With the eleventh pick in the seventh round and their presumably final pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils selected forward Zakhar Bardakov. The Devils’ completed their second day of the NHL Draft with an entirely European group of picks, their second forward of the afternoon, and their one and only Russian of their 2021 NHL Draft class.
According to Elite Prospects, Zakhar Bardakov is a double-overage player as he is 20 years old. He is listed at 6’2” and 198 pounds. More interestingly, he played most of the 2020-21 season with Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL with 44 games. He did get into 4 games with their MHL club, played as a part of Russia’s WJC team, and played three games with the senior national team. In the KHL, Bardakov put up eight goals and eleven points while averaging 10:27 per game. Hardly a surprise that a young player did not play a ton in the KHL, but it was telling that he did get average over 14 shifts per game. For a seventh round pick, this is a pedigree you rarely see. While the draft selection him as a center, EP lists him as a right winger. Given that the KHL stats list him as taking just 107 faceoffs in 44 games, I would agree with EP’s assertion that he was mostly used at wing.
EP also lists that Bardakov will be joining SKA St. Petersburg next season as part of a trade with Vityaz Podolsk back in June. He was one of the featured players of that trade and anytime the biggest team in Russia wants to acquire a young player, then they think he has something to offer. SKA would not bother otherwise. That stated, his contract status is unknown at EP. Should he want to come over to North America early, the 20 year old can jump right into pro hockey. But I do not know how possible this is at the moment.
Bardakov has been passed over in two drafts already, there is not a lot of information available about him. However, I did find these two sources.
First, C.R. Davies at The Hockey Writers wrote up this profile about the player. He noted that he took an excessive number of penalty minutes in the MHL last season (149 in 51 games, most penalized player in two straight MHL seasons, yeah, that is an issue). Davies highlighted his strength and how he uses his size as strengths. This section of it may be what appealed to the Devils:
His aggressive and intriguing play style earned him a spot on Team Russia at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Throughout the tournament, he received praise from scouts for the amount of energy he brought every time he stepped onto the ice. He energized his line with explosive plays and even managed to get his name in the goal column. He finished the tournament with two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games. All in all, the tournament boosted his draft stock immensely. Bardakov was also nominated for the KHL”s Alexei Cherepanov Award for best rookie.
For a seventh round pick, this is a player that may be worth taking a flyer on and the Devils did just that. If he is truly calming down with the discipline issues that the MHL seasons suggest, then that is a plus.
Second, Steve Kournianos and his staff did include Bardakov as part of his free 2021 NHL Draft Report at The Draft Analyst. He was listed at 98th overall. I would recommend reading the whole thing, but I will give you the general highlights. In terms of skating, he has a “short, heavy stride” but he does keep moving, especially when possession changes. In terms of attacking, he will go to the net (his size and strength and angriness helps him here) and he tends to shoot over passing the puck. In terms of defense, the profile does not go into that and instead focuses on his physical play. The word “menace” is used. Ultimately, the conclusion is that Bardakov could be a solid bottom-six center in a checking or physical role - the question is whether it is in North America or Russia.
For a pick in the seventh round, there are far worse options than this. Bardakov kept his PIM per game rate below one in the KHL and managed to only take four minutes at the WJCs. It is possible he can be calm and use his strengths more appropriately. If he can manage to be disciplined without losing his edge, then the Devils may have that vaunted “big body presence” and “heavy hockey” role at forward that they have sought out and some fans have demanded. I do not like these kinds of prospects early in drafts, but later in them are more acceptable. I do question his availability given he was traded to SKA in June; but if he could come over sooner rather than later, then that would be great since he is already 20. Still, for the 203rd pick where just about every pick is a long shot, this is a defensible one.
I welcome Zakhar Bardakov to the Devils organization and I wish him the best as he continues his career with the SKA St. Petersburg organization.
Now that you know what I think about the player, I want to know what you think of the selection. What do you like about Zakhar Bardakov? What are your concerns? What do you expect from Bardakov going forward? Please leave your thoughts about the player in the comments and please also vote in the poll as part of community reaction I will put together tomorrow. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Zakhar Bardakov at 203rd 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!