With the 2019 NHL Draft just 10 days away, we’re ramping up our coverage. Today we have a guest feature from the man simply known as Russian Prospects (@RUSProspects).
Tier 1 aka “The Pod”
1. W Vasiliy Podkolzin
Let’s face it, Podkolzin is a tier of his own here. Everything has been already said and done about him. I’m not sure if I should repeat it. In short: while it is possible to question his offensive upside due to some flaws (possibly fixable ones though), he is a winner. Despite all the Russian factor talks about him, it’s hard to imagine both Joe Sakic and Stevie Y passing on him in the top-six picks. I don’t think he will fall down the board much.
Tier 2 aka “Top 50 guys”
2. RW Pavel Dorofeyev
3. C Yegor Spiridonov
4. C Ilya Nikolayev
5. LHD Roman Bychkov
6. W/C Yegor Afanasyev
Again, this is probably a pretty self-descriptive name for this tier. To me, these players are legit candidates for a top-50 draft position and I won’t be surprised if they even jump into the first round. Dorofeyev can create a scoring chance out of nothing. He has all the tools in the attacking area. The biggest concern is about the translation of his “east-west” playing style to the pros. With Spiridonov what you get is what you see — a big, quality two-way center with a heavy right-handed shot. A similar case is Nikolayev, minus the big frame, but with some more skill and playmaking. I like how Bychkov understands the game, I think GMs would be willing to spend a rather high pick on that. Limited viewings are the reason I can’t really place Afanasyev higher, but from what I’ve seen there might be that valuable offense generating ability.
Tier 3 aka “The Raw Talent”
7. LHD Artemiy Knyazev
8. GK Pyotr Kochetkov
9. C/W Matvei Guskov
10. C Mikhail Abramov
As the title says, there is some talent here in this tier, but that talent needs quite some refinement. With Knyazev it is the puck-moving talent (in a broad sense of it). But, while he got stronger during this season, it’s still a long way to go for him. Kochetkov has the size and mobility combination that you want to see in your future starter, but he still needs to find more consistency (also there is an additional concern about his health, as he already had groin surgery last year). You can easily see that Guskov-sr. was a pro hockey player, as Matvei inherited both athletic body and hard working approach from him. Yet it is difficult to rate him when he almost wasn’t used at his primary center position this season. Abramov‘s natural talent might not be that obvious from the first sight, but he is a natural playmaker —there’s some perfect timing on his passes and you can’t really teach that. Still, that modest size raises questions (yet he isn’t weak at all).
Tier 4 aka “It’s All in Your Head”
11. GK Ilya Konovalov
12. LW Arseniy Gritsyuk
13. LHD Daniil Misyul
Not exactly easy to describe this small tier, but I’d say here are the players whose mental attributes I value more than their physical abilities. With Konovalov, it is all about being a hard worker. While not being overly gifted, he had been showing progress year after year and was able to refine his technique to the level of setting some records in the KHL. It’s not easy to tell if there’s NHL starter potential here, as goalies are hard to predict, but with that kind of work and progress, I won’t be surprised if it is there. Gritsyuk might not seem very special at first sight, but I think he has a good overall skill set and knows when and how to use it. In that way, there’s something Kaprizov-like about him. With Misyul, it might be totally unobvious why I’d put him in this tier, as he is quite a physical beast, but it just isn’t what impressed me as much as his confidence. When he was called up to the KHL at the end of the season and started physically dominating KHL pros it was very impressive. Additionally, judging by recent U20 NT games there might be something good in terms of puck-moving too.
Tier 5 aka “The Misunderstood Talent”
14. RW Yegor Chinakhov
15. LHD Nikita Okhotyuk
16. LHD Semyon Chistyakov
17. W Vladislav Firstov
18. C Oleg Zaitsev
19. LHD Ilya Mironov
20. RW Kirill Slepets
21. LW Daniil Gutik
22. RW Yegor Serdyuk
All these players have some talent, but I failed to understand them properly. It is unclear if I like what they offer enough to outweigh my concerns about them. Let me describe what my “love-hate” is in brief. Chinakhov: one of the best wristers here, it is really impressive how he finds those top corners, yet too many times he is just invisible. Okhotyuk is fine as a physical stay-at-home, but I was really hoping that there is some puck-moving talent too. Chistyakov: I like how he hits hard, I don’t like that his modest height might be a showstopper for that at the pro level. I like how he is able to carry the puck through the neutral zone, but I don’t like how he distributes that puck in the attacking zone. Firstov: maybe my limited viewing is to blame, but I have an impression that while having a good shot and creativity, he is not exactly the most consistent performer. Zaitsev: solid all-around game, but I totally didn’t get the impression that he has the upside to be something more than a bottom-six center. Mironov: all the tools, but not able to get them in a toolbox yet. Slepets: was looking very motivated at the WJC where he showed great skill and wheels, but he has gathered a lot of red flags over the years. Gutik: great hands and frame, but sometimes you really wondering what is going on in his head when he’s on the ice (if anything at all). Serdyuk: can’t deny that he can put that puck in the net, but the overall level of his athleticism seems subpar to me.
Tier 6 aka “The Sleeper Picks”
23. C Alexei Tsyplakov
24. LW Dmitriy Sheshin
25. LHD Grigoriy Dronov
26. C/W Georgiy Ivanov
27. C Dmitriy Voronkov
28. RW Nikita Shashkov
29. RHD Andrei Pribylskiy
30. RW Yegor Chizhikov
My favorite tier — guys, who don’t get a lot of pre-draft attention, but who, in my opinion, can have a very good value as a late-round pick. Tsyplakov lacks proper exposure, but aside from that, I don’t think there are a lot of flaws in his game. He’s a quality all-around center. Sheshin got enough of exposure and with the exception of height — 5’7″ is 5’7″ even in modern hockey. When healthy Dronov is playing at the KHL top-pairing level, I think it shows the potential there is high enough to cover the risks related to the missing time due to injuries. Ivanov had a great season, playing on the same line with already drafted prospects Kayumov and Kovalenko and, in my opinion, was the best on that line. Voronkov has been extremely noticeable at the U20 tournaments recently, he is a big gritty center with good hands and mobility. Shashkov is a classical hard-hitting power forward with a good nose for the net. Pribylskiy found himself on a KHL team’s line-up this season when he wasn’t even 18 and was able to carry that load decently. Him being right-handed also adds some value. Finally, Chizhikov is a lesser known name here, but I really liked what I saw from him in the MHL, good combination of skill and responsible game, likely a long-shot though.
Follow @RUSProspects on Twitter
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