KHL Update: Gritsyuk catching fire, Kravstov excelling, Khusnutdinov re-signs in Russia

Ben Gehrels

2022-01-13

Here are some quick hits on the top NHL prospects currently playing in the KHL: how they’re producing, when their contracts expire, when they might hit the NHL, and which players their career trajectories resemble at this point. This month, forwards will be highlighted.

Besides Matvei Michkov (2023 eligible), there don’t appear to be any Kaprizov-level NHL prospects in the KHL right now. The players profiled below are all incredibly talented, of course, but everyone in the NHL is incredibly talented; none of the prospects in this article have a strong chance of becoming stars at the highest level (+0.7 career points per game for forwards; +0.45 for defencemen).

That being said, players don’t need to qualify as stars to help out your fantasy squad. 

Take in the comparables and wait times and in most cases, temper expectations—but if other managers in your league get caught up in the inevitable hype machine when one of these guys crosses the pond, take that opportunity and sell high if the deal’s right.

Marat Khusnutdinov, SKA St. Petersburg

In the lead-up to the 2022 WJC, Khusnutdinov signed a two-year extension with SKA that will keep him in Russia until the end of 2023-24. He was then made captain of Team Russia for the (prematurely cancelled) World Juniors. 

An interesting thread on all of this from The Athletic’s Michael Russo:

The KHL is used to losing talented young players to the North American circuit and as a result there are many stories like Khusnidinov’s. One can understand the Russian’s frustrations, but they also receive a steady flow of players back from the NHL. It’s not clear how threatening demotion and cutting ice time supports rather than hinders the development of top prospects. 

There is a perception, too, that Russian prospects playing in North American junior leagues, like Yan Kuznetsov, Daniil Chayka, and Matvei Petrov, were snubbed from the WJC. Coach Sergei Zubov explained the decision by stating that “the players who have been training with us here in Russia are stronger defensively. The strongest players have been picked.” Defensive responsibility is a valid criteria but there’s certainly a sheen of nationalist talent retention to all of this.

Regardless, although the Khusnutdinov extension will have disappointed dynasty owners, it doesn’t particularly matter from a fantasy perspective whether he develops in North America or Russia. If he gets opportunity and ice time in the KHL, that’s two additional years of playing in the second-best league in the world before he joins Kaprizov and company. Plus, in 2024, he’ll still be two years younger than Kaprizov was when he joined the Wild. He currently has 11 points in 30 games and projects to be a Marco Sturm or Brian Gionta type: 50+ point upside with the ability to play up and down the lineup in a variety of situations.

Kirill Marchenko, SKA St. Petersburg 

Marchenko’s contract with SKA expires after ‘21/22, and he’s apparently been getting the Kaprizov treatment too as he prepares to leave the KHL to join the Blue Jackets or their AHL affiliate next year. He was producing a stream of highlights like this back in September:

 

But then he didn’t seem to be lighting up hockey Twitter anymore. Here’s what happened: Marchenko scored 12 points in his first 16 games (0.75 points per game) averaging 13.9 minutes per game. Then his ice time fell by an average of nearly four minutes and he scored only eight points over his next 22 games (0.36). 

That gives him a very respectable total of 20 points in 38 games, but that’s a slower pace than last year and has him on track to become an NHLer like Mikhail Grabovski: a versatile player with 50+ point upside, just like Khusnutdinov. Assuming he doesn’t also re-sign with SKA, he should play next year in the AHL and begin seeing call-ups before long if he performs well. His wait time is among the lowest of players on this list.

Arseni Gritsyuk, Avangard Omsk

With 12 points in his last 12 games, Gritsyuk has seemingly picked up where Marchenko left off. He’s been electric over the past month or so producing highlight after highlight and climbing into the top 50 of the league’s scoring race.

 

The issue here is not skill but timeline: Gritsyuk is signed through the end of next year with Avangard. If he comes over after that and plays a year or two in the AHL, he might not see his first NHL game until ’24/25. Before you stash him for the next two or three years, consider that a solid comparable for him right now is Tyler Johnson, who once hit 70 points but has averaged 50. It could easily be three-plus years before he sees his first NHL game plus another 2.5 years to reach his Breakout Threshold.

Is a potential 50-point player worth waiting over five years for in fantasy? Depending on the size of your league, that’s borderline replacement-level production.

Ivan Morozov, HK Sochi

Morozov is having an interesting year: he started out playing in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg (eight points in 17 games) before being sent down to the VHL (19 points in 15 games). At the end of December, Morozov was traded to HK Sochi where he has three points in four games. SKA is a loaded contender while Sochi is near the bottom of the standings, so ideally the move will bring more ice time and opportunity for Morozov. He profiles so far as a Kyle Okposo or Brett Connolly type of player and should join Vegas or their AHL affiliate next year.

Vitaly Kravtsov, Traktor Chelyabinsk

Kravtsov has received solid ice time with Traktor since returning to the KHL on loan from the Rangers in early November. He’s responded to the opportunity by posting 13 points in 19 games, a total bolstered by a couple of three-point nights. It will be interesting watching Kravtsov’s eventual NHL return once the Rangers find a suitable trade partner; if he lands with a team that will give him a long leash and good linemates, he could become an excellent secondary scorer like Kevin Labanc or Andrew Mangiapane.

Dmitri Rashevsky, Dynamo Moskva

Rashevsky has slowed down from the near point-per-game pace with which he opened the season but still sits tied for 22nd in league scoring with 35 points in 47 games. That’s excellent production for Winnipeg’s 2021 fifth rounder. Rashevsky’s trajectory is similar to players like Alexandre Texier and Craig Smith—again, solid complementary scorers who can go on streaks but never maintain star-level production over the course of an entire season. Like several other names on this list, Rashevsky’s KHL contract expires at the conclusion of the current campaign; he already looks like an intriguing dark horse for WPG heading into next year, though he’s more likely to start out in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose.

Artur Kayumov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

As the main piece the Hawks got back for Teravainen from the Canes, Kayumov is receiving more scrutiny than the average second round pick. He’s having a decent year offensively (0.45 points per game) and may elect to head to North America when his contract with Lokomotiv expires after this year. He looks like a longshot to see even 200 NHL games and profiles as a speedy, versatile bottom-sixer like Brad Richardson. Certainly not a Teravainen-level player.

Egor Korshkov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Korshkov is a Canes prospect (originally drafted by Toronto) who is currently scoring at a 0.5 point-per-game pace for Lokomotiv—a slightly lower rate than he produced last year. He played one game in the NHL a couple years ago and also spent some time in the AHL, so if and when he returns to North America next year after his KHL rights expire he should have a clearer idea of what’s expected of him. He’s already 25 years old and as a bigger player (6-foot-4) his timeline is likely too much of a longshot to have any real fantasy value.

Alexander Pashin, Toros Neftekamsk (VHL)

Remarkably, despite playing in the second-tier VHL this year, Pashin has a higher likelihood of becoming a star (9%) than most players on this list. He scored a fluky goal for Team Russia at the WJC and looked dangerous on their second line. He has a solid 18 points in 24 VHL games and profiles a lot like Kailer Yamamoto: a small, speedy, high-skill type of player who could complement Carolina’s scoring stars down the line.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.

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