At the 2015 NHL Draft, Pavel Karnaukhov became just the third player selected by the Calgary Flames from the Western Hockey League club that they own, the Calgary Hitmen (and the first since 2000).
Nabbed 136th overall, the Belarussian forward had a 2015-16 season full of ups and downs.
In 2014-15, Karnaukhov had a season where he was adjusting to the smaller North American ice, new teammates and the pressures of being eligible for the NHL Draft for the first time. He seemed to handle it well.
In 2015-16, his season was primarily derailed by injuries. He missed 23 games over a couple stretches, though the coaching staff was impressed by his ability to stay in shape when he wasn’t playing. When he did get into the lineup, he had a few good stretches and a few others where he was a bit more invisible – something that dates back to last season’s performances.
Karnaukhov had two three-game point streaks and a four-game point streak, all seemingly coinciding with stretches where he was physically and emotionally engaged in the games he was in. He had a six-game pointless stretch in February, though it’s unclear whether he was still hampered by his injuries during that stretch.
He had flashes of strong play this past season, but in part due to his injuries and absences from the line-up, the consistency just wasn’t there.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Karnaukhov, when healthy, was seemingly one of Mark French’s favourite players. He was used in every situation, and was a pretty effective two-way player for the most part. He used his teammates well and used his size to create opportunities for himself and others. He did tend to take quite a few penalties, though – a product of him battling for pucks primarily – and he’ll need to rein that in a bit. The Flames are said to really like his size and tenacity, but he’ll need to pick his spots more effectively if he wants to progress.
As it stands, he’s hardly a liability at the junior level, but he didn’t really progress to a state where he helped his team more often than not. (Compare that to Andrew Mangiapane in Barrie, for example, and you see how teams hope their picks progress from year to year.)
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Karnaukhov needs to be signed by the Flames by June 1, 2017, or else he’ll go back into the draft. Given his size and attributes (he’s 6’3″ and 200 pounds), he’s probably going to get signed. If he gets signed prior to the end of 2016, his contract can slide a year due to it being signed the year he turned 19.
The hope is that he’ll earn the deal with a strong start to the 2016-17 WHL season.