For complicated geopolitical reasons, Russian players have the potential to fall in the upcoming NHL Draft, yet their skill level remains high. Some may fall and one such player we will look at because of it is Vladimir Grudinin, our latest Calgary Flames’ second round target.

Scouting report

A lot of scouts have the same praise for young Grudinin – a mobile defender on the back end who can use his quick feet to get himself out of trouble and close the gap off on attackers. When going laterally across the ice Grudinin moves effortlessly like he has been doing it his whole life (newsflash: he has). He’s projected as a defence first guy and gives off the same vibe that Yan Kuznetsov gave off in prior years. Although even with a few years on him I would say Grudinin still has the lateral advantage.
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Grudinin yo-yoed through the CSKA system, playing at all three levels from U20 to the VHL to the KHL. He didn’t get big minutes with the pros, but he had some effective moments there. Among his peers, he defended at a high level and moved pucks very well. A below-average sized defenseman, Grudinin doesn’t do a ton that jumps out at you, but he continues to be a relied upon rearguard at various levels including at the most recent World Juniors before it was cancelled.
While Scott Wheeler of the Athletic shared similar sentiments:
Grudinin, a favourite of the Russian national team, was part of a KHL championship this season (even though he hardly touched the ice for CSKA in it) and has long been a top player in his age group. He’s a tactile and poised operator who manages the play in front of him from the back end beautifully and defends through his adjustable east-west skating mechanics. He’s comfortable in possession and picks apart coverage as a passer and while I wouldn’t call him dynamic for his size on the puck, he plays a modern game at a high enough level to potentially envision a career as a contributing five-on-five defender who can chip in special teams. There are shades of Kings prospect Brock Faber in his ability to defend with his feet and advance play in the right direction.
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This player comes off as a safe pick. One you can teach/coach to defend how you want as you slowly bring them through the system. There are worse bets to take then on a defenceman who is as mobile as Grudinin.

The numbers

The most intriguing aspect of Grudinin’s draft year was his time spent in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. He hardly played any time – but young players never get much in the KHL. He seemed to overmatch oncoming attackers at the junior level (MHL) and was effective in the next tier up as well (VHL). Going forward it’s likely Grudinin sees time at the VHL and KHL levels – hopefully for whoever drafts him he’s playing 20+ minutes a night in the VHL.
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Grudinin was on the Russian world jr. squad but with the IIHF ban on Russian teams from competing we may not get a top level look at him this August.
Here’s an NHLe comparison of the best case scenario for Grudinin’s development from hockeyprospecting.com

Availability and fit

Lots of smart hockey watchers have him ranked as a third-round pick, while others have him as a late first. He very much could go at any point before the Flames pick or even be available well after – that’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint whose going where in the later rounds of the NHL draft.
The Flames current D pipeline has Kuznetsov and Poirier – fresh off their Memorial Cup victory – as the true top level D prospects. Valimaki and Mackey lose their waiver exemption status going into next year so it’s time to make it or get claimed on waivers for them. Grudinen would add a pretty impressive piece to a back-end cupboard lacking players with more rounded games. The current top six at the NHL level is good – so Grudinin would be gifted the time to develop at his own pace.
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Chris Peters (Daily Faceoff): 94th
FC Hockey: 47th
Elite Prospects: 31st
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 88th
Craig Button (TSN): (outside top 3 rounds)
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 91st
Smaht Scouting: 22nd
Dobber Prospects: 60th

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