On the surface, the signing of undrafted prospect Damir Sharipzyanov to a three-year entry-level contract is a minor transaction, a back-end addition for a team in need of organizational depth on the blue line after the retirement of Robyn Regehr, the bolting of UFA Andrej Sekera to Edmonton and the clouded future of Slava Voynov.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s more than that. Kings GM Dean Lombardi has a very good eye for overlooked talent, and Sharipzyanov could end up being much more than that for the Los Angeles Kings sometime soon.
North American experience
Drafted #85 overall in the 2013 KHL draft after a year with Reaktor Nizhnekamsk (the Minor Hockey League junior team affiliate of HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk), Sharipzyanov was also drafted #50 overall in the CHL Import Draft by the Owen Sound Attack. Although ultimately being one of the final two cuts from team Russia’s 2015 WJC roster, he’s once again in the mix for the upcoming tournament.
Said Owen Sound Attack General Manager Dale DeGray back in 2013:
Damir is a solid, two-way defenseman that played in a very good junior league. He logged a lot of minutes in a very good league and we are pleased to have him in our organization.
With Owen Sound, his numbers improved across-the-board last season. After putting up five goals and 11 assists in 67 games during 2013-14, he essentially doubled his production over 66 games in 2014-15, scoring nine goals and collecting 25 assists. His plus/minus improved from +3 to +13 as well.
Sharipzyanov appears to have been overlooked
Said Bleacher Report’s Bill Placzek about Sharipzyanov prior to the NHL draft this past June:
Russian import who has steadily improve in the OHL. has good size and both a reliable defensive game and a good up-ice instincts. Moves the biscuit quickly and to the right teammate. Despite the “Russian factor,” his mistake-free game projects him to get selected and developed.
The mid-term 2015 CSS ratings seemed to indicate that as well:
A number of mock drafts had him being drafted in the middle rounds. Ironically, this one had him being selected 104 overall by the Los Angeles Kings.
Nevertheless, whether because of the ‘Russian factor’ or simply the vagaries of the draft process, the 6’2″, 203-pound Sharipzyanov remained undrafted when the dust settled. With the Kings placing a premium on size, offensive instincts and the potential he showed during development camp, Lombardi pulled the trigger and signed him this past week.
To get a feel for what he can bring to the table, check out this very cool goal:
It certainly helps when foreign-born prospects appear to be able to acclimate quickly. Listen to the well-spoken Sharipzyanov in an after-game interview:
What Sharipzyanov could soon mean for the Kings
It’s unrealistic to expect Sharipzyanov to break camp with the big club this season. He’s still very young and is recovering from a broken wrist incurred during Russia’s World Juniors development camp. Furthermore, although L.A.’s blue line depth was tested last season and may be again this coming year, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Greene — assuming all are healthy — are locks for the roster. Slava Voynov’s pending reinstatement would round out the top six defensive corps, while Derek Forbort is on the cusp of the NHL as well.
If (yes, it’s a big if) the Kings decide to part ways with Voynov and Ehrhoff ends up being just a one-season rental, however, the importance of adding a prospect with the equivalent of mid-round talent becomes clear. Given the team’s tight cap situation and the possibility that trades may need to be made to alleviate the problem, Sharipzyanov might find himself with the Kings sooner than expected.
For now, a big welcome to Damir Sharipzyanov, the newest Los Angeles Kings prospect. It’s wishful thinking for me to hope that Dean Lombardi reads my articles, but in the unlikely event he does, get that Kopitar guy re-signed now, will you?
Have an opinion about the Sharipzyanov signing? Leave your thoughts below or message me @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.