Top Russian Prospects from the KHL: Who's Coming Over in 2019?

By Caser · Feb 18, 2019 · Updated Feb 19, 2019
  1. Caser
    KHL regular season comes to an end and, with Nikita Popugaev already having crossed the pond earlier this month (signed only an AHL deal though), you can say it's about time to take a look at top drafted prospects and RFAs under the age of 27, whose KHL (and, in some cases, VHL) deals are expiring. Tried to make that in a form of a Top20 ranking with players ranked by a combination of the current ability/talent and probability of moving to the NHL. Unfortunately I wasn't able to include non-Russian players on the list, as to properly evaluate their plans you need to access their countries' press and I don't know so many languages.

    Just for fun I've added a very approximate probability (obviously, estimated from my point of view) of player coming to the NA this offseason and his projected role next season in case he does decide to come over.

    Also added links to eliteprospects' profiles of these players, in case someone is unfamiliar with them.

    P.S. Formal logic tells me that this kind of a list might belong in the 'Trade' boards more, since it is not only about prospects, but I think people here might find it more interesting.


    1. RW Vitaliy Kravtsov (NHL rights: New York Rangers)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 99.999(9)%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top 9 RW (NHL)

    Everything already has been said about Kravtsov leaving as soon as Traktor team is out of the KHL play-offs, so NYR fans are following the KHL pretty closely now. I guess I don't need to comment on Kravtsov's talent neither.


    2. GK Igor Shestyorkin (NHL rights: New York Rangers)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 90%
    Projected role next season (if signs): AHL starter/NHL backup

    All signs are pointing towards Shestyorkin joining Rangers team this summer, as his current team SKA are actively taking measures aimed at replacing him next season. Still it will be interesting to see how NYR will handle the goalie situation and insure that both Shestyorkin get enough game practice to develop properly.


    3. D Vladislav Gavrikov (NHL rights: Columbus Blue Jackets)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 85%
    Projected role next season (if signs): second pairing D (NHL)

    Gavrikov has developed into arguably the best defenseman in the KHL and Blue Jackets management already stated that they are counting on him for the next season.


    4. LW Nikita Gusev (NHL rights: Vegas Golden Knights)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 75%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top6 LW (NHL)

    After tearing up the KHL this season and setting up the all-time KHL record in assists things are slowly, but steadily are pointing towards Gusev joining the Vegas team in the coming summer.


    5. C Nikolai Prokhorkin (NHL rights: Los Angeles Kings)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 75%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Middle 6 center (NHL)

    Prokhorkin had a lot of up-and-downs on the course of his career, so you never know what to expect from him, still he had a good season and Kings definitely would want to have him back and reports are indicating that they won't need to wait for too long.


    6. RW Alexander Khokhlachev (NHL rights: Boston Bruins)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 60%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 RW (NHL)

    There have been a lot of talks about coach Cassidy wanting to see Khokhlachev on the Bruins team and Khokhlachev himself told that it will be a tough decision in case he'll need to make one (about the return to the NHL), but obviously Bruins need to offer him at least a Top9 RW roster spot to make him seriously consider that and I'm not sure if their current roster situation makes it possible.


    7. D Yegor Rykov (NHL rights: New York Rangers)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 80%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top4 D (AHL)/3rd pairing D (NHL)

    Rangers fans are gonna have quite a summer. Apparently Rykov is coming over too and, while likely he would start the season in the AHL, it is not impossible that he could need less than a season to get to the NHL, if things go the right way.


    8. RW Yegor Korshkov (NHL rights: Toronto Maple Leafs)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 75%
    Projected role next season (if signs): wherever coach needs a big mobile RW (AHL or NHL)

    Since the draft Korshkov's career didn't go the way everyone wanted it to go, as basically every time he started to show some really good hockey he got injured. Judging by the reports, he hopes it can go a better way in Toronto.


    9. RW Anatoliy Golyshev (NHL rights: New York Islanders)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 45%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 W (NHL)

    Golyshev certainly elevated his game this season to become quite an offense generator and it is pretty possible that the Islanders can free up a roster spot for him (as Eberle might not resign). Still I doubt he will come over now due to personal reasons: his wife just gave birth to their second kid, also Golyshev's current salary is pretty low, so it would make sense to stay and make some money first.


