Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Marat Khusnutdinov.
Undersized centre Marat Khusnutdinov has been extremely impressive on the international stage, helping Russian teams to multiple tournament victories. Last summer he captained the Russians to the gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring three points in five games. He was also part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2019 World Junior A Hockey Challenge, despite being a double underage player. Khusnutdinov won another gold medal at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, scoring five points in six games. He took home a silver medal from the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, scoring three points in seven games as an underage player.
Khusnutdinov spent the season with SKA St. Petersburg’s MHL team. He scored 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points in 44 games. The playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19. In 2017-18, Khusnutdinov played for Vityaz Podolsk. In the regular season, he played with the Under-17 team, scoring eight goals and 18 points in 11 games. He moved up to the Under-18 late in the season, putting up three points in his only regular-season game. He went on to score four goals and 10 points in seven playoff games.
Marat Khusnutdinov Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 17th, 2002 — Moskva, Russia
Height 5’9” — Weight 165 lbs [176 cm/75 kg]
An explosive skater, this is the core of Khusnutdinov’s game. He has an outstanding first step and really good acceleration. His ability to change speeds puts defenders on the back foot as he is a real threat to get by them on the outside and cut to the net. Khusnutdinov’s excellent speed can also create breakaway opportunities. He is also extremely shifty, with excellent lateral movements thanks to great edgework and agility. This enhances his ability both with and without the puck. Khusnutdinov has a low centre of gravity and a strong lower body. His powerful stride allows him to fight through checks and get to the dirty areas of the ice. It also makes him surprisingly good in battles along the boards. He will still need to get stronger to play against men though.
Khusnutdinov marries his skating ability with excellent hands. He can make plays while moving at top speed. He has the vision and the skill to set up teammates and create scoring chances off the rush. His ability to control the puck down low and make quick moves to shake defenders and create a passing lane is also valuable. He can slow down the play or speed it up, giving his teammates time to get open for a pass. Khusmutdinov reads the play well, and once there is the smallest opening, he can make the play. He can control the play along the boards on the power play, creating scoring chances.
He also has a strong arsenal of shots. Khusnutdinov can play the role of the sniper as well. He has an excellent wrist shot and a quick, deceptive release. His shot is both powerful and accurate. His snapshot features many of the same traits. Khusnutdinov is also effective with his one-timer. With his soft hands, he can make a move to his backhand and elevate the puck quickly over a sprawling goaltender. Khusnutdinov is not afraid to get physical on the forecheck or to battle for loose pucks in the corners. However, he will need to continue to add muscle to be effective in these areas in the pro game.
Khusnutdinov brings his solid work ethic to the defensive end of the ice. He effectively supports the defence against the transition game by putting backpressure in the right areas. He also comes down low to support against the cycle game. However, there are times he has issues against bigger and stronger opposition. Khusnutdinov reads the play well and uses his active stick to cut down passing lanes, steal pucks off opponents and create turnovers. Once those turnovers are created, he is quick to transition them into offensive chances.
Projection and Comparison
The biggest question on Khusnutdinov is his lack of size. He has the offensive skills to be a top-six centre. He also has the defensive game to not only avoid being a liability but to actually help his team in his own end. However, how this will translate to smaller ice with bigger opponents remains a question. Khusnutdinov will likely spend another year or two in Russia before coming to North America. He can use that time to continue to add strength and muscle to his frame. Khusnutdinov’s game is reminiscent of Dylan Larkin, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Marat Khusnutdinov that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Marat Khusnutdinov Main Photo:
Marat Khusnutdinov (C) – #22 SKA-1946
Opponent: HK Riga (MHL)#2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/lZy0L4np0p
— Spencer Loane (@spencerloane) January 23, 2020