Denis Gurianov is a highly skilled player with 1st round talent that could slip to the Devils early in the 2nd round. One reason for this fall may be due to him playing in Russia's junior league, the MHL, and not that much against men in the KHL. This could make it harder for some scouts to project how he will do when he eventually plays against men on a full time basis. One thing is for certain, the young Russian has the size and skill to play a power forward game that could make him very attractive at the draft.
Who is Denis Gurianov?
Denis Gurianov (aka Denis Guryanov) is a large RW listed at 6'3", 192 lbs. according to his NHL.com prospect profile. He was born in Togliatti, Russia on June 7, 1997, making him one of the younger prospects in this draft class. As you will see from his stats below provided by Elite Prospects, the young winger has spent his career in Togliatti's system, mainly featuring in the MHL (Russia's junior hockey league) and with Russia's junior teams on the U17, U18, and U19 levels. He also made his KHL debut this past season as a 17 year old, where he appeared in 8 games and notched his first KHL assist.
According to Elite Prospects, Gurianov was 1 of 4 skaters below the age of 18 to appear in the KHL in the 2014-15 season. He spent the majority of the past 2 seasons in the MHL where he was able to improve his points per game rate from 0.43 in his age 16 season to 1.09 in his age 17 season. Gurianov also led U18 skaters in the MHL in points per game this past season. This strong season earned him a selection to the MHL All-Star Game.
As you can see, Gurianov has represented Russia at numerous junior levels. He put up nearly a point per game in the 2014 World U17 Hockey Challenge. Gurianov was tied for the lead in scoring for Russia's U19 team at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge. He led Russia's U18 team at the 2015 World U18 Championship in goals and points. He finished 9th overall in that tournament in points per game. He also had 8 points in 12 other games with Russia's U18 team that year, so it's safe to say he's been a productive member of the squad.
It's no surprise to see Gurianov ranked in the late 1st to 2nd round range. Central Scouting ranks him as the 7th best International Skater, Future Considerations and ISS Hockey rank him 24th overall, Craig Button of TSN has Gurianov ranked 20th overall, Bob McKenzie's final draft rankings have Gurianov 21st, and Hockey Prospectus has him ranked 41st overall.
What Others Say About Denis Gurianov
Fortunately, there is a lot out there on Gurianov. Director of European Scouting for NHL Central Scouting, Goran Stubb had this to say on him:
"A dynamic goal scorer who is full of surprises, he is a strong, tough, power forward who goes hard to the net using his physical strength and size. He protects the puck well, is difficult to stop when at full speed and always tries to use his strong shot."
As a Devils fan, I am definitely interested to read that the RW is a "dynamic goal scorer." Everyone knows the Devils could use some production from that position going forward. I've always drifted towards power forwards who know how to protect the puck so I'm really liking Gurianov after reading this.
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects has a lot to say about Gurianov:
A highly skilled forward who intimidates with his speed and proficient puckhandling ability, Denis Guryanov may have one of the highest ceilings as a forward prospect for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Very strong on his skates and uses his size to protect the puck well. Drives the net hard and knows where he will shoot before he is even in a position to do so. Possesses a heavy and accurate release on his shot, which he likes to get off near the faceoff dots; if he can't shoot from there, he will either dangle or bull his way through to the blue paint. While he is proactive and aware defensively, he still needs to work on consistency in his own end. All-in-all, a dynamic offensive threat that has room to grow defensively.
A "highly skilled" forward with "speed" seems like the type of player that could likely be on Ray Shero's radar. Once again, Gurianov is praised for his size and strength which backs up the Central Scouting report. I'm not worried about him needing to work on some aspects of his defensive game - you can teach that, but you can't teach high end skill which it appears Gurianov has.
A month ago, Dennis Schellenberg of Hockey Prospectus posted a thorough breakdown of Gurianov, analyzing his skating, shooting, puck skills, smarts, and physicality. I highly recommend checking out the full post. I'll share the general assessment here:
Big power forward with a great shot, excellent offensive skills and some defensive mind. Has all the tools to become an offensive weapon at the NHL level, who plays a North American style of hockey. But like with many Russian prospects, teams are worried about his willingness to leave Russia. Regardless if he has interest in coming over the pond soon or not, his talent has been seen in the recent u18 tournament where he was the most dangerous Russian. He has scoring blood and put up good numbers in each season so far. Can be a potential late first rounder, making him a Tier III draft prospect.
Rumors, whether true or not, about his willingness to leave Russia could actually benefit the Devils. Gurianov figures to be a late 1st round talent but may fall until one of New Jersey's 2nd round picks due to this.
Finally, TSN Director of Scouting, Craig Button, ranks Gurianov's skating, smarts, hands, shot, and compete level on a scale of 1-5 here. As expected, the results are all favorable. Button list Chris Kreider as a NHL comparable and gives this projection:
One of the most powerful, dynamic players in the draft. Has excellent speed but his explosive quickness is exceptional and he can create space and opportunities quickly. Excellent shot with a quick release and goalies have to be ready. Easily could be a top 10 or even a top five talent in this draft.
Another report that really praises Gurianov and mentions that he has high end potential - if he can put it together. After reading all of this, I am really starting to like Gurianov as a possible selection.
A Little Video
Craig Button of TSN has this short video talking about Gurianov's game along with some highlights. As we move over to YouTube, here is a collection of his U18 WJC goals:
It's pretty clear that he is confident at driving to the net and using his smooth hands to beat defenders and the goaltender down low. We also see him blast home a shot from the slot and on the rush from the circle. He seems like the type of player that can score from just about anywhere.
Next, here is a SH goal that he had against the USA at the U18 WJC, where he is able to grab a loose puck and accelerate through the neutral zone while creating an angle for himself against the goaltender:
Finally, here is a goal he had at the 5 Nations Tournament where he makes a hit in the neutral zone and then drifts undetected into the slot for the goal:
An Opinion of Sorts
In my opinion, if Gurianov is still available when the Devils pick at #36, then I'd love to see him selected. He has the size and skill necessary to succeed in the NHL. I love that he can score from just about anywhere on the ice, whether it's driving to the net, slipping into the slot, or hanging out on the perimeter. His skating ability seems like a fantastic asset in my opinion as it allows him to challenge and beat defenders in all areas of the ice. Based on the reports, it seems like his vision on the ice is a strong tool for him and he knows how to use it to create offensive chances. He doesn't seem to mind contact and appears strong enough to be able to protect the puck in the offensive zone while under pressure and retain possession for his team.
The main knock against him seems to be that his defensive game hasn't caught up with the rest of his game yet. I suppose that's to be expected when you have a player that has that high end offensive skill. It'd be hard for a player that young to be both equally talented with that high end skill in both of those areas of the game. The good news is that you can always teach defense to a player that has the raw offensive talent that Gurianov possesses.
What is your opinion on Gurianov? Do you think he falls to the Devils at 36th or 41st overall? Would you want the Devils to select him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!