Draft Prospects: 2021 Kharlamov Cup Final (Dynamo MSK)
Steve Kournianos | 4/28/2021 |
NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — Dynamo Moscow’s junior team beat Loko Yaroslavl in five games to take home their first ever championship in the 12-year history of the MHL’s Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. Led by the goaltending of Vadim Zherenko and momentum-changing plays throughout the series, the title run by JHC Dynamo MSK (Junior Hockey Club Dynamo Moscow) validated a dominant regular season in which they owned the league’s best record and swept each of their first three playoff rounds before dispatching the MHL’s No. 2 team in the final.
Both lineups contained notable prospects who are either in their first year of draft eligibility or are overagers who have already been passed over at least once. In total, over 20 draft-eligible prospects participated in this highly-competitive, five-game series, and their individual performances were assessed on a shift-to-shift basis throughout the final round. Below you’ll find profiles on several prospects from Dynamo MSK to keep an eye on for the upcoming NHL draft.
Dynamo MSK goalie Vadim Zherenko puts on a show, stopping 30 shots in regulation and overtime, plus all six in the shootout. Alexander Kisakov opens the scoring in the second period with a nasty wrister from the right circle on the power play. Loko forced overtime in the third period thanks a picture-perfect weave and shot fake by Stepan Nikulin to freeze Zherenko before roofing it. Dynamo MSK held the territorial advantage in this physical affair.
Dynamo MSK jumps out to a great start on an early goal by Ivan Didkovskiy but Loko responds minutes later after a power entry and wrister by Ilya Chefanov that beats Zherenko high to the blocker. Dynamo MSK takes the lead shortly thereafter as Vladislav Mikhailov swipes in a loose puck along the goal mouth. Zherenko made the lead stand up with several key saves in the second half of a scoreless second period, but it was his sliding stop on Ruslan Abrosimov six minutes into the final frame that changed the outcome, as Dynamo MSK then countered with an insurance goal from defender Yegor Alanov. Dynamo MSK takes a 2-0 series lead to Yaroslavl.
Loko dominated a scoreless first period and in that frame held Dynamo MSK to a series-low four shots on goal, although each team hit a post. Abrosimov and Nikulin then combined on the power play to give Loko their first lead of the series, with Nikulin again faking Zherenko down and wristing one over his glove hand as Nikita Kiryanov supplied the screen in front. Loko owned the neutral zone from that point forward and received a critical insurance goal later in the stanza, as Nikulin pressured Alanov into a turnover and Abrosimov banked it in off Zherenko from behind the net. Dynamo MSK made it interesting in the third period when defenseman Vasily Machulin jumped in and fed Nikita Lukhovskoi for a slam dunk, but Yegor Gorshkov made brilliant saves to rob Trineyev during a five-minute power play and Maxim Beryozkin scored into the empty net to seal Loko’s first win of the series.
Dynamo MSK responds with its best defensive effort of the series in a pivotal Game 4, but the game was scoreless until late in the first period. A turnover by Loko Yaroslavl defenseman Daniil Misyul (pictured) was taken by Oleg Zaitsev, who fed Yegor Bryzgalov for the one-timer past Gorshkov and a 1-0 lead. Dynamo MSK winger Dmitri Rashevsky took control of the game from that point, initiating multiple odd-man rushes with Daniel Gutik until scoring himself in the second period to make it 2-0. Alexander Daryin redirected a Yegor Manin point-feed late in the second to cut Dynamo MSK’s lead in half, but Rashevsky helped put the game away in the third when he stripped Gorshkov of the puck and fed Mikhailov for a backbreaking short-handed goal. Didkovskiy clinched it a few minutes later with a wraparound, as Dynamo MSK moved within a game of winning the Kharlamov Cup..
