ARSENIC IS FIRE
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Arseni Gritsyuk so far this year. In our first update, the former KHL Rookie of the Year struggled after a demotion to the fourth line and had just ten points (two goals and eight assists) in his first 26 games while shooting a paltry 3.6%. Since then, pucks have started to find the back of the net with regularity, and Gritsyuk has rebounded from his second slump with 21 points (ten goals, eleven assists) in his last 22 games.
The increased production has lifted Gritsyuk’s PNHLe up to 46 on Dobber’s scale, which now projects him between a first line and a second line forward. (Dobber) While this projection is still down from Gritsyuk’s PNHLe of 66 last season, which floated him above the top line, this feels like a fairer, more sustainable projection for the former fifth rounder.
Proving that last season was no fluke, Gritsyuk looks to be a winger that the Devils could use in their top six should he decide to come over to North America, so let’s take a closer look at his total game.
As quoted by Alex Chauvancy for HockeyWriters, Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects notes that one of Gritsyuk’s greatest attributes is speed. For example, watch Gritsyuk blow past the defenders to the net to receive this pass for his ninth of the season.
That burst of speed was simply Woodsian. Fortunately, for Gritsyuk, his shot is far better than that, at least when he’s not trying to imitate Jack Hughes.
At least we know Gritsyuk watches Devils games. Here’s a better look at Gritsyuk’s shooting star for an actual goal.
No player is perfect, and the standards of Gritsyuk’s game according to scouting reports seem to focus on weaknesses on the defensive end and on Gritsyuk’s small frame. (The Hockey Writers) Lacking the data to properly analyze Gritsyuk’s defensive game, I’ll leave that to the scouts.
In terms of size, Gritsyuk has put on some muscle, going from 168 to 185 pounds according to HockeyDB, and his height has increased to 5’11 from 5’10 from when he was drafted. So Gritsyuk’s size, while he’ll never be confused for a blower, shouldn’t be a huge concern. It’s true that smaller players often struggle, especially when trying to transition to a smaller ice surface with more physical contact, but Gritsyuk appears to have enough high-end speed to separate from defenders. As Tony Ferrari of Hockey News wrote of Gritsyuk, his “agility and pace help him create space to do his job effectively.” So as long as Gritsyuk’s defensive play is competent enough, his size shouldn’t be much of an issue.
A CONCLUSION OF BATTLE
I’m titling this section “kind of a conclusion” because covering and analyzing prospects usually involves a lot of projections, guesswork, gut instincts and hope, but there’s not a lot of guesswork here – bring this boy! The Devils need another offensive winger in their top six, and even if Gritsyuk turns out not to be the one, the experiment is more than worth the virtually zero risk involved in making the deal. Of course, contract negotiations are easier said than done, and transitioning KHL players to the NHL can be a difficult task, but if Gritsyuk wants to come over at the end of his season, the Devils should sign him.
So will Gritsyuk come over? So far, reports are unconfirmed. Per Guadana, a Devils fan and prospect watcher from Russia, it appears that Gritsyuk has interest, but there are no concrete plans yet. Still, according to his report, it appears that when the time comes, Gritsyuk will ask Mukhamadullin to help him move, which probably says more about Big Shak’s future with the Devils than it does for Gritsyuk. So for now, all Devils fans can do is hope — and wait.
The bad news: Zakhar Bardakov suffered another injury and as of Friday night, when this article was written, had only played six games since the last update. The good news: Bardakov scored in his first game back. Despite the injuries (including an accident involving an open door), Bardakov is still in the midst of a breakout season for first-place SKA St. Petersburg, which plays a primarily controlling role. Devils fans may have to wait to see if Bardakov can be a future option in the bottom six as Bardakov is signed with SKA through next season.
This week’s spotlight, Arseni Gritsyuk, has been on a tear with 21 points in 22 games, increasing his seasonal output to 0.60 Pts/g. Gritsyuk’s shooting percentage has stabilized at 10.7% from 3.6% at the beginning of the season. All in all, everything is looking up for the Russian winger.
Nikita Popugaev has seen his ice time plummet to 8:49 since being traded to SKA St. Petersburg. With just one assist in his last thirteen games, Big Poppa’s Pts/g has been cut in half to 0.16 for his new team. One wonders how badly the speechless Russian joker has been snake-bitten since joining the SKA, but any hope of a Big Poppa resurgence seems to be riding off in a taxi into the sunset.
Shakir Mukhamadullin has been relatively quiet since the last update, picking up enough assists to maintain his Pts/g at around 0.33 while seeing an increase in TOI to an average of 17:06. Big Shak recently celebrated his 21st birthday and all indications are that he plans to come to North America after his season is over. Barring unforeseen setbacks, look for Big Shak to man the Utica blueline in the not too distant future.
