2020-21 Team: Dubuque Fighting Saints
Date of Birth: Aug. 18, 2000
Place of Birth: Karaganda, KAZ
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 178
NHL Draft Eligibility: Fourth-year eligible
Andrei Buyalsky has made a strong case for himself to be selected in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. The case started this past season while playing in Kazakhstan for HK Almaty. He scored 5 goals and 13 points in 24 games, racking up only six penalty minutes. Decent, but nothing too special. Once he hopped on a plane and headed for America, he really took off.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
He burst onto the United States Hockey League scene with the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the tune of 15 goals and 17 assists in 36 games. His performance helped the Fighting Saints turn around a dismal 1-10-0 start and sneak into a playoff berth. On a personal note, he was able to secure a scholarship to play at the University of Vermont (UVM), starting in the 2021-22 season.
He uses his size and speed to bear down on opposing defensemen and loves driving to the net. He doesn’t shy away from shooting at all – Buyalsky fired 110 shots on goal in those 36 games, which put him at sixth on the team. He was only 22 shots away from the team leader, who had played 16 more games. Those 110 shots include eight games of five-plus shots on goal.
Those shots translated. Buyalsky found himself on a stretch where he scored eight goals, including a five-game goalscoring streak, and 11 points in 9 games. His being a big body could see him turn into a threat on the power play, he had three goals and eight points on the man advantage, which was a quarter of his total production.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Andrei Buyalsky – 2021 NHL Draft Projection
A concern here is that Buyalsky’s age and physical maturity could be a reason for his USHL dominance. His lower draft ranking will be partially due to his age. He’ll be entering the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as a 21-year-old, and it may raise questions as to how much further he could develop.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 4/5
Analyzing Buyalsky suggests that he could be taken in the late third or early fourth round. However, gut-feeling says we could see a team take a chance at drafting him a bit higher; potentially a late second or early third-round selection. His skating, size and willingness to drive the net are two factors that work heavily in his favor. A team could see that and want to take a chance, especially one with a good number of middle-round draft picks. If he has a strong start to his collegiate career, he could make the jump to pro prior to graduation.
- Skating drives play
- Loves to shoot
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Defensive play
- Play along the boards
Buyalsky will be playing on a rebuilding UVM team, but if his play in the USHL can translate to the NCAA, it will not only help move the rebuild along, but turn him into a very valuable prospect. Buyalsky could be compared to 13-year NHL veteran Artem Anisimov. Anisimov made the jump to North America a year younger than Buyalsky, and put up strong numbers in two American Hockey League (AHL) seasons.
Anisimov is also a big body, standing an inch taller than Buyalsky at 6-foot-4, and being a strong skater considering his size. The four-time 20-goal scorer has seen both power play and penalty kill time while generally having filled a mid-six center role for four different teams. He scored a career-high 11 power-play goals during the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
If Buyalsky can turn into a player like Anisimov, who was a second-rounder in 2006, he has the potential to be a steal this draft. He needs to keep utilizing his size to make plays and become invaluable in the faceoff dot, and we could be seeing him in the NHL in the next few years.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.