Photo Credit – SKA.ru
Marat Khusnutdinov is a 2020 NHL Draft eligible prospect hailing from Moscow, Russia. Before joining the MHL’s SKA-1946 St. Petersburg this past season, he played in the Vityaz Podolsk system (U16, U17 and U18 hockey). Over the course of his time in Podolsk (just outside of Moscow), he played alongside a great core of talented youth including Kirill Steklov (London Knights, 2020 NHL Draft eligible), Alexander Mirzabalayaev (Val-d’Or Foreurs, 2021 NHL Draft eligible), Pavel Tyutnev (Loko Yaroslavl, 2020 NHL Draft eligible) and Nikita Shuidin (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, 2020 NHL Draft eligible).
In his first season with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, he tallied 13 goals and 25 assists in 44 games played. While he did not out-produce other 2020 NHL Draft eligibles playing in the MHL like Yegor Chinakhov (Omskie Yastreby, D+1 overager), Dmitri Rashevsky (MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg, D+1 overager), Dmitri Ovchinnikov (Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk) and Maxim Beryozkin (Loko Yaroslavl), he does have quite a bit of talent up his sleeve.
In June of 2019, Khusnutdinov was selected by the OHL’s Erie Otters in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. While he did not report to the Otters for the 2019-2020 regular season, perhaps he might join the club for the 2020-2021 season. But, that depends a lot of different things. Given that the European leagues are looking to start on-time and the CHL might have a delayed start, luring Khusnutdinov to Erie could become a challenge. If Khusnutdinov does not report at the start of the CHL season, the Otters’ last hope would be that he would report following the conclusion of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships (Edmonton, Alberta and Red Deer, Alberta). This past season, we saw a few players come over to the CHL following the conclusion of the World Juniors including Martin Chromiak (Kingston), Jan Mysak (Hamilton) and Nick Malik (Sault Ste. Marie).
While Khusnutdinov coming to Erie is a question mark at this point, he would be a big addition for the Otters if he came. He would provide Erie with another weapon in their offensive attack. In addition, players like Jamie Drysdale and Connor Lockhart (2021 NHL Draft eligible) would certainly benefit from Khusnutdinov’s presence especially on the power play.
D.O.B – July 17, 2002
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –165 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Khusnutdinov’s Style Of Play
When you look at Khusnutdinov, you quickly look at his height. He is on the smaller end of the stick. In general, when you look at a player who is 5’9, you quickly expect that finesse and speed is their game. But, Khusnutdinov offers more than that. His defensive ability is quite strong and he is aggressive. There are plenty of instances where the young Russian prospect will be physical along the boards at both ends. In the defensive zone, he does not like giving his opposition room to breathe. While he might not always be following his opponent like a hawk, he will often look to decipher where his opponent is going with the puck and block that lane. Yet, when he wants to play body-to-body, his gap control is quite sound and he is not timid about bulldozing you down at the boards. There are times where Khusnutdinov will be very aggressive in front of his own net. Often times, you would expect a heavier defenseman to play that role, but Khusnutdinov proves that size does not matter. He is aware that his attacker is looking to block his goaltender’s sight-lines and hope to deflect the puck in the back of the net. So, he goes to work.
In the offensive zone, Khusnutdinov plays a very similar game. While he is nowhere close to Lucas Raymond when it comes to forechecking, he will get in your face, put pressure on you and snag the puck. Khusnutdinov does not want to give his opponents the ability to re-group and start a new rush. There are times where he rushes for the loose puck and fails, but he is persistent. Instead, he plays the body and finds the right opportunity to steal the puck and quickly fires the puck along the boards to his teammate.
As I mentioned above, while Khusnutdinov’s point totals seemed low, his is still a great play-maker. Similar to Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks, he loves throwing backhanded passes to the slot. It does not seem to matter where his teammate is, he can thread the needle from distance with his backhand pass.
Not only is his backhand pass in great form, but he can also make his opponents believe that he is about to fire a shot and instead place the perfect pass to his teammate in the low slot. When Khusnutdinov is at the point in which he delivers the pass, his right skate is extended. His positioning is similar to what it would look like if he was about to fire a snap shot.
When it comes to shot and his scoring ability, most of his success is in high-danger/low slot situations. Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects point this out in his article, February Draft Report: Risers and Fallers. Ferrari states, “His shot is good but will likely need to build up a bit of strength to get it to the next level. Where Khusnutdinov scores many of his goals is around the net. He works his way in tight and has a quick release and the ability to elevate the puck from in tight. At this point, he is more of a crafty goal-scorer than a lethal shooter but his shot has been above average at each level.” Ferrari hits the nail on the head.
His stick-handling is quite efficient as well. Khusnutdinov does a great job of securing the puck and dancing around his opponents. The only challenge that he has when it comes to stick-handling is controlling the puck in high-danger areas. His puck security in high-danger areas is not as strong as several other 2020 draft eligible prospects. The Russian forward is effective with his stick-handling. He is able to dodge opponents, buy space, go to the slot and score.
The biggest challenge for Khusnutdinov is going to be addressing his stride and crossovers. While he is a dominant at both ends and an outstanding play-maker, his skating is the one area that needs more development. His left foot is very heavy on the ice, so he tends to favor his right foot more. Often, Khusnutdinov will rely heavily on his right foot to accelerate versus his left foot. Instead, of extending his left foot and then right foot in a synchronized fashion, he will only use his right foot to push forward. There are instances in which he adds a small extension with his left foot, but the extension is not the same length as his right foot extension is. Not only is the length of his extension different, he tends to use his right foot to crossover more often than his left foot.
Anthony Beauvillier, Left Wing, New York Islanders
Craig Button from TSN is right on the money with his comparable for Khusnutdinov. The Russian prospect’s game and frame is reminiscent of Anthony Beauvillier. Both, Beauvillier and Khusnutdinov are strong in all three zones from an aggressive standpoint and offer quality play-making.
stats from InStat Hockey and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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