Canucks Look to Have Struck Gold With Kirill Kudryavtsev

Defense has been a prevalent issue for the Vancouver Canucks recently, both at the NHL level and within their prospect pool. Canucks general manager (GM) Patrik Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford made it his mission to bolster up on defensemen in the 2023 NHL Draft, using four of their seven picks on blueliners. Despite those selections, however, the blueliner who could make the most impact with the Canucks is the team’s seventh-round selection in 2022, Kirill Kudryavtsev.

Background Information on Kudryavtsev

At 6 feet, 201 pounds, the Yaroslavl, Russia native is just 19 years old. He is a left-handed, two-way defenseman who possesses skill in every facet of his game; he moves the puck well, skates smoothly, has a strong, powerful shot, exceeds on special teams, and has a high hockey IQ. He is the true definition of a “Swiss Army knife.”

Kirill Kudryavtsev Soo Greyhounds
Kirill Kudryavtsev, Soo Greyhounds (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

After moving to North America for the 2021-22 season to join the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds – as well as to boost his draft stock – Kudryavtsev’s name rose up the draft boards, landing him anywhere between the third and fifth rounds. He had a solid debut season with Soo, tallying 39 points (5 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games. Unfortunately, Kudryavtsev and many other Russian prospects fell in the draft due to the ongoing situation between Russia and Ukraine. The Canucks took advantage of his slide and nabbed him with the 208th pick in the seventh round. So far, the pick looks like a steal.

Kudryavtsev’s 2022-23 Season

Kudryavtsev broke out with the Greyhounds last season, tallying 50 points (8 goals, 42 assists) in 67 games, ranked third amongst OHL defensemen who were selected in the 2022 Draft with a 2004 birth year. He was also playing on a poor Greyhounds team and still managed to put up outstanding numbers. He finished third on the team in points and had more than double the points of the next closest Soo defenseman (Andrew Gibson with 21). Throughout the season, Kudryavtsev showed off his impressive play-driving ability, going coast to coast to either set up his teammates or drive the net hard to create scoring chances for himself.

Kudryavtsev should become an even bigger problem for opposing OHL teams in 2023-24. He is constantly growing – again, he is only 19 – and should add more to his game in time. The one knock against him is that he is not elite at any skill. When he begins his third season in Soo, hopefully, he will take a leap in his development, improving his abilities so they become elite.

Kudryavtsev’s Future With the Canucks

Kudryavtsev is the type of defenseman the Canucks need. Frankly, he is the type of defenseman any team needs. Two-way blueliners are extremely valuable, and the more the better. If his development stays on this path, he will join a Canucks organization that has a large group of Russians, including Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Kuzmenko, Vasili Podkolzin and assistant coach Sergei Gonchar. Not to mention his agent is Dan Milstein, whose Russian Canucks clients have fared pretty well in Vancouver as of late.

Related: Meet the New Canucks: Zach Sawchenko

Kudryavtsev will turn 20 in Feb., and if he has another monster year in the OHL, he could be donning the Johnny Canuck logo by the end of the 2023-24 season in Abbotsford. Getting as many AHL minutes as possible will be crucial for his development and in getting him closer to the NHL. Pairing him up with a blueliner like Tom Willander, Vancouver’s 2023 first-round selection, in Abbotsford will help them both grow, brightening the Canucks’ future.

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