2021-22 Team: Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
Date of Birth: December 9, 2003
Place of Birth: Angarsk, Russia
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 159 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings: 53rd (Among International Skaters)
- Smaht Scouting’s Final Rankings: 22nd
- Peter Baracchini’s May Rankings: 44th
- FC Hockey: 46th
- Dobber Prospects’ April Rankings: 51st
- Matthew Zator’s April Rankings: 56th
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 62nd
- Draft Prospects Hockey Spring Rankings: 66th
The 2022 NHL Entry Draft is flush with exciting defensemen. David Jiricek and Simon Nemec look like future All-Stars, while Denton Mateychuk, Kevin Korchinski, and Pavel Mintyukov have the potential to become very solid top-four NHL defenders. But there’s another defender out of Russia who could give all those prospects a run for their money in terms of potential and pure skill, and that’s Vladimir Grudinin. He’s been called one of the most underrated players in his draft class, and despite his lower rankings, he’s catching a lot of interest as a potential mid-round steal.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Grudinin is a fantastic skater and can lure in opponents with his speed and agility, and when he has them in tight, he sends the puck to a teammate with a quick pass. Whatever it takes to keep their attention, he can do it – crossovers, pivots, quick sprints, anything to force an opponent to commit just a bit too much. His stickhandling is also very strong, and once he has the puck, it’s like it’s glued to his stick; the only way he’s losing it is if he chooses to pass it away or take a shot.
This season, Grudinin was one of the most dangerous defencemen in the MHL, Russia’s junior league, putting up 13 points in 18 games. Only eight blueliners league-wide had a better point-per-game average than the crafty 18-year-old. In a 12-game call-up to the VHL, he added three more points and was the second highest-scoring defenceman among players 19 years old or younger; and in his six-game KHL stint, he was one of just six U19s to register a point. His success prompted CSKA Moskva to keep him around for their playoff run, and he appeared in seven more games en route to claiming the KHL’s Gagarin Cup.
But Grudinin isn’t just an offensive defender. Despite standing just 5-foot-10 and weighing in at 159-pounds, he’s surprisingly adept at defending. Thanks to his superb skating, he can tightly pressure an opposing puck carrier, cutting off every avenue, no matter what they do to break free. If they manage to escape, he has an active stick, and with a well-time check, he can steal the puck back and transition to the attack. He’s not physical by any means, and he often has a size disadvantage in matchups, but that doesn’t dissuade him from jumping up into the play to prevent a turnover or get into the corners and in front of the net.
The one area that scouts have an issue with is his decision-making. When Grudinin has a clear choice to make, such as driving the puck towards the net or stopping a breakout, he’s able to quickly get where he needs to be and make the play. But when hesitates, even slightly, his deficiencies in size and strength come into play, and he’s often unable to regain his positioning. Were he a bigger defenceman, this would not be as glaring as it has been, and likely, with some more strength, missteps will become far less detrimental.
Thankfully, Grudinin’s positives far outweigh the negatives. Many young defensemen need to improve their decision-making and reaction time, and as he grows, that will undoubtedly improve, as will his strength. The way he can move the puck, create high-danger chances, and affect possession throughout the game is among the best scouts have seen in the 2022 Draft class, and he won’t have to wait too long before someone decides to take a chance on him.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Vladimir Grudinin – NHL Draft Projection
There are several undersized defencemen available in the top half of the 2022 NHL Draft, but Grudinin may be one of the best. The way he can move the puck and skate put him in a coveted group of defenders making waves throughout the NHL. Had the 2022 World Juniors not been cancelled, he could have thrust his name into first-round consideration, as he already had a point in two games.
He’ll also suffer from the increased scrutiny placed on Russian prospects in this draft, and many of his countrymen are likely to fall due to their country’s recent actions. That being said, he should still expect to go somewhere in the second or third round; even if there’s a chance he won’t leave Russia, there’s too much potential to pass up for long.
“Grudinin is a small, extremely mobile defenceman that relies on his speed and puck handling to advance the play. His biggest strength is his skating, and he plays a strong north-south game, which he combines with good edgework to switch up the angles and point of attack when driving play. Grudinin has a ton of offensive talent and is not afraid to work the puck down low as a defenceman. He is often relied upon to play quarterback for Krasnaya on the power play. When Grudinin has the puck on the blue line, he uses his elusiveness to walk the blue line and open up passing lanes, which often lead to scoring opportunities. Grudinin has also been impressive when defending the rush, using his active stick to stop rushes before the opposition can capitalize.” Zack Szweras, Dobber Prospects
“Grudinin is a reliable two-way defender who will need to continue to build up upper body muscle to contend against tougher opponents in the VHL and KHL. He will also need to work on being more assertive and quicker to pucks, but he has shown at the KHL level that he can be a pain to get around. Grudinin will also need to work on developing a stronger inside game, but that might only come when he comes to North America. Even though there are areas which need continued development, I think there is a really good defensive prospect here in Grudinin. There is a smart (sorry… “Smaht”) defenseman in Grudinin who can use excellent skating and mobility to get open ice to facilitate puck movement and key up scoring chances. If things go right with his development, he should be a solid second pairing defenseman at the NHL level.” Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
“Grudinin is a talented offensive defenseman. He has strong poise and skill with the puck, showing he can run a power play and create off the offensive blue line. He’s a decent skater. Grudinin shows enough speed to get past guys or away from pressure, but it’s not amazing for a small guy. His edgework is excellent, although he relies on his 10-2 skating style too much. I have a hard time seeing him at his size and without great feet being a strong defender versus better players, so it’s why he’s a “has a chance guy,” now for me.” Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects: Juraj Slafkovsky leads Corey Pronman’s list,’ The Athletic, 31/05/22)
- Skating & Speed
- Calm under pressure
- Offensive upside
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
Grudinin has drawn comparisons to fellow undersized defender Sam Girard, who has become a staple on the Colorado Avalanche blue line, as both play well at both ends despite their diminutive stature. The Russian also looks like a future power-play quarterback, although CSKA did not utilize him in that spot for some reason. He’ll need some time to develop, but he should end up as a middle-pairing two-way defender in the NHL.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 7/10, Defence – 7/10
Grudinin received a silver medal at the 2021 U18 World Junior Championship and was selected to the U20 World Junior team as one of the few undrafted players on the roster. Unfortunately, he won’t get a chance to return to the team, as the IIHF banned both Russia and Belarus from the tournament after the invasion of Ukraine.
Vladimir Grudinin Statistics
- Locked On Senators – 2022 NHL Draft Profile: Vladimir Grudinin
- DP Draft Reports: Denton Mateychuk, Matthew Poitras, Simon Forsmark, Rutger McGroarty, Vladimir Grudinin
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.