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Blueline prospect Artem Grushnikov has potential, but needs to carve out a niche with Wranglers

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Photo credit:Terence Leung/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
9 days ago
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The Calgary Flames organization went through a lot of changes during the 2023-24 season. Several pending unrestricted free agents were traded to new homes, while several youngsters were added to the organization via trade.
Russian-born defender Artem Grushnikov joined the Flames organization midway through the season via trade. He couldn’t quite find a rhythm with the American Hockey League’s Wranglers, but he remains very young and full of a lot of potential.

The past

Originally from Voskresensk, Russia, a town just southeast of Moscow, Grushnikov is a left shot defenceman listed at 6’1″ and 194 pounds.
Grushnikov came up through the CSKA Moskva system. He worked his way to their junior team in the Major Hockey League, posting five points in 29 games in 2019-20 with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva – as a 16-year-old. After that season Grushnikov opted to try his hand in North America, and he was selected in the CHL’s Import Draft by the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
A curve-ball came that following season, though, as the entire 2020-21 OHL campaign was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even without a body of work in his draft year, Grushnikov ended up as a second-round selection, 48th overall, by the Dallas Stars in the 2021 NHL Draft on the basis of how good he was as a 16-year-old in the MHL and his perceived potential.
In two seasons following his selection, Grushnikov had consistent albeit modest offensive production: 12 points in 56 games in 2021-22 and 17 points in 65 games in 2022-23. He won an OHL Championship with the Bulldogs in 2022 and played in the Memorial Cup, losing to Saint John in the final.

The present

The 2023-24 season was the first year of Grushnikov’s entry-level deal. He spent the entire season in the American Hockey League, with his year split between the Texas Stars and Calgary Wranglers.
With Texas, he played primarily with veteran defender Alex Petrovic. He registered one goal and four assists for five points in 44 games. He was sent to the Flames in the Chris Tanev trade in late February. He had one assist in 20 games with the Wranglers, and he played with basically everybody as he learned the Wranglers’ system and tried to find a fit with a defensive partner.
He didn’t dress for the Wranglers in post-season, as Wranglers were carrying 10 defencemen and opted to go with a veteran lineup.

The future

The Flames sought out Grushnikov from the Stars for the same reason the Stars drafted him: he’s big, he’s physical, he’s smart, and he plays a really stout defensive game. He probably won’t ever be a power play quarterback, but he’s sort of the same style as Ilya Solovyov – a shutdown defender that can contribute on the penalty kill. Grushnikov is about two and a half years younger than Solovyov, so he’ll need some time to develop.
The key challenge for Grushnikov: find a way to carve out a niche with the Wranglers and find a defensive partner that he clicks with. Having a consistent role and a consistent partner helped Solovyov take a big leap forward in the 2022-23 season; it could do the same for Grushnikov in 2024-25.

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