Photo Credit: CSKA Moskva/@HCCSKA
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Vladimir Grudinin is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the CSKA Moscow (Moskva) system. Grudinin grew up in Angarsk, Russia and played U16 hockey for Yermak Angarsk before make the trip across the country from Siberia / Irkutsk Oblast to Moscow. Since moving to Moscow, Grudinin has played U16, U17, U18, MHL, VHL and KHL hockey for CSKA Moscow. This season, he has played alongside several 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Artyom Duda and Kirill Dolzhenkov. During his stint in the MHL this season, Grudinin had been one of the top points per game defenders with 0.72 PPG.
Grudinin has not been selected in any previous CHL Import Drafts, so no one owns his CHL rights.
He is represented by Dan Milstein and Gold Star Hockey.
D.O.B – December 9, 2003
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –159 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left
Grudinin’s Style Of Play
Grudinin has excellent lateral crossovers and it allows him to go east – west along the blue line at a good speed. When using those crossovers to garner quality acceleration along the blue line, it allows him to look for open shooting and passing lanes. The speed can also allow him to create lanes should Grudinin net enough to speed to out-match the attacker who is trying to put pressure on him. Grudinin will lure attackers with him when he spots a winger along the boards who the attacker has prevented Grudinin from passing to that winger. By skating to a centered position, he opens up a quality passing lane and a quality medium danger shooting lane for his winger.
With Grudinin’s love to lure attackers in, he uses it constantly to buy open ice. He will see an attacker coming for him, so he slows down his movements and keeps the puck out in front of him. Once the attacker gets to him, Grudinin shifts the puck underneath the attacker’s stick and nets open ice. In the clip below, you will see him pull that off and then fire a saucer pass to his defensive partner at the opposite half-wall.
One of the areas that Grudinin does struggle with is capturing possession of loose pucks. There are instances in which he had a loose puck that had ricocheted off the boards that came to him, but he wasn’t able to trap the puck and the puck vacated the offensive zone. He won’t just struggle with cleanly netting possession of loose pucks, he also struggles with capturing possession of passes from time-to-time and that is an issue in all three zones.
Grudinin will pinch up and get involved in the cycle down low. He pinches up past the perimeter when his teammates are engaged in puck battles or cycling the puck down low behind the red line. When he is in control of the puck, he has found a decent amount of success pinching up. He does a good job of securing possession of the puck, by positioning the puck along the boards and not exposing the puck to attackers coming towards him from open ice. Grudinin will pinch up and wire seam passes to his teammates in medium danger. If he runs out of real estate due to pressure, he has proven that quickly complete a pass to a teammate along the boards to ensure that the cycle remains alive. He can also pivot out of danger and lay down drop passes with ease. In situations in which he looks to want to bring the puck to the slot and the attacker takes away the skating lane to the slot by extending his stick blade out, Grudinin reacts quickly and finds a backup passing option. When he pinches up for a loose puck, he needs to be quicker to those pucks, so he doesn’t put his defensive partner in a situation where the attacker gains possession of the puck and quickly delivers a pass to a fellow attacker in the slot and Grudinin’s defensive partner has to shift over and defend against the puck carrier. If he can be a step or two quicker, he can pick up those loose pucks at the edge of the perimeter and keep the puck in the zone.
When it comes to his shot, he has tallied three goals during the season and one came on the power play. Unfortunately, the majority of the points came at the start of the season and he hasn’t scored a 5v5 goal since October 1, 2021. In a matchup against HC Almaz Cherepovets on September 28, 2021, he was been able to score a slap shot goal off of a face-off draw. Immediately after netting possession of the puck. His last 5v5 goal of the year came against HC Loko Yaroslavl on October 1, 2021. Grudinin has identified open ice at the perimeter, skated into the lane, captures possession of the puck off of a pass and quickly fires a shot from medium danger. Bar down goal. The clip of the goal can be found below.
When you look at his shot underneath the figurative microscope, you will notice that he has a quick release, but when shooting from further out beyond the perimeter, his accuracy isn’t as good as when he has found himself in situations in which he much closer to the net. The majority of his 5v5 shots come from the point and InStat indicated that only 43% of his shots from the point made it on net (data is from his 2021-2022 regular season play). Even though he takes a lot of shots from the point, he does look for higher percentage shooting lanes by entering into the slot and identifying open ice to key up passing lanes. That has led to quality shooting opportunities in which he tries to catch the goaltender off guard by going with a backdoor shot attempt right after capturing possession of the puck off of a pass.
