After drafting Swedes with their first two selections in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Calgary Flames went local (but continued to go international) with the selection of Calgary Hitmen forward Pavel Karnaukhov at 136th overall.
A native of Minsk, Belarus, he came over this season after being selected by the Hitmen in the CHL Import Draft following a stint in the Russian junior league with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva. He had 42 points in 69 games with the Hitmen in his first season in North America.
I saw a lot of Karnaukhov this season. His biggest issue was consistency. In some games, he was using his size and tenacity to barrel up the center lane of the ice and create havoc for the opposition. In some games, I had to be reminded that he was playing. But when he’s good, he’s one of the guys that creates space and chances for his line-mates. He frequently battled in the corners and used his body well, and even fought from time to time. For a first-year import player in a good league, all I can do is commend Karnaukhov for not standing out for negative reasons. If the worst thing you can say about a WHL rookie – let alone a player trying to learn the North American game – is that he’s not noticeable sometimes, that’s not a bad thing.
He’s a left-handed center and March 1997 birthday. He’s listed as 6’1″ and just a shade under 200 lbs, so he has pretty decent size and he’s young-ish among this draft class. He was ranked 118th among North American skaters by Central Scouting and 115th overall by Future Considerations. He’s the third Hitmen ever drafted by the Flames, following Brent Krahn and Wade Davis in 2000. Hopefully he turns out better than they did.