Last update covered the final season stats for the Russian prospects in the Devils system. This post focuses on the KHL playoffs. Devils fans can find an updated KHL bracket here. As of Friday when this article was written, several Devils prospects have already advanced to the Conference Finals for the Gagarin Cup. Most notably, winger Arseni Gritsyuk led Avangard in its sweep of Mettallurg Mg in the semifinal with two overtime goals.
Gritsyuk and Avangard will face the winner of the AK Bars v. Admiral series in the conference final.
SKA St. Petersburg (Wingers Zakhar Bardakov and Nikita Popugaev) also swept their opponent Torpedo in the Semifinal and are awaiting the series winner between Lokomotiv (Defenseman Daniil Misyul) and AK Bars. All other Devils prospects in the KHL have seen their seasons end.
Petr Hauser had an up and down season — literally. He bounced around between Czechia, Czechia2 the the U20s. As one would expect from a D+1 prospect playing in the U20s, Petr Hauser was dominant in that league finishing third in pts/g with 1.57. His time on loan with HC Banik in Czechia2 was also productive as Hauser put up 19 points in 35 games — the lionshare of his season’s work. There is cause for some concern that Hauser did not stick in the top league this season and went pointless in the eight games that he did play. However, as a fifth round pick last season, development was always going to be slow for the hard-forechecking winger. Next season is a big test for Hauser. He’ll need to perform well in the top league to move up the Devils depth chart.
While Hauser not being able to stick in the top Czechia league can be excused given his age, Jaromir Pytlik does not have that luxury. At 21-years-old, Pytlik was ineligible to play in the U20s and while Pytlik finished the season in the top league after a short conditioning stint with LHK Jestrabi Prostejov in the Czechia2, his meager 3 points in 33 games leaves much to be desired. Pytlik had a lot of promise when he was drafted in the fourth round in 2020 by the Devils. Many commentators, including myself, considered him to be a potential steal, but nothing is certain with prospects, and it seems like the stagnated development due to Covid in those crucial years after the draft along with an injury derailed any potential NHL career. I would love to be wrong about Pytlik twice, but it’s hard not to consider him a likely bust at this point.
One of the most improved prospects this season, 19-year-old defenseman Topias Vilen broke out in a big way offensively scoring nine goals and adding eight assists in 41 games in the Finnish Elite League. VIlen’s nine goals ranks him fifth by a defenseman in the league this season and most by a teenager (the youngest defenseman to score more goals than Vilen in the Liiga this year is 24 years-old). Vilen is already signed by the Devils and on loan to his hometown team the Lahti Pelicans. The plan seems to be to bring Vilen over to Utica after his season ends. As of Friday, Lahti is tied 2-2 in their quarterfinal series with KalPa, so the Comets will have to wait a little longer before adding Vilen to their backend.
Jakub Malek proved any doubters wrong this season and is starting to make Scott Clemmensen look like a genius for taking the off-the-board pick in 2021. I spotlight Malek last time this update circled back to Europe and asked “is it time to start talking about Jakub Malek?” I think it is. After an adjustment period, Malek caught fire in the tougher Liiga after dominating the lower Czech leagues in past years. Malek finished this season with a glorious 2.15 GAA and a respectable .903 save percentage. Ilves is currently up 3-1 in their series against Assat, but Malek has not played in the post-season, as despite his stellar play Malek is stuck behind former Arizona Coyotes goaltender Marek Langhamer, who is leading the entire league in GAA (1.83) and SV% (.924%). It will be interesting to see what the Devils do with Malek, but if there is a NHL clause in his contract, he may make a worthy candidate to replace Akira Schmid in Utica next season should the Devils decide to promote Schmid to the NHL to permanently backup Vitek Vanecek next year.
Nikola Pasic followed up his pts/g pace this season with four points (a goal and three assists) in four playoff games as of Friday. Sodertalje SK is fighting for the right to challenge for a spot in the SHL. Hopefully, for Pasic’s sake, Sodertalje SK wins as he would be better served playing in the SHL should the Devils opt to not sign him after his contract expires this summer. Either way, it has been a breakout season for Pasic, who at 22 years-old, is nearing the end of his development curve and seems ready for a bigger challenge.
AROUND THE POOL
- Luke Hughes earned first team All-Big 10 honors at the annual awards ceremony last week. [Michigan Daily]
- Speaking of Luke Hughes, he’s been on fire in the post-season.
- Peter Robinson of the NHL.com wrote this rundown of Devils prospects. In it, Robinson opines that Josh Filmon could possibly be signed and report to Utica now that Swift Current missed the playoffs. [NHL.com]
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Next week the prospect update looks at the developments in Utica.