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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Is Shakir Mukhamadullin a risk worth taking?

So far in his young career, Mukhamadullin looks more interesting on paper than he does on the ice.

2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament - Russia v Switzerland Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

In 2018, the Montreal Canadiens went way off the board with the 38th pick of the Draft. Alexander Romanov, born in January 2000, was seen as a day-three prospect commonly ranked in the 150’s. He turned out to be a diamond in the rough, who was rated low mainly due to a lack of exposure.

Romanov, 18 at the time, was still playing in the Russian junior league with Krasniya Armiya Moskva and did not receive a single call-up throughout the year. With that being said, it is not easy to get into the lineup for Moscow heavyweight CSKA, especially not for a teenager.

Coming from a smaller club and a smaller city, Shakir Mukhamadullin is already being considered a second-rounder by many. Heck, some even have him as high as at the end of the first round. Unlike Romanov, Mukhamadullin (I love writing that name!) has had the advantage of being more accessible.

Birthplace: Ufa, Russia
Date of birth: January 10, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Defenceman
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 179 lbs.
Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Last year, he already played semi-regularly in the KHL, albeit in a limited role, for his hometown team Salavat Yulaev Ufa. He was also a mainstay on the blueline for Russia’s U18-team throughout the year. Now that he seems to have grabbed hold of a full-time spot on Ufa’s blueline in the KHL for the 2020-21 season, he would appear to be a lock to represent his nation at the next WJC-20.

Elite Prospects

Mukhamadullin is a tall defender with good skating ability, who projects more as a stay-at-home defenceman than he does as an offensive dynamo. His biggest offensive asset is his thundering shot, which he enjoys to release from the point. This means that he has future potential of being a power-play contributor, although not as a playmaker. Line him up like Shea Weber and find ways to make him do what he does best, as we can see here when he scored the winning goal in last winter’s World Junior A Challenge.

His defence can kindly be described as a work in progress. He doesn’t possess great puck skills and he has issues with both his positioning and his transition game. He also has neither a low center of gravity nor a heavy frame, which makes it difficult for him to make use of his size in the physical department.

He also tends to lose track of forwards in the crease from time to time. Much of these attributes are such that they potentially could be fixed as he gains more experience in the KHL and on the international stages. Still, it makes his development curve difficult to project, which is interesting at best and alarming at worst for someone considered to be an early round pick.

Mukhamadullin is the overall highest-rated Russian defenceman of this draft. Coincidentally, he plays for the same team as this year’s highest-rated Russian forward, Rodion Amirov, who we have previously covered in our pre-draft profiles. If I had to make a choice between the two teammates as an early selection for the Canadiens, I would prefer to bet on Amirov. Even if he has physical limitations, there is no denying that he has an intriguing offensive skill set and the smarts to match it. The way the league has been trending over the last decade, you can come a long way with technique, hockey IQ and playmaking ability.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: Do Not Draft
Future Considerations: #46
Hockey Prospect: #56
ISS Hockey: #22
McKeen’s Hockey: #72
McKenzie/TSN: #42
NHL Central Scouting: #17 (European skaters)
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #59

As you can see, the rankings are all over the place when it comes to Shakir. Elite Prospects have him lowest of the low, rating him among their infamous undraftable players. Their argument is that his defence and transition game are severely flawed. This does not seem to be a unique opinion in the analytic community.

ISS Hockey on the other hand, have him ranked as a first-round caliber prospect, coming in at number 22 on their latest ranking in March. I do find it fascinating when scouts and analysts have such completely different views on young players. Polarizing prospects are fun to follow, and Mukhamadullin will definitely be put into that category until we know whether he will end up closer to his ceiling or his floor.

It is probable that Mukhamadullin has benefitted from this being a draft class loaded with offensive talent. A scarcity of big, mobile defencemen has pushed him higher up draft boards than he would have been in another year. We know that size attracts many suitors, especially those scouts who prefer hockey to be played with more physicality and less dangles. Though, even for them, Mukhamadullin is limited. He may be tall, but at 179 lbs, there is not a lot of meat on his body at this point.

It’s great that he has height, can skate and slapshot a puck over them mountains. But there are just too many defensive irregularities in his game to get worried about. Being young, there is at least plenty of time to iron out some of his deficiencies. With that being said, players lacking hockey IQ and awareness often struggle to develop when they can’t just live on raw talent, or as in Mukhamadullin’s case, when they are suddenly similarly sized as their opponents.

Interestingly, this could very well be the opposite trajectory of Romanov we’re seeing here. Shakir would probably have benefitted from being considered further down draft boards, as more of a developmental day-three kind of selection, but will be picked early due to getting more exposure at an earlier age. What is certain, is that Big Shak will be a piece of work for whichever team drafts him and right now, this man’s not hot.

With an abundance of talented left-handed d-men already in the pipelines, I would expect Marc Bergevin & Co. to stay clear of this gangly Russian in the early rounds and let another team sort out his development path. However, if he somehow would fall to the later rounds, then you might as well take a swing at him. Even if he wouldn’t turn into an NHL player, there is quite the bit of asset value for an 18-year-old KHL regular. And good asset management creates great teams.