A lot of his primary assists have come off of deflections in the slot, but there a few assists in which he carried the puck towards the face-off inner hashmarks and completed a seam pass to key up a goal for Krasnaya Armiya. He has the ability with his skating to create quality passing lanes by netting separation past attackers and getting himself into dangerous areas to key up those goals, but he doesn’t do it consistently. With that said, when you watch Russian junior hockey and hockey at the KHL level, it’s evident that defensemen have been told to play conservative and not pinch up. For instance, look at Vegas Golden Knights defensive prospect Daniil Chayka. His game completely changed when he played in Russia last season. He wasn’t trying to create opportunities down low and was relying on his shot from the point. So, while Grudinin hasn’t been as consistent with generating dangers down low, he has shown that he has a desire to pinch up and get more far more involved beyond the perimeter. Also, his passing is soft and crisp. With the combination of soft passing and a drive to pinch up, I do think the primary assists will come when he comes to North America.
Grudinin is excellent in his own zone. When defending against the rush, he is efficient at preventative defensive measures. When defending the F2 and he sees that the F1 has dumped the puck, he will use good upper body pressure by leaning towards the F2’s chest to slow him down when he is looking to skate for the retrieval.
In general, Grudinin deploys great tight gap control along the half-wall boards and stays well-aligned with the puck carrying attacker. If the attacker tries to deceptively deviate by pivoting, Grudinin still stays well aligned and pivots right away. When defending a puck carrying attacker, who seems to have the edge in terms of speed, he will cut in, use his shoulder to separate the attacker from the puck. Grudinin stays on his toes and when he notices that his defensive partner is tied up in a puck battle in the opposite corner, he will skate to the net. Should the attacker break free, he he has shown that he is effective at trapping the attacker with an active stick and then leaned in with his shoulder to complete a shoulder check. That allows Grudinin to separate the puck from the attacker. His active stick allows him to trap you and frustrate you. It allows him to put you in low danger and give you no way out. When you are struggling to break free, Grudinin steals the puck with a poke check. When he is at open ice defending against a forward who is trying to sneak past Grudinin on the way to the net, Grudinin manages to keep his stick blade aligned with the attacker’s stick-blade to ensure that the attacker doesn’t have a passing lane to utilize when he runs low on real estate. His active stick has also allowed him to knock players off of the puck when they are both going for a loose puck. In situations where he didn’t have the speed to get to the puck, his active stick has proven to be a good plan B as he extends the blade right on the attacker’s blade to cause disruption.
But, there are areas in his defensive game that need a bit more refinement. I went back and watched some of his goals against closely and I noticed that sometimes he struggled with decision making in 2 on 2 situations down low. One of the issues that I noticed is that he and his defensive partner both chose to cover the same puck carrying attacker and left the attacker without the puck open with a clear passing lane. Grudinin needs to improve his communication so that he and his defensive partners are aware of whom to cover. If his defensive partner is out of position and Grudinin is alone to defend two attackers, he needs to do a better job targeting the attacker with the puck when defending at net front, but keep himself centered so that he can take away any backdoor passing lanes as well.
In his gameplay at the KHL level, I noticed that he wasn’t very assertive at defending the slot. I’m confident that he will get to the point in which he will be more assertive with his stick to truly keep attackers out of the slow. But, there were situations in which he gave the attacker a little too much space in the outer edge of the slot and it lead to medium danger goals against. While I noticed this, this can be improved upon, it could just be Grudinin needing a little bit more time getting used to KHL gameplay and how assertive he truly needs to be.
In general, Grudinin has proven that he is very quick to puck movement, especially when he is looking to give his teammates an outlet passing option as he is constantly on his toes and keeps adjusting where he is to keep an open lane alive, but his speed to loose puck defensive recoveries doesn’t match up. He is usually one or two skate extensions too slow and leads to a lot of contested defensive recoveries. He has the pivoting to break loose, but if he is slightly faster to the puck then he doesn’t have to work around threats as soon as he picks up possession.
Like I mentioned earlier on, he does struggle with trapping possession of passes, but if he does capture the puck cleanly, he is usually very efficient at creating the rush. When he does have control of the puck and encounters an aggressive forecheck, he will use body language to be deceptive. For instance, he will shake his knees before turning in one direction to get the attacker guessing the direction that he intends to go with. That allows him to open up ice for himself and then complete a zone exit pass.
