The Carolina Hurricanes selected Russian defenseman Vladimir Grudinin with the 156th-overall pick during the fifth round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft last Friday. Grudinin is expected to play for CSK Moskva in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the premier hockey league of Russia, during the 2022-23 season.
Grudinin is a dynamic prospect due to his plethora of offensive skills in addition to his impressive skating abilities that allowed him to become one of the most electric defensemen in the draft. Although he’s undersized he utilizes his speed and agility to make life tough on opposing puck carriers. He has tremendous value given where Carolina was able to grab him in the draft, and despite, the uncertain future with his CSKA ties this pick was absolutely worth the risk.
Vladimir Grudinin, Defenseman (5-foot-10, 159 pounds)
- NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 53
- Peter Baracchini’s May Ranking: 44
- Smaht Scouting’s Final Ranking: 22
Grudinin was within the top 60 on most pre-draft rankings throughout the industry, some scouts even had him as a first-round prospect. He, along with most top Russian prospects fell in the draft with concerns surrounding the ability to get them over from Russia. Outside of those concerns, he is one of the best offensive defensemen in the entire draft with incredible skating abilities that made him one of the most exciting defencemen in the MHL (Russian Junior League) last season. The Hurricanes couldn’t pass up on the value presented by taking him this late in the draft, adding to the long list of high upside draft picks made by general manager Don Waddell and company of late.
Grudinin put his name on the map last season throughout his time with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of the MHL, where he finished with 13 points in 18 games played. He also spent time in Russia’s VHL before getting called up to CSKA Moskva for the end of their 2021-22 campaign that saw them claim the KHL’s Gagarin Cup.
Grudinin measures in at 5-foot-10 and 159 pounds, making him one of the smaller defensemen in the draft. Despite being undersized, he’s a very feisty defender thanks in large part to his superb skating ability. He is an absolute steal for the Hurricanes in the 5th round.
Draft Analyst Quotes & Areas for Improvement
“Grudinin is a small, extremely mobile defenceman that relies on his speed and puck handling to advance the play. His biggest strength is his skating, and he plays a strong north-south game, which he combines with good edgework to switch up the angles and point of attack when driving play. Grudinin has a ton of offensive talent and is not afraid to work the puck down low as a defenceman. He is often relied upon to play quarterback for Krasnaya on the power play. When Grudinin has the puck on the blue line, he uses his elusiveness to walk the blue line and open up passing lanes, which often lead to scoring opportunities. Grudinin has also been impressive when defending the rush, using his active stick to stop rushes before the opposition can capitalize.”Zack Szweras, Dobber Prospects
“Grudinin is a talented offensive defenseman. He has strong poise and skill with the puck, showing he can run a power play and create off the offensive blue line. He’s a decent skater. Grudinin shows enough speed to get past guys or away from pressure, but it’s not amazing for a small guy. His edgework is excellent, although he relies on his 10-2 skating style too much. I have a hard time seeing him at his size and without great feet being a strong defender versus better players, so it’s why he’s a “has a chance guy,” now for me.”Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects: Juraj Slafkovsky leads Corey Pronman’s list,’ The Athletic, 31/05/22)
As you can see most scouts agree that Grudinin is a very talented offensive defenseman, but there is disagreement on the other side of his game: defense. Some think that he has a long way to go on that end, while others think he’s perfectly capable of holding his own and will continue to improve.
Despite not being a very physical defender due to his size, I believe that Grudinin does a good job defensively of utilizing his quickness and keeping an active stick to more than hold his own on that side of the ice. You have to believe that with more experience as well as the potential of added muscle he could become a much more improved defender. If he becomes a solid defender with what he brings to the table offensively and his proven ability to run the power play, he could become a key asset for the Hurricanes in the future.
Another piece of his game that will need to see improvement over the next few years is his decision-making, at times when he shows hesitation his lack of size and strength come into play and cause issues. As he adapts to a higher level of play and bigger opponents in the KHL he should show a big improvement in this area of his game.
Bright Future Ahead
Adam Herman of Bleacher Report graded each team’s draft in a post earlier this week, Carolina was one of five teams that received a grade of A or better. He mentioned the value Grudinin brings to the Hurricanes’ prospect pool. “Vladimir Grudinin was a second- or early-third-round value,” Herman wrote. “He is a brilliant skater and takes care of the puck.”
As mentioned earlier, Grudinin along with a lot of other top Russian prospects fell in the draft due to the uncertainty of their ability to come over to North America. Despite being undersized, he is a tremendous talent that could become a member of the Hurricanes’ squad rather quickly if he comes over from Russia. The Hurricanes took advantage of several players falling in this draft due to that concern, a strategy that could prove to be very beneficial if they can bring Grudinin or Gleb Trikozov to Raleigh in the future.
Growing up a huge sports fan Mack has always had a passion for writing about sports. The Water Valley, MS native covers the Carolina Hurricanes for THW. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Mack also enjoys running and playing golf. Follow him on twitter @MackGordon0