With the 2022 NHL Entry Draft less than a week away, Kings General Manager Rob Blake and crew continue to do their due diligence. The depth chart and needs are no secret, and without a first round pick, Los Angeles will need to be creative to feel satisfied by the end of July 8.
Last year, the Kings took Kirill Kirsanov 84th overall. Despite not having any Russians playing as regular mainstays, they haven’t been off the table. However, there are multiple developing factors which need to be discussed for this next prospect.
Date of Birth: December 9, 2003
Weight: 159 lbs
Grudinin spent most of his time playing for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL, which is the Russian major junior league (similar to Canada’s CHL). He scored 13 points (2 G, 11 A) in 18 contests.
The Unclear CHL Ban
In response to what is occurring between Russia and Ukraine, the CHL made a statement back in April; Russians and Belarussians are ineligible for the CHL Import Draft. The annual Import Draft gives all teams from the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL an opportunity to draft non-North American players so they can come and play major junior hockey. This announcement essentially guaranteed players like Grudinin would stay in Russia for the immediate future.
At the time of the draft, however, it looks like a few teams did pick a couple Russian names. There was no formal announcement of any ban being lifted, so it’s unclear as to whether or not the CHL will respond to the picks. Either way, the native of Angarsk, Russia was not picked.
More Serious Implications
A developing story is not one of Grudinin, but of his teammate. The skilled defenseman currently plays for Moscow’s organization, which serves as part of the Russian army. Grudinin’s teammate in the KHL, goaltender Ivan Fedotov, has allegedly been detained for evading military service.
Where things get more sensitive is the report that, since being detained, Fedotov has reportedly been hospitalized.
We are not here to draw conclusions of what happened. However, given the political climate and the reports coming out, teams will undoubtedly take note on how strong they wish to pursue players who could face similar circumstances.
On Ice Success
Grudinin has had varying degrees of championships in the past years. This year, specifically, he won the KHL championship while playing for CSKA Moscow. The skilled defenseman also won silver and gold in the U-18 and U-17 international tournaments in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Rankings by Independent Scouting Services
Ranked No 31 by Elite Prospects. “You have to be able to skate if you’re going to hang in professional hockey at Grudinin’s size, and he passes the test. The only question for our staff this season was whether to rate his stride as above-average or high-end. Ultimately, we settled on a 7-grade on our 1-to-9 linear scale, placing him roughly in the 93rd percentile for the players accounted for in our database.”
Ranked No. 110 by Hockey Prospect.“Grudinin is a Russian offensive-minded defenseman and an interesting talent. His skating mechanics are beautiful to watch. He turns around quickly and gets lots of speed out of a smaller frame. He has a perfect bend in his knees to enable him to be very explosive on the ice when rushing pucks out of his zone or trying to create offense with his feet. He’s very unpredictable with his passes and tough to read for opposing players. He makes quick decisions with the puck, usually making the right ones under pressure as well. Quick decision-making is a quality that makes Grudinin a strong player in starting a counter-attack with a quick first pass out of his zone, but he also can start the counterattack with his quality skating. He has some good offensive upside to play on the power play (more of a PP2 projection in his case). His skating helps, but he also has some good vision to make good passes to his teammates, and the quickness of his decision-making is of help there, too. He’s not a big threat from the point with his shot (it is more on the average side) which makes it tough to translate to a first power play unit in the future.”
Ranked No. 32 by McKeen’s Hockey. “As with the other Russians in this draft, we just don’t know what the current political climate will mean for teams and how much they may shy away from this section of the prospect world. It’s thinkable that players will drop and that a player of Grundinin’s quality will be available in the middle rounds. But all things being equal, the skills, skating, and intelligence of this player make him someone who should be understood as among the top 40 talents this draft has to offer.”
See For Yourself
Here is a shift by shift video of Grudinin.
Grudinin is a skilled defenseman who embodies a trend towards the NHL’s evolution, where blueliners don’t have to brutalize their opponents. Skating is becoming a more important quality for defending players, as they can now be trained to use body positioning and leverage to separate players from the puck. With his smaller stature, the agile Russian doesn’t engage much in physical play, opting more towards using stickwork.
His contributions in the attacking zone would be more geared towards moving and carrying the puck. He doesn’t have the strength or technique to blast a powerful shot from the blueline. The questions of offensive upside, particularly at the notion of quarterbacking a power play, are well-founded.
While coaching can certainly bring strengths out of a player, the biggest issue is he can’t be coached out of his circumstances. A tense political climate, coupled with the news of how his teammate is being treated, will undoubtedly and unfortunately give teams pause before taking a chance on him. Consequently, his ranking in the top 40 with independent scouting services may lead to him falling drastically at the draft.
Blake has shown he’s not afraid of taking a Russian. Grudinin is surely talented. The question remains if he will be available when the Kings would be comfortable taking him.
Chat with David: You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.
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