As the Stanley Cup playoffs march on, our Chicago Blackhawks writers are taking a look back at the strange 2020-21 season and handing out individual grades for the majority of the roster. Today I will break down Philipp Kurashev’s first season in the National Hockey League.
Related – Chicago Blackhawks 2020-21 Player Grades
Kurashev had an interesting season. He went from being a player hoping to make the roster out of training camp to one who played in all but two games. He showed his versatility by not only playing up and down the lineup but also playing both center and wing. Let’s look back at his season.
Overall Season Stats
Standard: 54 games played (GP), 8 goals (G), 8 assists (A), minus-9, 12 penalty minutes (PIM), 65 shots on goal (S), 12.3 shooting % (S%), 13:05 average time on ice (ATOI), 41.1 faceoff % (FO%), 18 blocked shots, 18 takeaways, 16 giveaways
Advanced Metrics: 45.14 Corsi for % (CF%), 99.8 PDO, 42.35 goals for %, (GF%), 41.72 expected goals for % (xGF%), 2.01 goals for per 60 mins (GF/60), 2.74 goals against per 60 mins (GA/60), 26.68 shots for per 60 mins (SF/60), 35.71 shots against per 60 mins (SA/60), 1.92 expected goals for per 60 mins (xGF/60), 2.68 expected goals against per 60 mins (xGA/60), -0.9 goals against replacement (GAR), -0.2 wins against replacement (WAR), -0.3 standing points against replacement (SPAR)
All stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Phil is Here to Stay
Kurashev entered training camp with just one season of professional hockey under his belt after a successful junior career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He turned heads at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship by scoring six goals and seven points in seven games for Switzerland.
Injuries limited Kurashev to just 36 games before his first American Hockey League (AHL) season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He scored seven goals and 19 points for the Rockford IceHogs and steadily progressed throughout the season. The thing you need to remember with prospects in their first season in the AHL is not to worry about the overall numbers. The key to a successful season is whether or not the player adapted to the pro game, learned the team’s systems and what is expected of him, and learned all the factors that go into being a professional hockey player.
According to IceHogs head coach Derek King, he checked all those boxes during his time in Rockford.
“Too bad he got hurt, or I think you would have seen him called up, maybe, or higher up in our points,” he said of Kurashev shortly after the season was canceled. “I believe he is going to be an NHL hockey player. Whether it is a year or two down the road, that’s going to be up to him. I really liked the way he performed.”
Going Through the Growing Pains
King’s premonition came true as Kurashev made the roster out of training camp and stayed in Chicago throughout the duration of the 2020-21 season. He made his NHL debut on Jan. 15 at the Tampa Bay Lightning. His first NHL goal came four nights later in an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers. His best stretch of the season came between Jan. 31 and Feb. 17, when he had three goals and seven points in eight games. Unfortunately, he had just one over the next 11 games.
Although he showed flashes of offensive production, overall, his scoring output was good but not great. His eight goals and 16 points were both the eighth-most on the team. He was third in goals and points among all the rookie skaters the Blackhawks had last season.
Kurashev did get some time on the power play averaging 1:25 of time on the man advantage per game. He made the most of his time with two power-play goals and three assists. Head coach Jeremy Colliton didn’t trust his defense enough to put him on the penalty kill as he had just 20 seconds of the shorthanded time all season long.
Defense is where Kurashev will need to improve going forward. His 45.14 CF% was 11th among Blackhawks forwards and 15th overall. Considering there was only one player, Ryan Carpenter, who finished the season with a CF% over 50, the number isn’t too bad. However, you’d like to see a better number for a player who started over 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
One of Kurashev’s biggest attributes was his versatility. He was able to play up and down the lineup, which came in handy during the condensed season. He spent the most time with Dominik Kubalik. When on the same line, the duo had a 47.01 CF% along with a 2.24 goals GF/60 and 1.17 GA/60. To no surprise, his offensive numbers improved when he found himself on a line with Patrick Kane with a 3.13 GF/60. However, that line was a defensive liability with a 43.99 CF% and 4.16 GA/60.
Final Grade: C
Kurashev showed that he belongs in the NHL. He showed flashes of being an offensive threat but struggled with his consistency. That is something all young players go through early in their careers. Growing pains were expected for a 21-year old playing in his first NHL season under stressful and unusual circumstances. He is a smart player who never seemed to be overwhelmed, even when he struggled to find the scoresheet. He was one of the best forecheckers on the team, and that will lead him to more production as he gains more experience.