There was plenty of National Hockey League prospect news over the weekend. One top draft pick scored a goal as his season began and another European player will start the season in his home country. Also, the shuffling in the American Hockey League (AHL) might be just about over.
Kravtsov Scores as KHL Season Begins
The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) started its 2020-21 regular season and there are quite a few NHL prospects who were in action. Last week, learned New York Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov would be spending the entire season with KC Traktor. He made an immediate impact in the team’s second game of the season.
Kravtsov scored a goal in Traktor’s 3-1 victory over Kunlun Red Star. His tally early in the third period increased Traktor’s lead to 3-0.
He led all skaters with six shots on goal in the game. Originally the eighth overall pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Kravtsov could return to North America after the conclusion of the KHL season. He scored six goals and 15 points, in 39 games, for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL last season.
Vejdemo to Stay in Sweden
It has been a hectic couple of days for Montreal Canadiens prospect Luks Vejdemo. First, he signed a one-year contract extension on Friday, and then he learned that he is starting the 2020-21 season overseas.
The Canadiens officially announced on Sunday that Vejdemo has been loaned to Södertälje in HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden’s equivalent to the AHL.
The HockeyAllsvenkan season will start on Sept. 11. The plan is for Vejdemo to return when the Canadiens open their training camp some time in early December. He scored one goal in seven games for Montreal last season. He also played in 47 AHL games for the Laval Rocket where he scored nine goals and 19 points.
Report: Panthers Have New AHL Affiliate
This week as been a busy one for the Florida Panthers. First, they hired Bill Zito to be their next general manager and now it appears that the Charlotte Checkers will be their new AHL affiliate starting this season.
Over the weekend, George Richards of Florida Hockey Now reported that the Checkers and Panthers will have a new partnership. There has been quite a bit of shuffling around in the AHL over the past few months, which is not unusual but has tapered a bit with so many NHL teams now owning their affiliates.
The chain of events started when the Vegas Golden Knights wanted to purchase their own AHL team. Their affiliate since joining the NHL had been to the Chicago Wolves, which is one of the few independently owned AHL teams left. The Golden Knights purchased the San Antonio Rampage in February and have since relocated them to Henderson, NV.
Less than a month later, the St. Louis Blues, who were affiliated with the Rampage, announced a new partnership with the Springfield Thunderbirds. This left the Panthers without an AHL team, but it looks like they will hook up with the Checkers, even though there has been no announcement from either organization.
The Checkers were the affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, but the rumblings in Chicago for the past few months have said that the Wolves and Hurricanes will work together. General manager Don Waddell has a past relationship with the Wolves as they were the Atlanta Thrashers’ AHL affiliate when he held the same position there.
Prospect of the Day – Shakir Mukhamadullin
We are heading back to Russia for our Prospect of the Day to take a look at an intriguing youngster on the back end. Mukhamadullin is ranked as the 17th best European skater by NHL Central Scouting and sixth among defensemen. Larry Fisher, one of our top draft experts at THW, has him ranked 48th overall and 14th among all draft-eligible blueliners.
Related – THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Mukhamadulllin has two things that separate him from other defensemen in this draft class; size and experience. He checks in at 6-foot-4 and 179-pounds, which is the frame that NHL scouts love. He played in 27 KHL games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa last season. Add that to the over 60 international games he’s played for Russia since the start of the 2017-18 season and he is one of the most seasoned players on the board.
In addition to the size and experience, he also has the shot and hockey sense to make him a very good pro. While his shot is good, he still needs to work more on his overall offensive game. But he excels when his team doesn’t have the puck. He uses his size to dominate play along the boards and keep bodies out of his crease.
Our own Eugene Helfrick thinks the ceiling is very high for the 18-year-old defender.
Even if Mukhamadullin fails to reach his full potential, his size and toolkit alone should allow him to become a bottom-pairing defenseman. However, if he reaches that potential, he could be a dominant top-pairing defender by the time he hits his mid-twenties.
As always, defensemen are hard to predict, so there’s a chance that his game may not translate, but that risk appears somewhat low. Barring injury trouble, he should reach the NHL in three to four years, if not sooner.
Mukhamadullin’s rankings are all over the place heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Despite that, don’t be surprised to hear his name called somewhere in the first round. His size is something that cannot be coached and he never looked out of place in Russia’s top professional league as a teenager. Those are things that are pretty appealing during draft season.
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Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.