Not only does he have the deception to manipulate and create open lanes, but he is a very effective outlet passer. He will deliver crisp soft passes that are easy to corral and his delivery can be very quick especially when he pivots away from a threat to open up and use a tight passing lane to generate a zone exit. Grudinin has shown shift-in, shift-out, that he can be a reliable passer even when on the move. There is a lot to like about Grudinin’s ability to key up a rush and a lot of tricks in his tool-belt that he will use to secure a successful zone exit.
Grudinin engages the rush defensively right before his defensive zone blue line and swallows the attack against the boards. He will lowers and widen himself closer at the defensive zone blue line to take away a lot of space for the puck carrier so he makes a rushed pass or dump.
If Grudinin isn’t facing the puck carrying attacker, that doesn’t mean that he can’t quickly get in position to do so. His forward skate extensions allow him to find the necessary acceleration to trap the attacker before the attacker can get into the offensive zone. There are situations in which it doesn’t truly stop the attacker from entering into the zone, but as mentioned in his defensive play, he does have an excellent active stick that he can leverage to trap attackers.
In his KHL play, I noticed that he struggled to truly shut down larger opponents with more upper body strength than he was used to defending at the MHL level. The attack managed to get around his shoulder check attempt along the boards and keep possession of the puck, but Grudinin hangs in there and defends the attacker well by positioning himself right at the attacker. Even though the attacker might stay in motion, his gap control allows Grudinin to keep the attacker glued to the boards.
When Grudinin is in control of the puck in the neutral zone, he can utilize his stick-handling to move the puck with ease around attackers who are extending out their stick to try to take away lanes for Grudinin to exploit. Not only can he be shifty with the puck on his stick, but he also has excellent puck protection. He will positions the puck towards the boards with his backhand which allows him to secure the puck away from the attacker putting pressure on him. Grudinin also won’t shy away from using his back to push the attacker slightly away from him when Grudinin is in control of the puck and has his back turned to the attacker.
If he runs into traffic at open ice, Grudinin will double back, turn and then completed a cross ice pass to a teammate with plenty of open ice. Should he get into a traffic jam at the offensive zone blue line, he dumps the puck quickly to key up a dump and chase. He isn’t someone who will force the puck into sticky situations.
Grudinin’s crossovers are truly impressive and are a joy to watch. He will deploy great crossovers when skating backwards in transition to give him the necessary acceleration to keep pace with the rush. Grudinin nets good speed with his lateral crossovers that allows him to trap attackers when defending in the neutral zone at the Krasnaya Armiya blue line. His crossovers allow him to move over to the forward skating along the boards quickly if he is slightly out of position. When he wants to transition from backward skating to forward skating and build up acceleration, he will use quality lateral crossovers to build up the speed before using a forward stride extension.
Grudinin has great posture. Keeps his knees bent and his chest lowered. When utilizing his edges, he continues to keep his knees bent and retain the speed that he built up before initiating a turn. Not only is he a really good with his edges and posture, but he is extremely good at shifting his hips, pivoting, shifting his edges and gets a quality hop off of his edges to react to puck movement quickly in the neutral zone. His pivoting also allows him to buy himself open ice when facing tight pressure and it allows him to react accordingly to the puck carrying opposition when they pivot in front of him.
As explained a few times, he has good speed to loose pucks, but he slows down his stride extensions / crossovers too early and that leads to more contested defensive recoveries. However, he does possess an excellent forward stride with quality ankle flexion. His forward stride can bail him out if he is out of position and needs to come back to the defensive zone in a hurry. Grudinin has the straight line speed to get back in position, maintain quality pressure as he can stay toe to toe with attackers and it allows him to be dangerous at getting separation away from pressure when he has the puck on his stick.
Vladimir Grudinin is a reliable two-way defender, who will need to continue to build up upper body muscle to contend against tougher opponents in the VHL and KHL. He will also need to work on being more assertive and quicker to pucks, but he has shown at the KHL level that he can be a pain to get around. Grudinin will also need to work on developing a stronger inside game, but that might only come when he comes to North America. Even though there are areas which need continued development, I think there is a really good defensive prospect here in Grudinin. There is a smart (sorry… “Smaht”) defenseman in Grudinin who can use excellent skating and mobility to get open ice to facilitate puck movement and key up scoring chances. If things go right with his development, he should be a solid second pairing defenseman at the NHL level.
April 28, 2022
stats from InStat 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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