Defense and goaltending took the night off in what proved to be the deciding game, as Dynamo MSK raced to a 4-0 lead in the first period and held on for a 7-5 triumph to clinch the Kharlamov Cup. The madness began early in the first period, when Loko Yaroslavl defenseman Alexei Goryachev’s bank pass intended for partner Roman Bychkov caromed off the wrong spot of the end boards right to the low slot, where an unchecked Didkovskiy beat a helpless Yegor Guskov for a 1-0 Dynamo MSK lead. They made it 2-0 less than a minute later on a Maxim Makhrin wrister, and Dmitry Zlodeyev increased Dynamo MSK’s lead to 3-0 when he rifled one past Guskov with only 35 seconds left in the opening period. They continued the scoring barrage in the middle stanza when Mikhailov converted a Rashevsky feed for a short-handed goal at the 1:42 mark, and Kisakov responded to Daniil Tesanov’s power-play goal with a beautiful backhand finish that gave Dynamo MSK a rather safe 5-1 advantage. But Loko Yaroslavl scored twice in the second period and again with just 5:49 left in the third to bring them within 5-4, and even Rashevsky’s insurance goal 21 seconds later was responded with a tally from Tesanov with 1:20 left in regulation that kept Loko alive at 6-5. That was as close as Loko Yaroslavl would come, however, as defenseman Andrei Pribylsky sealed the victory with an empty netter, giving Dynamo MSK a well-deserved Kharlamov Cup title.
Before the series
Dynamo MSK during the regular season finished first overall in points (107) and on the penalty kill (89.8 percent) but ranked second to Loko Yaroslavl in wins (46), goals for (254), and goal differential (+124). They finished third in goals-against average (2.00), and tied for eighth on the power play (19.7 percent).
Won the season series with Loko Yaroslavl, beating them in three of the four games; two of their wins were by 4-3 scores (one a shootout). The teams also traded 4-0 decisions.
Defending MHL champions and won the Kharlamov Cup in 2016, 2017, and 2019 (2020 postseason cancelled).
Lokomotiv led the MHL in wins (47), goals for (255), goals per game (3.98), goals-against average (1.70), goal differential (+146), and power-play (23.9 percent), and placed third in penalty killing (87.3 percent).
Loko Yaroslavl and Dynamo MSK tied with Chaika for an MHL-best 13 short-handed goals
During the playoffs
Earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and recorded 3-0 sweeps against each of their first three opponents — No. 8 Atlanty, No. 5 Krasnaya Armiya, and No. 5 Tolpar (from the Eastern Conference) to advance to the final.
Outscored their opponents in Rounds 1-3 by a 35-11 margin and yielded one goal or less in six of their nine matches. They outscored Loko Yaroslavl 17-11 in the final and held them to one goal in three of the five games.
Dynamo MSK’s power play struggled throughout the postseason, going 5-for-35 and finishing 11th of 16 teams with a 14.3 success rate. They went 0-for-15 in the final against Loko.
Their top-ranked PK from the regular season killed off 45 of 52 power plays in the playoffs but surrendered two power-play goals in Games 3 and 5 of the final.
Dynamo MSK outshot Loko Yaroslavl in 11 of the 15 periods in the five-game series and averaged 33.8 shots per game compared to only 26.6 for their opponent.
Held the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and after a 3-0 sweep of No. 8 Dynamo SPB in Round 1, took each of their next two series against No. 3 SKA-1946 and No. 2 Irbis (Eastern Conference) by a 3-1 count to advance to the final.
Outscored their opponents in Rounds 1-3 by a 37-27 margin but yielded one goal or less in only three of their first 11 playoff games.
Killed off all 15 power plays against Dynamo MSK in the final.
Allowed the first goal of the game in all four of their losses in the final and were outscored 6-1 in the first period.
Kisakov, who was the second-youngest skater in the Dynamo MSK lineup, manned the right flank on their nominal first line but the reality is that the squad had three units that could have received the same distinction. Since Dynamo MSK rolled four lines and received production from wingers on every unit, Kisakov’s ice time dropped from 17:22 in the regular season to 14:53 in the playoffs. The decrease certainly wasn’t because of performance, as he was on the top power-play unit throughout, was the most dangerous player on the ice in two of the five games, and was involved in at least three or four high-danger chances each match.
