It was announced today that Yegor Sharangovich has been recalled to New Jersey from Dinamo Minsk, ending an immensely successful loan for the Devils prospect at his hometown team in Belarus.
Many Devils prospects went out on loan to Europe during the fall to try to stay sharp with the NHL and AHL in limbo, with some varying success on those loans. If you’ve been following Brian’s prospect updates this fall, you know that by far the best performance among Devils loanees in Europe was from Sharangovich, whose 17 goals in 34 games put him tied for fourth in the entire KHL at the time of his recall. The KHL is the second best hockey league on the planet and success in that league as a 22-year-old is as good a sign as any for a prospect hoping to make the leap to the NHL.
Sharangovich’s strong close to the truncated 2019-20 AHL season and now his goal explosion in the KHL have vaulted him quickly up the list of Devils prospects to watch. Drafted as an overager in the 5th round in 2018, I don’t think most people, myself included, had especially high expectations for Sharangovich’s NHL outlook. He’s jumped straight to the AHL after being drafted but only had an okay first season in North America with 17 points in 68 games. He began to hit his stride in the last month and a half of the 2019-20 season, when he put up 15 points (7g, 8a) in 19 games before everything shut down. Lest anyone think that was just a fluke, he has done his best to dispel that notion on his loan to Minsk.
Over his 34-game KHL stretch, Sharangovich scored a bunch of goals, yes, but he has shown the ability to be a strong all-around player as well. He played in all situations for Dinamo, being an effective contributor on both the power play and penalty kill. He was also given one of the team’s alternate captain spots, which seems significant, given that he was a 22-year-old on loan. His big start to this year in the KHL has put him squarely on the radar of Devils fans as a prospect and if he can harness even a portion of the goal-scoring and overall impact he’s had for Dinamo Minsk, he could help improve a currently thin bottom-six for New Jersey.
Sharangovich is a natural center, but if he makes the roster in New Jersey, it could be as a winger, given the current makeup of the roster. At center, the Devils are likely to run with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Travis Zajac, and Pavel Zacha as their four pivots in some order. At wing, things are more wide open, with Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Andreas Johnsson, Jesper Bratt, and Miles Wood being the only real locks to make the roster and a bunch of other prospects and depth players vying for the three remaining lineup spots.
With his performance over the past calendar year, Sharangovich has to have vaulted himself into position as one of the possible frontrunners for those spots. He will contend with the likes of Jesper Boqvist, Nolan Foote, Janne Kuokkanen, Nick Merkley, Nathan Bastian, (possibly) Alexander Holtz, and others for those last spots. Obviously the potential scoring punch is what people are excited about, but Sharangovich might have a leg up on some of his counterparts based on his versatility as a forward. If he can be relied on in significant PK minutes, that frees up other forwards further up the lineup to play additional even-strength minutes without the burden of PK time. His natural position as a center could also give him an advantage in that the team can slide him into the middle in case of an injury.
So if he does make the team, what should our expectations be? Going off of Brian’s latest prospect update, Sharangovich’s 25 points in 34 KHL games gives him an NHLe of 45 points (over 82 games). Should we expect Sharangovich to score over a half point per game in the NHL? I’m going to say probably not. If he can get anywhere near that mark, though, it would be a huge boost to the Devils’ somewhat troublesome forward depth. His shooting percentage is high right now in the KHL at 18%, and while that is likely to come down, it’s not so high that his goal numbers are a complete mirage. His nearly three shots per game for Dinamo represents a pretty healthy shooting pace, so even if you were to drop his shooting percentage down to a more reasonable 12ish% for a scoring forward, he’d be scoring at a strong clip.
Sharangovich’s breakout makes what was already going to be a competitive battle for the last few forward roster spots in the Devils training camp that much more interesting. He would have to be one of the front-runners, given the level of hockey he has been playing this fall. If he were to fail to make the Devils roster, I think it would register as a disappointment for a lot of people, which is not what I would have expected to be saying about the Devils latest and greatest Yegor a few months ago. If he can make the roster and come anywhere near the impact that his KHL success portends, that would be a very good thing for New Jersey this season.