2019-20 Team: Spartak Moskva – KHL
Date of Birth: Oct. 02, 2001
Place of Birth: Orel, Russia
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 196 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 24th (among EU Skaters)
- Future Considerations: 100th
- Josh Bell’s February Rankings: 65th
- Larry Fisher’s Top 350 for April: 82nd
- Andrew Forbes Top 217 for March: 67th
- DobberProspects 2020 European Draft Rankings: 28th
Whenever you have a big-bodied teenage defenseman receiving meaningful minutes in one of the top hockey leagues in the world, people will take note. This has been the case for Russian defensive prospect Alexander Nikishin, a 6-foot-3, 196-pound hitting machine who played in nearly 30 games for Spartak Moskva of the KHL in 2019-20.
While he saw little offensive success, posting just three points, he made a number of highlight-reel defensive plays, laying down disruptive hits that helped influence the outcome of games. He is also in line to continue receiving top-four minutes with Moskva in 2020-21, meaning that he will get to continue developing his game against men in the KHL.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
This strong play has made Nikishin a very attractive prospect at the 2020 NHL Draft, as teams often fall in love with physical defensemen who can play the body. How high his ceiling is may be in question, however, as he still needs to work on some fundamentals like skating and control to supplement his already great defensive instincts.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Alexander Nikishin – NHL Draft Projection
Nikishin is one of those prospects that could go just about anywhere in the draft and it really wouldn’t be a surprise. Some people say that he has first-round potential, with his poise and play in the KHL showing signs of a truly special defender. Others have had a more tepid reaction, seeing him as a late-third or even fourth-rounder.
With all of this in mind, it’s likely that Nikishin will be selected by the late-second or early third round. Players with his experience and abilities rarely fall far in the draft, as the risk of their selection is outweighed by their raw potential.
Alexander Nikishin is a defensive defenseman. He is quite a good defender against the rush despite the flaws in his skating. He excels in that area because of his willingness to close the gap, stay tight and engage physically. His presence in the net-front is top-notch as well.Tony Ferrari – Dobberprospects.com
He could develop into a capable No. 4 blueliner with penalty killing as part of his duties, but I don’t see him becoming much more than that. He is a strong skater and has a good mind for the game to go with his good size, which had me thinking Nikishin could develop along the lines of Edmonton prospect Dmitri Samorukov or perhaps even Romanov, but I’ve been pumping the brakes on Nikishin over the past couple months.Larry Fisher – THW
His hands are those of a top line winger. When he has the puck on his stick, it seems superglued. This allows him to pull off some of the most impressive dekes and zone exits/entries of all draft eligible players, regardless of position.Alexander Taxman – futurescopehockey.com
- Large, physical presence that can control games
- Holding his own while playing against men in the KHL
- Great defensive instincts
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Low offensive upside
- Not a strong skater
- Ceiling may be lower than a first or second-round pick
Considering the playing time Nikishin is already receiving in the KHL as an 18-year-old, it is no stretch at all to believe that he will make the NHL one day. As he continues to develop his overall game, he could crack a line-up in just a few years if given the right opportunities.
Related: THW 2020 Mock NHL Draft Round 2
That being said, this playing time may be in a limited third-pairing role if his game doesn’t develop as hoped. While that’s not a worst-case scenario by any means, if he’s selected early in the draft it may seem like a disappointment for his potential.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 3/5
In reality, the risk from Nikishin is all about where he is drafted. If he is selected in the late-second or early third-round, that would properly set expectations for a player that will still need some time to develop his game.
If he is taken in the early second or even the late-first, however, that may make people think that his ceiling is higher than it likely will be. Nikishin hasn’t shown that he will be an offensive dynamo, so expecting anything more than a defensive-first defenseman might be too much.
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.