The New York Rangers are looking for a center with the 22nd pick in the NHL Draft. In TSN’s Mock Draft, Craig Button gave the Rangers center, Connor Zary. I spoke with Steve Kournianos, a prospects expert about that selection. He gave me a name I’ve not seen before, but one he is head over heels for, Marat Khusnutdinov.
Marat Khusnutdinov scouting report
Here is The Draft Analysts scouting report on the 5’11” Russian pivot.
A high-octane center with smarts who is confident on the puck and demands it when the stakes are high, Khusnutdinov is a shifty east-west pivot who is one of Russia’s most creative teenage playmakers. Whether for the under-18 team or for SKA-1946, he does the heavy lifting for his power-play unit and can shift the momentum in his favor by jumping into passing lanes for immediate counterattacks into opposing territory. He may not be big in stature, but he more than makes up for it in confidence, leg drive, balance, and tight-quarter quickness.
Torching the stat sheet in Russia’s MHL, which in terms of goals scored is the stingiest among all premier junior leagues, is something you rarely see from a first-year draft eligible. But Khusnutdinov not only lit up opposing defense with his production, but he did so while operating in a limited role. In fact, his points-per-60 minutes average at even strength (3.14) led all MHL players who played under 15 minutes a game.
Khusnutdinov plays with an edge and is willing to sacrifice his body at the off chance he decides to chip and chase. A 50/50 puck battle against him is no laughing matter, and bigger defenders have paid the price by underestimating his core strength, leg drive and powerful shoulders. At the forefront of his game, however, is his ability to carve up a defense through the neutral zone. Khusnutdinov has excellent speed and agility, and his quick first step is dropped before an opponent can anticipate his intentions.
Khusnutdinov delivers the puck through the tiniest of windows with surgical precision, but he also is excellent at executing or orchestrating give-and-go’s, weaves, cycles, and backdoor plays. He has wonderful hands and incredible hand-eye coordination, so you can guess how rapid his transitions into shooting positions are. Khusnutdinov owns one heck of a shot, not only for the release but also for his accuracy. The puck can explode off his stick and he is consistent in getting shots off through screens or when blanketed by a defender. Khusnutdinov is an expert on the backhand and he can make plays with regularity. He’s even shown accuracy with the cross-body backhanders and can roof the puck from in close.