On opening night, there was good news – Gulyayev cracked the top six on defense for Avangard.
He was pretty clearly the #6 defenseman on his team, but for an 18-year old defenseman, that’s to be expected. Overall, he finished with the following stat line…
- 11:33 TOI on 17 shifts
- 1 hit and 2 blocked shots
That +1 just so happened to be the game-winning goal with only 2 minutes remaining in the game, so it’s a good sign that he has some level of trust from the coaching staff. I anticipate his ice-time fluctuating as the year goes on, but it’s a good start to crack the opening night lineup.
What’s happening with another first round pick in the KHL is fascinating, and a reason why there are always concerns drafting a player from that league.
Matvei Michkov, the 7th overall pick in the draft, was a healthy scratch for SKA’s season opening game. The uber talented winger could have gone much higher in the draft, but there were concerns about when he may actually come to the NHL. He has three years remaining on his KHL deal, so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
In addition, it seemed like he only wanted to go to certain teams, one of them being the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Avalanche likely won’t have to deal with those concerns. A teenage defenseman like Gulyayev will naturally have his ups and downs, and I’m sure he’ll go in and out of the lineup, but Avangard isn’t regarded the same way as SKA. Michkov plays for a team full of veterans, and the staff is under pressure to win. That means young players might not play much.
Still, with the KHL, NHL teams have no say in how the prospects are handled, so it’s a tricky situation. The Avalanche just have to hope Gulyayev is in the right spot for his development.
Gulyayev has two years remaining on his KHL deal, so he’ll be in Russia until he’s 20 (at least). We’ll keep an eye on his development here at CHN and keep everyone updated.