    10. GK Ivan Nalimov (NHL rights: Chicago Blackhawks)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 80%
    Projected role next season (if signs): AHL starter/NHL backup

    Nalimov wanted to sign with the Blackhawks already before this season, yet they didn't have a proper place for him in the system. Hopefully next season they can use him at least as a 1A guy in the AHL.


    11. C Mikhail Maltsev (NHL rights: New Jersey Devils)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 55%
    Projected role next season (if signs): middle-six C (AHL)

    Maltsev signed only a 1-year extension last spring, which looked like a sign that he doesn't want to stay with SKA team for too long. Additionally, judging by his earlier interviews, he certainly wouldn't mind working with coach Brylin in the AHL, who actually looks like a decent role model for Maltsev.


    12. D Rushan Rafikov (NHL rights: Calgary Flames)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 45%
    Projected role next season (if signs): 3rd pairing D (NHL)

    Not many Flames fans remember Rafikov's name, but pretty sure that he is on Flames management's radar, as he has developed into a solid physical D with quite a slapper.


    13. GK Daniil Tarasov (NHL rights: Columbus Blue Jackets)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 15%
    Projected role next season (if signs): AHL 1A/1B goalie

    I don't actually think that Tarasov will sign with Blue Jackets this season, as I think in Salavat Yulaev organization he has pretty good opportunities to develop and succeed (having his dad as a goalie coach there also helps), but the fact that he didn't sign an extension yet makes it kind of suspicious.


    14. GK Kirill Ustimenko (NHL rights: Philadelphia Flyers)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 75%
    Projected role next season (if signs): ECHL starter/AHL back-up

    Ustimenko's current team situation is not very good for his further progress and Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher already stated that they would like to sign him. In this case it would likely be a starter's position in the ECHL for him.


    15. D Yegor Zaitsev (NHL rights: New Jersey Devils)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 40%
    Projected role next season (if signs): D in the AHL

    Zaitsev's brother Oleg moved to the WHL before this season, so that could be a sign that Nikita could join him in NA too (especially if Oleg is also drafted by NJD). Likely not NHL caliber currently, yet couple of years in the AHL could help to get there.


    16. LW Bulat Shafigullin (NHL rights: Los Angeles Kings)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 10%
    Projected role next season (if signs): offensive-minded LW (ECHL or AHL)

    Shafigullin looks to be struggling with translation to KHL hockey from juniors, so maybe a change of environment could help, although according to reports in LAK press, it is quite unlikely at this point.


    17. GK Shamil Shmakov (NHL rights: Colorado Avalanche)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 35%
    Projected role next season (if signs): ECHL starter

    Shmakov has been playing his third season in juniors and it's obviously a time to move to a more serious level of hockey, yet not sure that the Sibir organization is a great place for a goalie to do that, Avalanche management could offer something more tempting.


    18. GK Konstantin Volkov (NHL rights: Nashville Predators)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 15%
    Projected role next season (if signs): ECHL 1A/1B goalie

    Volkov is just 21, yet already at this point it doesn't look like his career is going in the right direction, if Predators management could arrange something in the ECHL for him, I wouldn't be surprised with him accepting that.


    19. C Dmitriy Zhukenov (NHL rights: Vancouver Canucks)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 5%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 center (ECHL)

    Another 21 year old with an expiring contract and looking for some career restart is Zhukenov, maybe Jim Benning has some (or any) ideas, but definitely not sure if he cares about Zhukenov at all.


    20. C Bogdan Yakimov (NHL rights: Edmonton Oilers)
    Probability of signing in the NHL: 10%
    Projected role next season (if signs): Bottom6 center (AHL)

    Yes, Oilers fans, this big guy is still playing hockey (hasn't been too good at that though), Oilers still own his rights and his contract expires. Doubt that he is in the Oilers management's plans, but maybe someone will remember that he used to look rather good in the AHL (Craig MacTavish is still in the organization, you know).

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