The Journey: KHL Prospect Update
We have officially entered the dark ages. Playoffs, draft, and now the initial free agent frenzy have all come and gone, leaving us with a very uncertain future and possibly months of waiting.
Luckily, as long as you have the means to catch games in the morning, there are certain leagues currently running despite the state of the world pandemic. As such, I will be starting a new mini-series, bringing you updates on various prospects across the regions. With a higher percentage of loaned players and a vast pool of prospects, there is a large pool to keep track of.
To kick things off, we will head to Russia, where games have been rolling since early September, some at full capacity.
Eeli Tolvanen, Predators
Tolvanen has since been loaned to his former club, Jokerit, which now resides in the KHL (formerly a part of the Liiga). It's no secret that the Predators highly touted sharpshooter has failed to live up to expectations, mainly due to those expectations being severely high. He is on the hunt to resurrect those expectations, and so far, has done just that with two goals and seven points through 10 games.
A positive stint will be important for the 21-year-old, as he looks to make his fourth attempt at cracking a roster spot in Nashville. Despite his past inability to earn that spot, Tolvanen carries a deadly shot, capable of scoring in bunches – something that the club and the fan base is thirsty for. His tremendous "boom-or-bust" potential remains high for fantasy owners. Stay patient.
The SKA St. Petersburg trio has all returned for their sophomore seasons, while all carrying the same goal of adding to their previously sheltered minutes last season.
Kirill Marchenko looks to be the largest beneficiary of added ice time, as he has spent a number of games on the club's top line, including their power-play unit. Unfortunately, the club recently experienced a COVID outbreak, resulting in many players missing time. This list included Marchenko. However, since being inserted back into the lineup has looked no worse for words, producing goals in three straight. He is up to five points on the season and has taken large steps in his development.
Of course, with his recent KHL extension, fantasy owners still have a wait in front of them. Yet, owners should keep a close eye on his season as his offensive upside is truly beginning to blossom and evolve with his increased responsibility.
Ivan Morozov was one of the lucky players to have avoided contracting the virus, leaving him as one of the club's more seasoned players, despite being just 20 years old. This was his opportunity to showcase his growth and take advantage of an increased role. He potted two goals during that two-week span, bringing his totals to three goals and five points on the year.
The Golden Knights prospect has performed well in comparison to his previous campaigns, where he has fought to stay in the lineup. He looks poised to remain a permanent cog among the roster and is showing positive steps forward. He does not carry the overall upside as the other members of this SKA trio but should be considered to become a potential middle-six threat over time.
Finally, we have the Vancouver Canucks project Vasili Podkolzin. The 2019 first-round-pick has struggled to find consistent minutes, despite suiting up in all 18 of the club’s matches. He has been left riding the bench often, at times for full-period intervals. Even so, he has managed four points (1G + 3A) and continues to show strong two-way attributes. As of now, making a solid run at cracking an NHL roster as early as next season (2021-22) looks promising. His upside remains high, despite his struggles to stay relevant through his KHL lineup.
Dmitri Voronkov, Blue Jackets
Although he missed time with an injury, Voronkov has enjoyed an increased role with Ak Bars Kazan this season. Following a strong rookie campaign that saw him post 11 points, the 6-foot-4 pivot has been deployed with the club's top-six, while providing a net-front presence on their top power-play unit. He is up to five points on the year and looks poised to shatter his previous offensive totals.
He is generally an overlooked prospect, however, the Blue Jackets fourth-round pick has made a strong case for himself to be listed among one of the better prospects from the region. He already showcases strong two-way abilities, and now that his offensive production is starting to follow suit, fantasy owners should be keeping close tabs. He has yet to sign a deal with his NHL club but his middle-six potential remains intact.
Vitali Kravtsov, Rangers
Kravtsov was loaned to Tractor Chelyabinsk midway through last year’s campaign, following a well-documented split with the Rangers organization. Following the move, the worry of him following in the footsteps of (now former) teammate Lias Andersson was beginning to hinder. However, the former seventh overall pick looks to have resurrected his game, enjoying a solid outburst of success through 11 games this year. He is up to six goals and eight points and looks much more confident with each game.
He has begun to turn the corner and the reality of him developing into a solid top-six contributor looks to be very much alive. The club has groomed a very strong list of prospects, meaning his spot is slowly being squeezed out. However, if he can continue his strong output and take that confidence into training camp, the fantasy implications could be spicy.
Shakir Mukhamadulin, Devils
Many were shocked to hear his name when the NJ Devils selected him with the 20th pick, but perhaps management all knew something that we did not. With the season just 18 games deep, the 18-year-old defender has racked up seven points, crushing his rookie totals set last year of one in 27 games.
He’s a strong defensive-minded rearguard, and if he is able to add "point-producer" to his arsenal of threats, his future upside, and fantasy value skyrocket through the roof. It may be a few years before he sees any real shot at an NHL roster, so fantasy owners may want to snag him while his stock sits on the cheap side.
Yegor Chinakhov, Blue Jackets
As mentioned in my “draft thoughts” piece last week, CBJ shocked the hockey world with their pick at 21, selecting Chinahkov, previously projected to go very late in the draft, if at all. Yet, the 19-year-old is quietly posting quite a spectacular beginning to his KHL rookie campaign. He currently leads all U20 skaters in both goals (6) and points (8), while deploying on Avangard Omsk’s top-line.
His shot is lethal and by the looks of it, is having no issues taking that release to the next level. Much like Mukhamadulin, it may be wise to add him to your draft queue earlier than expected…just in case his offensive upside leaps.
Artyom Galimov, Ducks
2019-20 rookie of the year and leading point-getter among U21 players is back to his old tricks, producing points on a fairly consistent basis. He currently sits tops among U21 skaters with nine points over 16 matches. Despite being passed on in the NHL draft three years straight, Galimov has become a proven producer and is now leaned upon heavily by AK Bars Kazan. He is currently skating on the club's second line and special teams units.
Anaheim Ducks finally saw the potential, scooping him up with a low-risk/high-reward fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. He is a solid two-way player who has the potential to grow into a middle-six player.
Rodion Amirov, Maple Leafs
Toronto's recently drafted prospect Amirov has been praised over the past few weeks as one the best "bang for your buck" draft selections. He certainly possesses the tools to become a terrific two-way player, with an added boost of offensive upside. His skating is a work in progress, at least for the NHL level, but carries silky hands, and terrific IQ to go with them.
So far, he is off to a respectable start, climbing the ladder to the KHL and posting six points through 14 games. In regards to fantasy, owners should focus on his long-term outlook, as he may take a few seasons to get going.
Alexander Khovanov, Wild
A quick update on Khovanov, as I have had some followers recently inquire. After starting the season with the big club in Ak Bars, he has recently been sent down following a pointless seven-game stretch. This transition is standard, as the leap straight into the KHL can be swift. This demotion should allow him time to find his game and thrive before inevitably finding his way back, and hopefully thrive. He has an assist through two games with Ak Bars’ minor league affiliate.
Thanks for tuning in this week. With ample time before we kick off the 2020-21 NHL season, please feel free to find me at @hall1289 should there be a topic that you are specifically interested in.
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