2019-20 Team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg
Date of Birth: July 17, 2002
Place of Birth: Moskva, Russia
Ht: 5-foot-9 Wt: 165 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 12th (Among EU skaters)
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: 58th
- Future Considerations: 76th
- EliteProspects: 32nd
- The Hockey Writers (Bell): 34th
- The Hockey Writers (Fisher): 41st
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 47th
Of all the leagues in the world that are under-covered by media, the MHL is one of the biggest. The junior Russian league has a number of prospects that could be potential steals in the 2020 NHL Draft, but one of the main ones to keep an eye on is Marat Khusnutdinov.
Playing for SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, the centreman put up 13 goals, 25 assists, and 38 points in 44 games played. He also dressed for 15 under-18 international games, adding another five points to his total. He started off his season strong, dressing for Team Russia in the Hlinka Gretzky, captaining the strong team. He collected three assists in five games, helping Russia win gold. Then in December, he played in the World Junior A Challenge – an under-19 tournament – playing on Russia’s U18 team.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
There is a ton to love about the Russian forward, but his biggest takeaway might just be his compete level. The kid never takes his foot off the gas. If he has the puck, he’s aggressive, forcing his way to the net or to an open spot. Without the puck, he’s on a mission to get it back. He plays hard at both ends, blocking pucks, and his forechecking might be among the best in this class.
When he’s coming at you, he might not look like the most intimidating player at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, but he’s deceptively strong for his size. He can often win board battles with his strong legs. Those legs also factor in to his strong skating, allowing him to accelerate quickly with a few quick steps. He has a good top speed and excellent edges as well, making him very dangerous.
Back to his size though, it can also be a weakness. While he’s able to win board battles, he can sometimes be knocked off the puck when a defender comes at him with some speed. As he puts on some more size and strength, this should become less of an issue.
Khusnutdinov has incredible vision and hockey sense, able to find his teammates across the offensive zone for an assist or drive to the net for a slick goal. He’s got an incredible shot which he can fire quickly, beating goaltenders before they know the shot’s off.
Finally, the Russian prospect is also solid in his own end, arguably one of the best forwards in his own end in the 2020 NHL Draft. That compete level that was mentioned above shows up with him fighting to get the puck back for his team, diving in front of shots, and was often used on the penalty kill. On top of this, he won 60.3 percent of his faceoffs.
The NHL team that lands Khusnutdinov is going to be very happy.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Marat Khusnutdinov – NHL Draft Projection
Khusnutdinov has been ranked all over the second round, but he’s also been seen in the first and the third. I think that having the World Under-18 Hockey Championships would have given him a boost to be a sure-fire first-rounder, but right now, I’d say he’s likely right on the bubble for the first round. Don’t be surprised to see him go near the end of the first or early in the second.
“A high-octane center who is confident on the puck and demands it when the stakes are high, Khusnutdinov is a shifty east-west pivot who is one of Russia’s most creative teenage playmakers… He may not be big in stature, but he more than makes up for it in confidence, leg drive, balance, and tight-quarter quickness…Khusnutdinov plays with an edge and is willing to sacrifice his body at the off chance he decides to chip and chase. A 50/50 puck battle against him is no laughing matter, and bigger defenders have paid the price by underestimating his core strength, leg drive and powerful shoulders. At the forefront of his game, however, is his ability to carve up a defense through the neutral zone. Khusnutdinov has excellent speed and agility, and his quick first step is dropped before an opponent can anticipate his intentions.” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“An impactful, all-around centre. Excellent play-driver who already boasts strong defensive ability. Plenty of runway ahead of him.” – Cam Robinson, DobberProspects
“Khusnutdinov has an intriguing offensive profile. He plays without fear in the offensive zone. He blends a willingness to try things with an impressive rate of success. Khusnutdinov is a good skater who is excellent on his edges. When he gets skating downhill at an opponent, it forces his opposition to read and react quickly. What makes Khusnutdinov a special player offensively is that he reads and reacts even faster than his opponent. If he is driving wide and the defender makes the appropriate read, Khusnutdinov will pull the puck inside and drive the net through the slot. His hands are excellent in tight, needing very little space to pull something out of his bag of tricks.” – Tony Ferrari, DobberProspects
- Defensive Game
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Size and Strength
With Khusnutdiov’s compete level and strong skating, it’s not out of the question to see him as a second-line forward in the NHL. A middle-six projection might be a bit more accurate, but where ever he plays, you can bet that he’ll be setting up goals with regularity. He’ll be a couple of years away, but he’ll be worth the wait.
Risk – 3.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8.5/10, Defence – 8/10
Playing as a leader for Team Russia for years, Khusnutdinov knows how to lead his team to victory. As far back as 2017-18, the centreman captained the U16 Russians. The following season, he helped the U17s at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge to a gold medal and the U18s to a silver at the World Under-18 Hockey Champions. This season, he captained the U20 team to a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.