ARSENI ON FIRE
It has been a tale of two seasons for Arseni Gritsyuk so far this year. In our first update, the former KHL Rookie of the Year was struggling after a fourth line demotion and had only ten points (two goals and eight assists) in his first 26 games, while shooting a measly 3.6%. Since then, the pucks have started to find the back of the net with regularity and Gritsyuk has busted out of his sophomore slump for 21 points (ten goals, eleven assists) in his last 22 games.
The increased production has risen Gritsyuk’s PNHLe up to 46 on Dobber’s scale, which now projects him between a first line and second line forward. [Dobber] While this projection is still down from Gritsyuk’s PNHLe of 66 last season, which hovered him above the top line, this feels like a fairer, more sustainable projection for the former Fifth Rounder.
Proving last season was no fluke, Gritsyuk appears to be a winger the Devils could use in their top six should he decide to come over to North America, so let’s look a little closer at his overall game.
As quoted by Alex Chauvancy for the HockeyWriters, Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects notes one of Gritsyuk’s biggest attributes is speed. As an 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. Thankfully, for Gritsyuk, his shot is far better than that, at least when he is not trying to imitate Jack Hughes.
At least we know, Gritsyuk watches Devils games. Here’s a better look at Gritsyuk’s stellar shot for an actual goal.
No player is perfect and the defaults in Gritsyuk’s game according to scouting reports seem to focus on weaknesses in the defensive end and on Gritsyuk’s small frame. [The Hockey Writers] As I lack the data to properly analyze Gritsyuk’s defensive game, I shall leave that one for the scouts.
As to size, Gritsyuk has put on some muscle going from 168 to 185 pounds according to HockeyDB and his height has ticked up to 5’11 from 5’10 from when he was drafted. So, Gritsyuk’s size, though he’ll never be confused for a bruiser, should not be a tremendous concern. It is true that smaller players often struggle, especially when trying to transition to a smaller ice surface with more physical contact, but Gritsyuk seems to have enough high-end speed to separate from defenders. As Tony Ferrari of the Hockey News wrote of Gritsyuk, his “agility and pace help him create space to do his work effectively.” So, as long as Gritsyuk’s defensive play is competent enough, his size should not be much of a issue.
A CONCLUSION OF SORTS
I title this section “a conclusion of sorts” because prospect coverage and analysis usually involves a lot of projections, guesswork, gut instincts and hope, but there is not much guessing here — bring this kid over! The Devils need another offensive winger in their top six and even if Gritsyuk proves not to be that, the experiment is more than worth the virtually no risk involved in making the deal. Of course, contract negotiations are easier said than done and transitioning KHL players over to the NHL can be a tricky endeavor, but if Gritsyuk wants to come over at the end of his season, the Devils should sign him.
So, will Gritsyuk come over? As of now, reports are unconfirmed. Per Guadana, a Devils fan and prospect watcher out of Russia, it appears as if Gritsyuk has interest but there are no concrete plans as of yet. Still, according to his report, it seems that when the time comes, Gritsyuk will ask Mukhamadullin to help him move, which probably says more for Big Shak’s future with the Devils than it does for Gritsyuk. So, for now, all Devils fans can do is hope — and wait.
@Njdevils prospect Arseniy Gritsyuk said a couple of words about his future in new Jersey Devils organisation.— Guadana (@Guadana5) December 15, 2022
And he said if and when the time goes on, he will ask Shakir to help with removal.#njdevils pic.twitter.com/ZnbGNYOmCu
The bad news: Zakhar Bardakov suffered a second injury and, as of Friday night when this article was written, had only played six games since last update. The good news: Bardakov scored in his first game back. Despite the injuries, (including one fluke incident involving an open door), Bardakov is still in the midst of a breakout season for first place SKA St. Petersburg playing a primarily checking role. Devils fans may have to wait to see whether Bardakov can be a future option in the bottom six as Bardakov is signed with SKA through next season.
The spotlight of the week, 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 stabalized to a 10.7% up 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 down to 8:49 since being traded over to SKA St. Petersburg. With only one assist in his last thirteen games, Big Poppa’s Pts/g has halved to 0.16 for his new team. One wonders how hard the goalless Russian prankster has been snake-bitten since joining SKA, but any hope of a Big Poppa resurgence seems to be riding away in a taxi into the sunset.
Shakir Mukhamadullin has been relatively quiet since last update picking up enough assists to maintain his Pts/g of around 0.33, while seeing an uptick 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 ends. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, look for Big Shak to be manning the Utica blueline in the not so distant future.
Daniil Misyul picked up one assist since last update, while both Yegor Zaitsev and Artyom Barabosha have gone pointless. Zaitsev, whose time as a prospect is near its end, continues to be in and out of Dynamo Moscow’s lineup. It’s hard to tell what, if any, the Devils plans are for this trio. Misyul has some intrigue as a shutdown defenseman, but at 22 years-old, he would likely need to be brought over after his contract expires and with Nemec, Hughes, Bahl, Ohkotiuk, Vilen and Big Shak in the fray, it’s hard to see where he’d 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 last update. All the movement in the young defenseman’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 even if this is a lost season for the young defender, there is still plenty of time for him to grow and for the Devils to evaluate his progress.
Fresh off his silver medal for Team Czechia in the World Juniors, Petr Hauser has upped his production to 0.52 Pts/G while on loan to HC Banik. The energy winger has yet to score in the top league 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 Czechia 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 years-old, the clock is ticking for Pytlik. The young center will need to find his game soon if he has any hopes to make the transition to the NHL.
Topias Vilen has only played a handful of games for the Pelicans since last update, going pointless in that stretch. The former Sixth Rounder led Team Finland in ice time in the World Juniors and appears poised to transition over 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, upping his save percentage to a respectable 0.903%, while still playing behind veteran Marek Langhamer. After dominating the Czech leagues, this is a positive step for the young netminder’s development. As of 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 over a pt/g this season. Pasic’s 38 points puts him fifth in the league, the highest amongst drafted players. Although one wishes Sodertalje SK was in the SHL 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 PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
This month’s honors go to the spotlight, Arseni Gritsyuk, who has been dominant as of late. Stick 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 saved 28 of 30 for his 8th AHL win of the season. [The AHL.COM]
- For the laughs, Yardbarker.Com thinks the Canucks should go after Simon Nemec for Bo Horvat, which will not happen. [Yardbarker.Com]
- Goaltending prospect Tyler Brennan suffered an injury during warmup over the weekend. His status is uncertain. [MyPrinceGeorgeNow.Com]
- Belated 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 back. [UticaComets.Com]
- EPRinkside confirms what the prospect update has long suspected: Sixth Rounder Topias Vilen has turned into a draft day steal. [EP Rinkside $]
- Samu Salminen has eight points in his last eight games after scoring only two points in his first eight. I’d say that he’s adjusting well.
Now is the time to tell us what you think. Do you think Gritsyuk will come over? Vilen? Big Shak? Who are you most excited about seeing in the red and black? Let us know in the comments below.
Next week the prospect update cycles back to the surging Utica Comets with a spotlight on the breakout season of Graeme Clarke.
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 P.M. Feel free to call the station and make a request I almost certainly will not play, or ask for a shout out, which I almost certainly will do. Rock on.