With the pick acquired in the Blake Coleman trade, the New Jersey Devils have selected Shakir Mukhamadulin.
Who is Shakir Mukhamadullin?
Shakir Mukhamadullin is 6‘4“, weighs 179 pounds, shoots left handed and plays defense. He most recently played for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League. He was born on January 10, 2002. This is his second season in the KHL, and has become a solid player for his team.
I admit I was shocked at this pick, but when I saw that he has six points in just 14 KHL games this season, I got pretty interested. The KHL is a tough league to play in - especially for an 18 year old. I think he wouldn’t get picked here without that recent play.
What Others Say About Mukhamadullin
Back in August, Jenna did this draft profile which included Shakir Mukhamadullin. She concluded that the Devils should probably pass on Mukhamadullin due to his ceiling - but this was before his most recent KHL play, in which he seems to have vastly improved.
Ben Kerr at Last Word on Hockey had this draft profile on Mukhamadullin. He noted his big shot, good skating for his size, and ability to win battles along the boards. He also said:
Russian teams are normally patient with their young defenceman, and it is rare to see an NHL draft-eligible defenceman, especially one in his 17-year-old season get much ice time in the KHL
I think this is something to consider. I was surprised to see him have already played in the KHL - and to have this sort of improvement at 18. I think his coaches might have known something everybody else didn’t. Jokke Nevalainen - the main European scout for Dobber Prospects - for example, seems to be very low on him.
The Devils selected LHD Shakir Mukhamadullin 20th overall.— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) October 7, 2020
We didn't even create a profile for him. Wasn't part of our top-100 rankings.
However, I’m not sure how much stock we should put in this. A lot of 2020 NHL Draft ranking was done based on 2019-20 season results. Mukhamadullin is just 18 and has a starting role for a KHL team, and is scoring nearly half a point-per-game. I’m not as upset as I thought I’d be given where he was generally ranked given his current KHL role. Frankly, I think he was under-scouted by internet writers.
But back to Kerr, I think Devils fans can get excited at this part of his profile - which again was written before his apparent KHL breakout this season:
His strong skating and puck handling skills also allow him to retrieve pucks in the corners and skate them out of danger, avoiding forecheckers.
That this was apparent in his game at just 17 is encouraging. Steve Kourianos at The Draft Analyst also seemed pretty high on Shakir Mukhamadullin, ranking him sixth among Russian prospects in this Draft. He said:
You can make a strong argument that he’s the most polished of any draft-eligible defenseman from a quality of competition standpoint, and boosting this value is his multi-situational versatility. How so? When he played against those in his age group in the tight-checking MHL, Mukhamadullin recorded 13 points in 18 games for a 0.72 points-per-game average — the second-highest rate for defensemen in league history. Mukhamadullin also plays as a top penalty killer, shutdown defender, and can quarterback a power play. He also plays over 20 minutes a game and owns one of the hardest shots in the draft while hitting the net with consistency.
Again, this was said before his KHL play this season - and those 18 MHL games were split between five in 2018-19 and 13 in 2019-20. Kourianos also liked Mukhamadulin’s play against forecheckers and dump-and-chase play, saying his breakout stretch passes can create problems for aggressive opposition. He also said that Mukhamadullin “oozes top-pairing potential”. This is high praise, and I hope he’s right. Devils fans will not be happy if Fitzgerald’s gambit here fails.
My Initial Take
I was thinking someone like Gunler, Zary, or Bourque with my pick, but I was thinking it would be not ideal to end Day One without a defenseman. Mukhamadullin might not be ranked this high by scouts, but he seems to be blossoming in the KHL right now. He also checks off a few boxes for Tom Fitzgerald with his size and apparent skill. I appreciate the swing - and this might pay off big - but I think there were much safer and possibly more beneficial options on the board. However, Mukhamadullin’s recent play has me somewhat excited.
From just one month ago, here’s a video of Mukhamadullin’s first KHL goal.
You have to like this kind of play from a defenseman. He pinches at exactly the right time, and cuts towards the net, away from the oncoming opposition, and into a position where he can rip of a wrist shot - and it looks good.
The following video is from his time in the MHL (Russian juniors) last season, where he had 10 points in 13 games. It’s another goal on a wrist shot:
Again, I like what I see here. Rather than let the opposition take the puck from his team in the neutral zone, Mukhamadullin jumps into the play and ends up with a lot of space to get a shot off. He uses the defenseman as a screen for the goaltender and scores on a wrist shot just inside the post. This is good stuff.
Here’s a hit Mukhamadullin threw in February during last season. He seems to have very little trouble knocking people over with his strong stance.
Unfortunately there are not any video compilations of Mukhamadullin as of now, but perhaps there will be after some more time in the KHL season. He seems to be on a very good trend.
My Thoughts After Some Time
After more thought and research, I am still skeptical but also kind of excited by the pick. I think Mukhamadullin’s video shows he is aggressive enough to thrive in the NHL, and his reputation for his passes against aggressive forecheckers could spare Devils fans some of the headaches caused by our current crop of defensemen. However, I think they still could have done this by trading down a bit. This way, the Devils could have added more draft capital while getting a guy they were obviously high on. If they did not have a high internal ranking on Mukhamadullin, I can’t imagine them taking him as a panic pick just because the Rangers jumped up for Schneider.
Now that we’ve seen Shakir Mukhamadullin selected by the Devils, I want to hear your thoughts on the pick. Please respond to the poll below.
The Devils drafted Shakir Mukhamadullin at 20th overall. What do you think of the pick?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like the pick.
I don’t know/I’m in the middle.
I don’t like the pick.
I hate it!
After that - how do you feel about who was selected compared to the players the Devils left on the board? Do you think they got the best pick available? How do you feel about the whole first round with Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, and Shakir Mukhamadullin? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.