Turns out, they did, it just wasn’t for the small forward. Instead, they went with the smaller, dynamic defenseman.
At 31st overall, the Avalanche selected defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev out of the KHL
Gulyayev is under contract in the KHL until 2025, so it’s unlikely we see him anytime soon, but he’s a dynamic defenseman. He is, however, undersized, listed at just under 5’11”. While he’s smaller, he makes up for it with his incredible skating, as he’s one of the better skaters in the draft. It should come as no surprise that the Avalanche targeted a defenseman who could skate, as that’s something they really value. While he’s smaller, he isn’t a terrible defender, but as is the case with most small defenseman, he’ll run into issues in front of his own net. His skating ability allows him to stay with pretty much anyone.
He managed to play 13 games in the KHL, but he really wasn’t used all that much, averaging just under 7 minutes a game.
Here’s just a tidbit from Elite Prospects report on Gulyayev…
“Man, can Mikhail Gulyayev fly out there. You give him an inch, and he’s sprinted a mile past you with about as effortless and clean a stride as you’ve ever seen. It’s the defining characteristic of his game; the foundation on which every other part rests.
Primarily, this skill serves the Avangard Omsk product in transition and at the offensive blue line as a means of evading forwards. Gulyayev has an excellent feel for pressure in these situations, baiting in opponents with a look or a feint in one direction before cutting sharply in the opposite one or exploding through a weight shift into space.
Every bit as comfortable a defensive skater, Gulyayev gaps up early, often attacks puck carriers on an arc, and always takes away the middle of the ice with his stick. His feet are sometimes overly committing in space, but his considerable defensive range is such that he’s well-equipped to recover when an opponent thinks they’ve crossed him up.”
Elite Prospects compares him to Tyson Barrie and Quinn Hughes.
I love this pick. If you have a second 1st round pick, you should swing for the fences with one of them. I think they went the safer route for Ritchie (not saying he doesn’t have upside), but Gulyayev is a big swing. If he hits, he has the skill and skating ability to be a game-changer. Of course, that comes with a little risk as well, which is always the case when you take a smaller defenseman.
The bigger surprise might be that the Avalanche made both picks in round one, but we’ll get to that more tomorrow…
Here are some opinions on Gulyayev from the analytics side, and you can watch an entire game of his below.
#GoAvsGo select Mikhail Gulyayev 31st overall. I ranked him 25th overall.
Gulyayev split time in his draft year between the KHL, VHL, and MHL. His scoring in the first two was low, but his strong production in the latter shows promise, and suggests he brings good value here. pic.twitter.com/McyvkLHvQI
— Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey) June 29, 2023
Colorado Avalanche, a team that won the cup last year and will likely win it again multiple times over the next decade, just got Mikhail Gulyayev with the 31st pick.
Love this pick for the Avs. pic.twitter.com/A3awqR3uvf
— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) June 29, 2023