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Mikhail Gulyayev: 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; An undersized Russian defenseman with first round talent

Every draft has risers and fallers for one reason or another. Could Mikhail Gulyayev be one of the fallers this year? This post explains why that might be.

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Olympics: Youth Olympic Winter Games
Gulyayev will be celebrating during the draft, but when?


Mikhail Gulyayev is a 5’10 left-handed defenseman born on April 26, 2005 in Novosibirsk, Russia, who split time between the MHL, VHL and KHL last year and will likely be a full-time player for Avangard Omsk next season. Gulyayev has been in the Avangard system since 2019-2020 when he put up 23 points in 20 games in the U16s. The following season, Gulyayev captained Avangard’s U-17 team and increased his production to 34 points in 24 games.

In 2020-21, Gulyayev played in the MHL for Omskie Yastreby and recorded a record-setting 35 points in 54 games — the most ever in the league for a 16-year-old defenseman. This past year, Gulayayev put up 25 points in 22 games in the MHL to go along with 4 points in 12 games for Omskie Krylia of the VHL and 1 assist in 13 KHL games for Avanagard.

Gulyayev won gold in the 2021 Ivan Hlinka tournament before Russian’s ban from International play. The undersized defender scored five points in five tournament games that year.

Also, of note, Mikhail’s father, Alexander Gulyayev, is an assistant coach with Avangard Omsk, who have Gulyayev signed through 2025, further cementing his ties to the club.


Under normal circumstances in a normal year, far too high for the Devils to have a realistic shot at him. Per Elite Prospects:



Ranked #16 by FCHOCKEY

Ranked #22 by DAILY FACEOFF

Ranked #22 by THE HOCKEY NEWS

Ranked #24 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE

Ranked #19 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY

Ranked #37 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON

Ranked #10 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)

Ranked #23 by SPORTSNET




Ranked #16 by SMAHT SCOUTING

The Devils pick 58th. So why am I bothering to write about Mikhail Gulyayev? Two recently drafted players come to mind: Danila Yurov and Lane Hutson. Before draft day, Russian forward Danila Yurov was considered a near-consensus top 10 pick by most pundits and almost-universally a top-15 pick. Due to the Russian factor in the current global climate, which has not abated since last year, he fell to 24th. Though never ranked as highly, Lane Hutson fell to the Canadiens at 62 in the draft due to his small frame, despite his elite skating and scoring ability.

To no fault of his own, Gulyayev has both of those drafting stigmas and seems to be a likely candidate to drop down from his pre-draft rankings. There are many teams who try to avoid drafting Russian players in the current climate and there are many other teams who shy away from selecting smaller defenders. Though Gulyayev may not fall all the way to 58, he could fall close enough, where the Devils could trade up, if desired. Here are some reasons why they may want to do so should that opportunity arise.


Logan Horn of theHockeyWriters claims that Mikhail Gulyayev has “some of the best skating and offensive potential in the class.”

For anyone worried about Gulyayev producing against “men”, Corey Pronman of the Athletic does not share your concern. In an article for the Athletic, Pronman notes that Gulyayev “creates a lot of controlled exits and entries, he projects to run power plays at higher levels and be a point producer versus men.” [TheAthletic $] Dobber prospects agrees calling Gulyayev “an undersized, but dynamic puck moving defenseman who defends well despite his physical limitations.” [Dobber] Ben Kerr from Last Word on Sports refers to Gulyayev as a “dynamic” skater, touting his speed, acceleration and lateral mobility. [LWOS]

Gulyayev’s elite skating was a consistent theme in scouting reports. The few weaknesses mentioned in various reports seem to center around Gulyayev’s small frame and the need to add strength to shoot harder and win board battles. All in all, Gulyayev looks like a somewhat risky, but high reward pick.


Here is Gulyayev’s first KHL point, a really nice pass to the net that leads to a bank in.

Another play at the point:

Another point play.


It’s clear why pundits think Gulyayev will excel quarterbacking a power play at the higher levels. While power play quarterbacking is not a need for the Devils, smart teams don’t pass up prospects like Gulyayev if given the opportunity. The question, of course, is will the Devils have that opportunity?

It seems unlikely, but with Gulyayev’s close ties with Avangard through his father and his shorter stature, he is a prime candidate to perhaps drop a little from his lofty rankings in this year’s draft. Most pundits see Gulyayev as a late first rounder, so it would take a pretty big drop for the Devils to have a crack at him without trading up. We shall have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Now it is time to tell us what you think about Gulyayev or the draft or any Devils prospects. Post your comments below.