His best game was the opener (1 goal, 6 shots) when Loko had no idea how to stop him. Kisakov gave his team a 1-0 lead via a short-side laser from the right circle on the power play but he could easily have scored another two or three more, including a near-miss on his backhand that went off the crossbar. He scored his second goal of the final in the all-important Game 5 — a gorgeous backhander roofed glove side from in close that gave Dynamo MSK a 5-1 advantage. The best part about Kisakov’s series, however, is that he was effective off the puck and didn’t let the frustration of not scoring change his game. Far more times than not, he was the first forward on his line to appear in either zone, and Kisakov was able to forecheck effectively and get under his opponent’s skin. Although I wouldn’t say he was one of Dynamo MSK’s top-three forwards in the series, Kisakov more than held his own and also validated his strong reputation in draft circles.
A dangerous winger who gets opponents to wake up early in the morning to make them think they have a chance at slowing him down, Kisakov missed the MHL scoring title by just one point, finishing with an impressive 73 points in 61 games. He is a dynamic playmaker who is equally as dangerous in open ice and he is in the offensive-zone set, and he is an expert and agile puck handler who exudes confidence and competence. The knee-jerk impression if looking at both stats and body measurements is to label Kisakov as a one-way finesse forward, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, he likes to handle the puck and is guilty of forcing things with support nearby. But Kisakov also creates problems by staying in motion and applying pressure on the puck as much as possible.
Kisakov is a gifted offensive weapon who has the ability and reputation to be the best player on the ice. He’s also as physical as a 5-foot-9 scoring forward can be without taking himself entirely out of the play, and Kisakov has a noticeable competitive edge that can have an impact on how opponents check him. He’s an excellent skater with fantastic edges, a quick first step, and breakaway speed that help him consistently make something out of nothing. Stacking the line or neutral zone is no guarantee to slow him down, and if Kisakov loses possession, it’s usually his own doing rather than a specific tactic or strategy by the opposition. Getting inside the zone comes easily, and Kisakov can score in a number of ways. He has a deadly shot and has beaten plenty of goalies with snipes aimed at either the short or long side, and you have to prepare for him to make a bang-bang play off a faceoff.
Kisakov’s defensive play is not an area of weakness and should not be considered a red flag or concern. He is an aggressive forechecker who on occasion will pursue a defenseman relentlessly while wielding an active stick all the way up to center ice. He killed penalties quite frequently but his quick hands and stick in the defensive zone are more visible during desperate or late/close moments. Kisakov has star potential, but he definitely needs to delay more at the opposing line and cut down on his forced passes into the middle.
Neither Loko nor Dynamo MSK possessed an offense-first blueliner in the classic playmaking sense, which has been a theme with Russian player development for quite some time. Regardless, Machulin was the most dynamic of any defender in the series by way of his multi-directional agility, line walking, and shot creation. He didn’t see much time on the power play as Dynamo MSK used four forwards and a defenseman for both of their stacked units, but he’s not the type of defensemen who requires the defaulted version of open ice to involve himself in scoring chances. Rather, Machulin during the series was dancing to the tune he likes best — within tight quarters with no pre-determined avenues of escape. He showed incredible balance, agility, and poise when Loko tried to fix him, yet his escapability was often too much for them to handle. He was, however, a critical penalty killer and saw plenty of ice in late and close situations.
It may sound lazy and cliche, but there are styllistic similarities between Machulin and current NHL defender Iavn Provorov, or at least in terms of the high stick grip and powerful, short stride. Machulin is a very intelligent rearguard who not only breaks out on his own, but does so with sound intentions and effective short-distance movements through or around traffic. Much like Provorov, Machulin has that look as he deliberately moves up the ice where you just know he’s scanning beyond 180 degrees . Once he sees an opening, the gear shifts into a higher speed and the impressive stick work does the rest. He might be an overager, but he’s got an August-2002 birth date that just missed 2021 first-year eligibility. As mentioned earlier, Machulin is adept at creating his own shot and can turn an offensive-zone draw into an opportunity to showcase his agility, patience, and heavy, accurate shot. Although he isn’t as overtly physical as some of his fellow Dynamo MSK defenders, Machulin packs a heavy punch and can humble the thickest of opposing forwards with a stiff shoulder or open-ice check.