Daniil Misyul picked up an assist since the last update, while both Yegor Zaitsev and Artyom Barabosha have gone pointless. Zaitsev, whose time as a client is coming to an end, continues to be in and out of Dynamo Moscow’s lineup. It’s hard to say what, if any, the Devils plans are for this trio. Misyul has some intrigue as a shutdown defenseman, but at 22, he would likely need to be picked up after his contract expires, and with Nemec, Hughes, Bahl, Ohkotiuk, Vilen and Big Shak in the mix, it’s hard to see. where he would fit in right now – even in Utica.
After returning from injury, Daniil Orlov continues to bounce around between the KHL, VHL, MHL, playing games in all three leagues since the last update. All the movement in the young defender’s season and the injury makes it challenging to get a good read on his development. The 2022 Fourth Round Pick just turned 19, so while this is a lost season for the young defenseman, there is still plenty of time for him to grow and for the Devils to evaluate his progress.
The Czech Republic
Fresh off his silver medal for Team Czechia at the World Juniors, Petr Hauser has increased his production to 0.52 Pts/G while on loan at HC Banik. The energetic winger is yet to score in the top flight in eight games this season but has played well in the lower leagues. If Hauser’s development stays on track, one would expect him to make the full-time jump to the Czech Republic next year.
After returning from injury, Jaromir Pytlik is now twenty games into his season with Rytiri Kladano and has two points (a goal and an assist) to show for his efforts. At 21, the clock is ticking for Pytlik. The young center will need to find his game soon if he has any hopes of making the transition to the NHL.
Topias Vilen has only played a handful of games for the Pelicans since the last update, which has become pointless in that stretch. The former sixth rounder led Team Finland in ice time at the World Juniors and appears ready to make the switch to North America. The plan seems to be to start the 19-year-old defenseman in Utica, so expect to see him there when his season ends.
After a slow transition, Jakub Malek has settled in and increased his save percentage to a respectable .903% while still playing behind veteran Marek Langhamer. After dominating the Czech leagues, this is a positive step for the young netminder’s development. Right now, Malek remains the top Devils goalie prospect outside of Utica.
Nikola Pasic continued his strong play with Sodertalje SK in the Allsvenskan and remains above one pt/gi this season. Pasic’s 38 points rank him fifth in the league, the highest among drafted players. Although one would wish that Sodertalje SK were in the SHL to be able to better evaluate Pasic’s development, the numbers are still encouraging. Pasic’s contract ends this season, so it will be interesting to see what the Devils decide to do with him.
EUROPEAN OUTLOOK OF THE MONTH
This month’s honors go to the spotlight, Arseni Gritsyuk, who has been dominant of late. Taps.
AROUND THE POOL
- Peter Robinson of NHL.COM wrote this piece on the development of Simon Nemec. By all accounts, Nemec is adjusting well, thanks in large part to his elite hockey sense. (NHL.COM)
- Utica defeated Syracuse 3-2 on Saturday. Nolan Foote scored the game-winner in overtime, his 14th of the season. Graeme Clarke (15) and Ryan Schmelzer (4) also scored for the Comets. Akira Schmid made 28 of 30 saves for his 8th AHL win of the season. (AHL.COM)
- For laughs, Yardbarker.Com believes the Canucks should go after Simon Nemec for Bo Horvat, which won’t happen. (Yardbarker.Com)
- Goaltending prospect Tyler Brennan suffered an injury during warmups over the weekend. His status is uncertain. (MyPrinceGeorgeNow.Com)
- Late post that slipped through the cracks, but Graeme Clarke, the subject of next week’s spotlight, was named AHL Player of the Week a few weeks ago. (UticaComets.Com)
- EPrinkside confirms what the prospect update has long suspected: Sixth-rounder Topias Vilen has become a draft day steal. (EP Rinkside $)
- Samu Salminen has eight points in his last eight games after scoring just two points in his first eight. I’d say he’s adjusting well.
Now is the time to tell us what you think. Do you think Gritsyuk will come over? Will? Big Shack? Who are you most excited to see in red and black? Let us know in the comments below.
Next week the prospect update returns to the surging Utica Comets with a focus on Graeme Clarke’s breakout season.
A HEAVY METAL UPDATE
On a personal note, I will be DJing the Alumni shift on 89.5FM WSOU this Saturday night from 9-12 PM Feel free to call the station and make a request I almost certainly won’t play or ask for a shout out , which I almost certainly will. Rock on.