With the #20 pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Level Draft, the New Jersey Devils have selected Shakir Mukhamadullin from Topar Ufa of the MHL.
About Shakir Mukhamadullin
Shakir Mukhamadullin is that true blue-chip defensive prospect that every franchise wants in their prospect pool. At 6-foot-4, he is a giant on the ice who can skate like the best in the draft.
While many saw Mukhamadullin as a late-first, early second-round pick, his strong play to start the 2020-21 KHL season may have moved him up the draft board for the Devils. In 14 games, he posted one goal and six points, while going plus-4 in the process. This showed huge strides in his development as an all-around defenseman, which is especially impressive against some of the best players in the world in the KHL.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
With size, smarts and a great shot, Russian defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin has everything that an NHL franchise looks for in a blue-chip defensive prospect. Over the last season, Mukhamadullin made massive strides in showcasing why he should be considered one of the top defensive prospects at the 2020 Draft.
Most notably, he played 27 games in the KHL for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, giving him meaningful ice time against some of the top talents across Europe. Mukhamadullin also has experience playing in various U20 international tournaments, registering more than 60 games with team Russia since 2017-18.
All of this experience mixed with Mukhamadullin’s intangibles could make him one of the most desirable defensemen at the draft. After all, he is already holding his own playing against men in the KHL, so he may be ready to start taking on NHL ice time far sooner than normal for someone his age.
Despite having many of the intangibles of a first-round defenseman, Mukhamadullin’s draft outlook is murkier than expected. His rankings are all over the board, with some scouts ranking him as a mid to late first-rounder, while others see him falling as far as the third.
With all of this in mind, it would make sense for a franchise with multiple first-round picks, like the New York Rangers or Ottawa Senators, to take a swing on Mukhamadullin during round one in hopes of finding that perfect blue-chip prospect.
How This Affects the Devils Plans
Given that he is already playing in the KHL for the 2020-21 season, it will likely be at least a year or two before New Jersey will get a good look a Mukhamadullin. If he continues to show steady development, however, he could push for a bottom-six role as soon as he is ready to come to North America.
Given that this was the third first-round pick for the Devils, it makes some sense that they decided to take a chance on Mukhamadullin. He has the size and skill to become a key part of their top-four and if all goes right, he could easily be that perfect top-pairing defenseman capable of eating 25-plus minutes each night.
In the short-term, however, Devils fans should just keep an eye on the KHL to see how Mukhamadullin looks after he is tested against men for an entire season. That’s not easy for even the best players, and if he looks good, he could be their next great defenseman.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.