind Vadim Shipachyov, a 34-year-old KHL legend who hasn’t slowed down with his 36 points in as many games as the Jets prospect. He also sits first in points among all KHLers under 21 years of age, eight whole points above second place.

The teams who passed over Rashevsky a total of 579 times might be scratching their heads as to how they let a prospect slip through the cracks. In reality, this happens all the time: Artemi Panarin went undrafted through three years of eligibility, Martin St-Louis did as well, and many others are prime examples of how the NHL draft is by no means a measure of actual talent.

But it could be.

In an ideal world, Rashevsky doesn’t have to wait until the fifth round of his third eligible year to hear his name. In an ideal world, someone, anyone picks up on the level of talent this prospect has shown for a decent while. The first year can be excused — I too would overlook a prospect with five points in 24 MHL games, especially if I’ve gotten no chance to see them — but what about the year after, when he led his MHL team by a whopping 28 points? That year, I had Rashevsky in my early second round. He went undrafted, and now the Jets have a wonderful prospect in their pool who could one day become a first-line forward, for the price of an asset which could usually only get you a depth defender or a fourth-line winger.

The greatest mystery in NHL scouting is how to identify late-bloomers early; Rashevsky still stands at only slightly above 170 pounds at the moment, and still has room to grow his frame and be even more dominant. I know, it’s a lot of praise for a fifth-round twice-overager, but I’ve had my eye on Rashevsky for a while; I can’t wait to see how long he can keep this production up, and how well it’ll translate to the NHL.

Artur Kayumov’s Halloween Costume

Onto a subject that should not be as serious as it is: a prospect playing dress-up for Halloween. Here’s what the Blackhawks’ (again?) Artur Kayumov thought was a funny and quirky idea for a costume, an idea he seemed to put a lot of thought into:

As one of a few Arab people in or around the world of hockey scouting, there are people in the industry who look at me and see this image. This picture of Kayumov holding what seems to be an AK-47 while wearing clothing with significance and value within Arab culture a Saudi tawb (white robe-like garment), paired with a Palestinian keffiyeh (cloth attached to the head by a large cord) — not only displays what the prospect thinks of Arabs, but also reminds Arabs that if he’s thinking it, others are too. Including potential clients, readers, colleagues and employers, and not limited to the Blackhawks themselves, who haven’t said or done anything in response to this image being proudly displayed on Kayumov’s Instagram page. The salient message of this image is ”Arabs are violent” — it is loud, it is clear, it is intentional.

As a result of the culture that breeds an acceptance of this kind of caricature, a decent chunk of jobs in hockey become inaccessible to Arabs, who either do not feel comfortable working in an environment that regularly breeds similar kinds of behavior, or who simply don’t get responses to applications due to prejudices within the hiring power hierarchy (coaches, GMs, senior editors, etc. with the final say). Although Kayumov is Muslim himself, from the region of Tatarstan in Russia, this is attire worn specifically by Arab men, and it wouldn’t be any more acceptable for an Arab man to dress up like this for Halloween. A costume, especially when caricatured with violence, shouldn’t be someone’s daily, culturally significant attire.

Racism and prejudice are slowly becoming more and more unsustainable in today’s hockey climate, but meaningful change happens from the top down. A good start, if we’re serious about Hockey Is For Everyone, would be to have the Hawks and the NHL show that they do not support this kind of behavior from anyone, by connecting Kayumov with experts who will educate him on exactly why his choice of costume was harmful to Arabs everywhere.

The public’s response to this image so far has made it clear that we’re heading the right way, and I’ve been lucky enough to find places to work and write about hockey which allow me the freedom to be myself, unapologetically. But I have doubts about those who hold the cards in various institutions of the hockey industry, and how seriously they take the push for meaningful change within the sport. Are we first going to hear the Hawks’ thoughts about this in 11 years, or right away?

 


– Hadi Kalakeche

Follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for all of your fantasy prospect needs.

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