Because the 2020-21 NHL season won’t begin until Jan. 1 at the earliest, that’s led to some teams going months without seeing game action. For the New Jersey Devils, that’d be almost 10 months without playing a competitive game. And the same holds true for their prospects who are in the AHL.
That’s led to the Devils loaning some of their prospects to various European leagues, with Yegor Sharangovich being one of them. The thought was the former fifth-round pick would get some ice time and be ready to earn a top-six role for the Binghamton Devils (AHL) whenever the 2020-21 season begins.
But Sharangovich’s play in the KHL has been more than just trying to stay fresh for the AHL season. Much more than that. He’s been one of Dinamo Minsk’s best players and arguably the best player of the Devils’ prospects on loan in Europe. Not only has he changed the outlook for himself, but he may now be a serious candidate to earn an NHL roster spot once training camp begins. Let’s take a look at his play over in Russia and why he could be an NHLer sooner than later.
Sharangovich’s Rapid Ascent
Before getting into Sharangovich’s play with Dinamo Minsk, let’s get a little background information on him. The Devils selected the Belarussian center in the fifth round of the 2018 Draft when he was 20 years old, meaning he was an over-ager. In his draft year, he totaled four goals and 12 points in 47 games for Dinamo Minsk, a solid scoring rate for a player his age in the KHL.
He signed his entry-level contract with the Devils immediately and came over to North America to play in the AHL. He posted 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) in 68 games in 2018-19, his first season with the Binghamton Devils, while playing a bottom-six role.
Sharangovich’s second season with Binghamton saw a modest increase in production. He finished with 10 goals and 25 points in 57 games, but the trendlines are worth noting. He had 11 points in his first 42 games but would go on to finish with 14 points in his last 15 games before COVID-19 also suspended the AHL season.
Whatever Sharangovich did to end the AHL season seems to have carried over to his loan in the KHL. He has 14 goals and 17 points in 28 games and is averaging almost 20 minutes of ice time per game. His 14 goals tie him for fifth in all of the KHL as well.
Fourteen goals in 28 games is a pretty high scoring rate. Some of it is luck, but Sharangovich has fired 77 shots on goal, so the volume is there. If we average that out, it comes out to 2.75 shots on a goal per game. And for what it’s worth, his overall scoring rate would translate to 40 points in 82 NHL games (per Dobber Hockey’s NHLe model). So there’s been noticeable progress in his game, enough to the point where he might be in position to compete for an NHL roster spot.
Sharangovich Should Be in the Mix
Sharangovich’s sudden emergence throws an added wrinkle in projecting what the Devils’ lineup may look like to start the season. There aren’t a ton of question marks as to what the team’s top six will be, and it’s unlikely he would’ve been in contention for such a role anyway. With that said, the Devils’ bottom six will have a few spots up for grabs, and he could factor into that competition.
Sharangovich is a natural center, and that’s where he’s been playing for Dinamo Minsk. The Devils have a bit of a logjam at the position, but he could still earn a spot there. One scenario involving him at center likely means moving Pavel Zacha out to left-wing, where he’s played before. Add someone like Nick Merkley at right-wing, and that could be the team’s third or fourth line.
If the Devils don’t play Sharangovich at center, the next option would be kicking him out to left-wing. That likely means one of Zacha or Travis Zajac as his center on the third or fourth line. Even though Sharangovich is playing well down the middle in the KHL, it’s a different ball game in the NHL. So starting him out on the wing could help make the transition a bit easier. Here’s how the team’s bottom-six could shape up with him on the wing:
- Jesper Boqvist – Zacha – Merkley
- Sharangovich – Zajac – Miles Wood
With Sharangovich measuring at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, he’d also add some much-needed size to the bottom six. If you flip Zacha and Zajac, then the Devils’ fourth line would have players who are all 6-foot-2, 195 pounds or bigger. And they’d have some scoring ability, even if half of Sharangovich’s KHL scoring rate translates to the NHL.
What happens with Sharangovich will be fascinating to watch when training camp begins. There’s even an argument to let him finish the season in the KHL, as it could be better for his development. Though given how he’s played, the Devils are likely going to want him in camp battling to make the NHL.
If Sharangovich makes the Devils, he could give them size and scoring depth they didn’t have in their bottom six last season. But even if he doesn’t make the team, he’s clearly come a long way in his development over the last 8-9 months. He might not ever be a high-end scorer, but his outlook as a prospect has skyrocketed. And he should be competing for an NHL gig much sooner than any of us expected.
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017