It’s common in Russian junior hockey for a team to not only play eight defensemen instead of the standard six, but also ensure all get a decent amount of playing time. Therefore, although Machulin’s ice time this season decreased slightly from 16:13 in the regular season to 15:52 in the finals, his 16:13 of ice time during the final while competing with seven other blueliners can be contextualized into a top-four role, which he most certainly had. In fact, Machulin was one of the MHL’s best defensemen this season when you consider how deep a blueline he played on and where he ranked among his league-wide peers. Of the 108 MHL defensemen who appeared in 60 or more games, Machulin ranked fourth in goals scored (9), sixth in shots (143), seventh in games played (62), 10th in overall scoring (25 points), but 74th in TOI (16:13). His upside is very high.
Paramonov was more of a fourth-line mainstay during the regular season than he was in the playoffs, where his ice time was reduced from 12:03 a game to 8:48 and then down to 7:48 in the final. The good news is that his head coach entrusted him with a lineup spot in three of the four Kharlamov Cup matches, scratching the older Anton Kosolapov in the process. Paramonov made his presence felt in Games 4 and 5 when his linemates were changed to center Dmitry Zlodeyev and winger Ivan Didkovskiy. He was used mostly at even strength but was able to sneak in some power play time towards the end of a few opportunities, although most of Paramonov’s contributions in limited time were off the puck. He was an aggressive forechecker and threw his weight around, and both he and Zlodeyev teamed up to pressure Loko defender Alexei Goryachev into a costly turnover that led to Didkovskiy’s opening tally in Game 5. Paramonov from then on struggled with decision making, especially in the final period in spite of being trusted with key minutes during Loko’s late comeback. He took a senseless high-sticking penalty in the neutral zone and then gave a half-hearted attempt to stop Daniil Tesanov’s writer than cut Dynamo MSK’s lead down to one.
Paramonov is a cocky, high-energy winger with quickness who loves to hit. He also provided Dynamo MSK with valuable scoring depth, netting 14 goals in 52 games for a respectable goals-per-60 average of 1.35, and his 74 hits placed him among the leaders of MHL first-year draft eligibles. He is noticeable the second he hits the ice and can go full throttle for the duration of his shift. Small in stature but big in effort and toughness, Paramonov knew exactly what his role was on a contending veteran team loaded with firepower. Playing within the bottom six didn’t limit his ability to create plays and he also showcased a nasty wrister and lighting-quick one-timer. You’ll usually find Paramonov fishing around the net-front area but don’t underestimate his hands and long-distance passing ability. Thinking the game the right way should be his focus until it’s time to move on to higher levels.
Smirnov is an enthusiastic and mobile two-way defenseman with physicality who was Dynamo MSK’s No. 2 or No. 3 this season, depending on how you want to look at it. Although he was second only to teammate Arman Iritsyan in defense scoring (29 points in 58 games), shots (145), and ice time (16:59), Smirnov’s role decreased in the playoffs by over two full minutes (14:45) and even more so in the Kharlamov Cup Final (14:25), including less than 14 minutes in each of the last three games. The demotion was clearly justified, as Smirnov’s level of involvement in positive plays decreased game by game. His best performance was in Game 1 where he played over 18 minutes and was both physical and activating frequently, plus he provided good work on the PK with multiple shot blocks, which is one of Smirnov’s strong suits. He became far less noticeable as the series wore on and barely played 10 minutes in the Game 5 finale, so it’s probably best to let Smirnov’s strong regular season performance outweigh a marginal playoff.
Didkovskiy was a player who did well enough last season to deserve a 2020 draft selection but was eventually overlooked in spite of his linemates Bogdan Trineyev and Dmitry Zlodeyev being scooped up in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively. It’s hard to pinpoint any specific on-ice reasons for the lack of respect he was shown by NHL scouts because Didkovskiy is a tireless worker with a plus shot who plays a tough north-south game built on heavy hits and net crashing. His skating as a whole is average but it’s hard to consistently be on the puck as often as Didkovskiy is without having high-level anticipation. Regardless, Didkovskiy saved his best play for the postseason where he finished with 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in 14 games, including important goals in three of Dynamo MSK’s four victories. Keep in mind that all of this production was during bottom-six minutes and little to no power-play time, which should explain his gaudy 3.75 points-per-60 minutes postseason average. He was a nuisance on the forecheck all series long and made Loko pay for sloppy puck management.