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Grading Bogdan Konyushkov’s 2023-24 season


The 110th pick in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Draft belonged to the Montreal Canadiens, and there was a murmur in the crowd as they picked Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod’s Bogdan Konyushkov. Even though Konyushkov had played 64 games in a watered down KHL, there was little knowledge about the defenceman for the average fan, and even most experts.

In general, KHL teams have become worse compared to previous years due to high-end European players, and coaches, moving to other leagues. This has meant that more Junior players have been played in the KHL, something that will benefit Russia long-term, but doesn’t help the quality of the KHL.

Compared to the 2023 season, Konyushkov’s ice time increased from 20:44 to 23:20 this season. His power-play time stayed more or less the same, while his time on the penalty kill increased by about a minute per game, increasing his defensive responsibility and working on one of the weaknesses in his game. However, it is not in the more static short-handed situation where he struggles; its in his rush defence when he has to move laterally where he is found wanting.

Source: NL Ice Data

The table above shows that Konyushkov has consolidated his position as a potential mid-pairing NHL blue-liner, with top-par upside. However, in order to understand his numbers further, there is a need to look at his and his team’s performance. With added ice time, his points increased over the season, from 25 (2G, 23A) to 28 (6G, 22A). He added three points with more or less three hours more ice time over the season. It’s a step in the right direction, especially considering that one of those hours were on the penalty kill. He has also gone from +1 to -9 in goal differential. While not the best metric, it gives an idea that it is his defensive game that needs improvement.

However comparing Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod’s change from the 2022-23 to the 2023-24 season and the players that have played both campaigns, one thing stands out: while the defence, offence, and team metrics have fallen, Konyushkov’s rose. It’s by a small margin — 0.39 to 0.43 points per game — but it is an improvement in a situation where everything else has gone backward. That in itself is a feat.

Source: KHL | Visualization courtesy of Nathan Ni

As has been pointed out in previous articles, Konyushkov’s read of the game is high, even at high speed, and it is something he builds his game around. With time, his positioning is great, and he sees shooting and passing lanes that are tough to defend against, often choosing an option that has more than one potential solution and gives his team the best chance to score.

This is a strength in itself and if he can make the adjustments in the defensive end, he is a solid defenceman at the KHL level as well. It all comes down to his fleetness of foot If he needs to be nimble and agile to change direction, or to accelerate into a new position, that is when forwards can expose his weakness to their advantage.


Konyushkov has a lot of strings on his guitar, even if he doesn’t play it as well as Taylor Swift. His shot has both pace and accuracy, with a natural movement that he uses it to hide his intention, be it to a make a pass, a shot, or even just flip the puck toward the net for a rebound. This makes it even more dangerous as it is paired with Konyushkov’s high hockey IQ.

His passing comes with the same deception and accuracy as his shot. It is an extremely valuable asset for his team in the offensive zone, both on the power play and at five-on-five. It is something that benefits him and his team in the way he builds up play from the back end, with outlet passes and to start counter-attacks.

In the defensive end he has good gap control and uses his stick to block passing lanes and shots. He is very good at reading the game when the opposing player isn’t too fast or comes at him in a one-on-one situation. When he can rely on his hockey sense, he is an great asset in the defensive zone.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much when Konyushkov is being discussed is his leadership qualities. He is the captain of Torpedo for a reason. From my impression, he leads by example; playing in all situations, including at the end of the game. Unfortunately, my Russian isn’t up to the level needed to read a newspaper, but it is clear that he is trusted by both teammates and coaches.


It is weird to talk about a Russian player and mention his skating as a negative thing, even though we should be used to it after Alexander Gordin. But the fact is that Konyushkov’s skating is the biggest obstacle in the way of an NHL career. He is muscular, but it seems that transferring the raw power into acceleration and speed is the problem. His stride is not as technically sound as is the case for most Russians. It impacts his edge-work and pivots, and hinders him in one-on-one battles at speed. He overextends one way, and if the forward can make a move in the opposite direction, Konyushkov can’t make up the distance. That was clear for a game-winning goal in the overtime loss to SKA in the playoffs.

Artturi Lehkonen worked hard on his skating for two seasons in Frölunda to be ready to play in Montreal’s lineup. I hope that Konyushkov will do the same in Nizhny Novgorod to prepare him for the best possible chance to make the team when he comes over.

Grade. A-

Overall, Konyushkov has improved, even though defensive errors are still there. The positive thing is that most of them is due to his skating, a mechanic that can be improved and one would think that a player of his pedigree with a coach like Igor Larionov will work on improvement over the summer. It would be different if it was his awareness and defensive reads that worked against him, a much tougher area to improve. It is getting to the right position that is the problem, especially at speed.

Much like former Russian Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov, he uses his stick a lot in the battles in front of the net, and these cross-checks get called more in the NHL than the KHL. It is something that needs to be taken out of his game, unless he becomes as good as Shea Weber so he can get away with it.

TVA‘s Nicolas Cloutier had an interview with Igor Larionov in which The Professor boldly stated that Konyushkov would be one of the Canadiens’ key players if he had played in the NHL this season. Far from having the same pedigree in hockey as one of my favourite players of all time, I would still have to disagree; I think Konyushkov could have played in NHL this season, without a doubt, but I wouldn’t see him as a key player. While the ice is smaller in the NHL, something that would help Konyushkov’s defence, the game is also faster and I don’t think he can keep up with the pace just yet. Also, looking at the defence corps that Montreal possesses, it is tough to pencil him in on any pairing but the third, and even that is a stretch.

A contract that lasts through the 2025-26 season can be seen as a good thing for Konyushkov. It means he has time to develop and that he doesn’t have to be rushed to begin his entry-level deal, As one NHL scout put it; “He is in the right team, with the right coach. It’s not as structured and more fun to play in than the big teams like CSKA and SKA which are all very organized.” In a way, it wouldn’t have been bad for Konyushkov to play for SKA or CSKA in order to become more structured in the defensive zone, however the risk would also be that he would have been streamlined and reined in with regards to his offensive upside. With the NHL being less rigid in its positional structure where defencemen need to activate on offence, Konyushkov is with the right team.

He is probably the smartest player in Torpedo; the anticipation of threats, awareness of teammates, and ability to play ahead mentally are really strong. It will all depend on his footwork whether he can utilize those aspects of the game in an NHL setting down the line. It is up to Konyushkov to make the best of his situation, and when he finally heads to North America he should be ready to play in the NHL.

Hadi Kalakeche joins Habsent Minded to discuss Konyushkov’s season with Patrik.

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