With the 37th pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Level Draft, the Minnesota Wild have selected Marat Khusnutdinov from the SKA-1946 St. Petersburg of the MHL.
About Marat Khusnutdinov
As an undersized forward with an oversized compete level, Marat Khusnutdinov is one of the hardest-working players in the entire 2020 NHL Draft. He is a strong skater who is sound defensively while possessing an elite shot and playmaking ability.
Despite his size, he plays a strong two-way game, which makes him an attractive all-around player. If he were larger, Khusnutdinov would easily be considered a top-tier prospect, but as is, he has a complete toolkit that rivals the best in the draft.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
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.
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.
How This Affects the WIld’s Plans
Despite being a solid all-around prospect, Khusnutdinov likely won’t make the Wild’s lineup immediately. He is talented, yes, but could use a few more years in the MHL and/or KHL to grow into a player who can dominate at the NHL level.
Given the success of undersized forwards in recent years, however, Khusnutdinov has a much clearer path to a starting role on Wild’s second-line than even a decade ago. So, while this process may take a few years, he is plenty talented to grow into a top-six scoring role.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.