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How Much KHL Time Might Mikhail Gulyayev See Next Season?



Avalanche Mikhail Gulyayev nhl draft

With their second pick in the first round of Wednesday’s NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche went for the home-run, selecting 5’10” defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev out of Russia.

Like a lot of young players in Russia, Gulyayev spent most of his team in the lower leagues. He got his chance in the KHL eventually…but I’d hardly call it much of a chance.

In 13 games, he averaged just 6:37 of ice-time a game. For a lot of players, that’s difficult, but for a defenseman, there’s no way to get into a rhythm playing just a few shifts a period.

A 17/18 year old getting limited minutes in the KHL is not abnormal, but will that change next season? I asked someone over in Russia familiar with Gulyayev’s situation.

“I now look at the current Avangard KHL roster and Gulyayev is technically #7 D there in the pecking order,” they told me. “But I’d say only 4 D (Sharipzyanov, Sulak, Kiselevich and Chistyakov) are comfortably ahead of him. (The) other 2 (Paigin, Abrosimov) aren’t unbeatable for the roster spot I’d say, not to mention that injuries happen on regular basis.”

One of the biggest differences from this year to last (other than Gulyayev being one year older), is that he’ll be the main “young guy” on the squad.

“After Ivan Miroshnichenko left Avangard for the Caps, I think Gulyayev will be their top young player with the corresponding opportunities, so should be good in that way.”

Miroschnichenko is a forward, so they play different positions, but he and Avangard Omsk mutually agreed to terminate his contract this summer. KHL teams just don’t typically like dressing a lot of young players, so his absence is good news for Gulyayev.

The Capitals prospect getting his contract terminated so he could leave for North America is interesting, but don’t expect that to happen with Gulyayev. It’s more the exception, rather than the rule, and Miroshnichenko had already planned to come to North America a few years back. The pandemic put a stop to that. Gulyayev is under contract in Russia until 2025, and his father is an assistant coach on Avangard’s MHL squad, so there is a little bit of loyalty there.

This contact, for what it’s worth, loved the pick by the Avalanche.

“I surely do like (it),” they told me. “He really can skate, got excellent puck skills and shot. Also, I think he is a rather smart player. Size is obviously an issue though and everything related to that.”

The 5th round pick of Nikita Ishimnikov? Not nearly as much.

“I’m not a fan of Ishimnikov,” they told me. “Not because of the skating (I think if we consider his size his skating is actually decent and with room for improvement), but because I consider him to be too error-prone. For my taste, it is a bit of a red flag here. But I wasn’t surprised to see him selected, as he is athletic, right-handed, got legit puck skills and an excellent shot. So I’d say it might be a good idea to view him as a poor man’s Zadorov with the corresponding chances to make it.”

The Avalanche don’t have the greatest track record with developing prospects, but when it comes to defensemen, neither does Russia. Anything can happen once Gulyayev’s contract is up, and we’ll see how he develops over the next two years, but I think it would ideal if they could get him to North America as soon as possible.

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