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Impressive KHL Season Ends For Avalanche First Rounder

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Avalanche Mikhail Gulyayev nhl draft

It’s typically very difficult for teenage defensemen to earn full-time jobs in the KHL. Not only did Colorado Avalanche first round pick Mikhail Gulyayev earn a full-time job, his role increased as the season went on.

That season came to a close on Saturday, as Gulyayev’s Avangard squad was shutout in game seven of the second round, ending their playoff run.

There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Gulyayev, but as with any 18 year old defenseman, plenty of room for improvement. Let’s start with the positives.

Between the regular season and playoffs, Gulyayev ended up playing 76 games. That’s essentially an entire NHL regular season. The fact that Gulyayev was able to earn the trust of the staff to play that much is a testament to his abilities, and at no point did he appear in danger of losing his spot. The opposite, actually, because as the season went on, he played more and more.

For the first few months of the year, the young defenseman was typically playing around 13-15 minutes. After Christmas, he was given a bigger role, and the staff started playing him anywhere from 15-18 minutes a night. Considering he played for one of the top teams in the league, earning that trust was huge. Gulyayev was used almost exclusively at even strength, so he didn’t benefit from any time on the powerplay or penalty kill.

On the ice, he was mostly used on the right side, and as a left shot, does seem very comfortable playing his off-side. His skating is fantastic, and really is the backbone of his game. He’s not a big guy, but he can escape a forecheck with his skating ability and makes a strong first pass. He seems tailor-made for how the Avalanche like to play.

What you would like to see next year is a little bit more on the offensive side of things. It makes sense that he would play it a little safe as a youngster to earn the trust of the staff, but he’s got the skill to make an impact offensively. It just wasn’t on display a ton this year, because he typically sat back. I don’t know if that’s on him or the coaching staff, but hopefully you see a little bit more offense from him in his second full year in the KHL. His toolset is too big for him to be relegated to playing it safe. Some powerplay time would be nice for him.

Unfortunately, it will be at least two more years before anyone sees him in an Avalanche uniform. Early in the season, he signed an extension in the KHL, which will not expire until April of 2026. I imagine the Avalanche will be able to get him over for development camp in July, just like last year, so they can work with him a little more.

Overall, a very impressive season for an 18 year old playing in a professional league. There’s a lot to be excited about with him, and there’s a reason why Colorado didn’t want to move him in any deadline deal.

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Aaron Hinton

Evan, your coverage of the Russian prospects in the Avs’ system this year has been the best in the business.

Golden Boy

Agreed. Your willingness to muddle through KHL games of Avs prospects is appreciated.

Super young, but seemingly with the fundamental assets that the Avs appreciate.

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