Over the next few weeks heading into the 2018 NHL Draft, we will be taking a look at some of the players that the Philadelphia Flyers could potentially draft. The Flyers have two first-round picks in this year’s draft, with the 14th and 19th picks overall.
There always seems to be an enigma when it comes to the NHL Draft. More times than not, that enigma seems to hail from Russia. Whether the Russian Factor is fair or not is another argument for another time, but the story manifests itself in this draft once again.
As of right now, the Flyers own two first-round picks in the draft. There are a ton of players who they could select with either of their picks in the teens. One of those players is Grigori Denisenko, the enigma of the first round.
Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (Russia)
Born: June 24, 2000
Weight: 165 lbs
Corey Pronman summed up Denisenko with one sentence.
“Denisenko is one of the more interesting players in this draft class because what I see with my eyes doesn’t line up with the stats.”
Denisenko has his flaws like any other prospect. He tends to overplay the puck and can be prone to taking bad penalties, but those are fixable issues. He needs his game to mature a bit, and he has to smooth out the rough edges, but he has a ton of raw talent. His skating, IQ and passing are all above average, and he projects as a first-line player if he hit his ceiling. And right there is the rub. If he hits his ceiling.
His projection is only a scoring-line player, which increases the risk in selecting him. If Hextall’s first-round history tells us anything, it’s that he’s more likely to take a two-way player than swing for the fences with a boom-or-bust prospect.
Okay, enough with the knocks on him. What makes Denisenko so enticing? His raw talent is something to drool over. One scouting report compared his style of play to Artemi Panarin. Several scouts have dubbed him as one of the most skilled players in the draft. He can handle the puck with aplomb and his high hockey IQ allows him to use his vision to set up his teammates with excellent scoring chances.
Pronman specifically mentioned how Denisenko “manipulates the inches on the ice.” He noted how the teenager makes the subtle plays to keep the puck away from the opposition. Denisenko is described as an above-average skater. Defenders yield space to respect his speed, which gives him the room to use his vision and hands to make plays.
While Denisenko’s offense will get you out of your set, he won’t be a liability in his own end. He’ll hold his own in the defensive zone and he could be used on both the power play and penalty kill. Pronman labeled him as a guy who is “OK” on the kill and will rev up the motor to win a puck battle.
Here’s what others are saying about him:
If we talk about what I had time to assess – there were several situations that characterize Grigori: understanding the game, seeing the [ice], an excellent pass[er]. In the course of the match, he gave an excellent [pass] to Talbot, though, in that moment did not score. But everyone saw the style of playing Grigori.” – Boris Pushkaryov (Denisenko’s youth coach)
“Denisenko is one of the most skilled players in his draft class. On a pure talent level, he’s one of, it not the top Russian in this draft class (and no I didn’t forget about Andrei Svechnikov). Denisenko manipulates the puck so well and does so at high speeds.” – Corey Pronman
“Injured early in the scouting season, Denisenko has returned with a vengeance. He’s got magic hands, a good shot and is an unselfish player.” – Sam Cosentino
Part of what has kept Denisenko from climbing the rankings are his junior numbers (22 points in 31 games), but he’s put up solid production (11 points in 14 games) during international play. So what could be the reasoning behind his poor numbers? Well, it could be his usage. Pronman said his MHL team didn’t beef up the lines, which could have hurt his production. Another possible explanation could be that he was snakebitten this year. Again, I don’t know for sure. Just throwing out possibilities.
At the end of the day Denisenko wouldn’t be where he is if he didn’t have incredible talent. But his numbers are not something you can disregard. He comes off as a high-risk, high-reward prospect, which doesn’t seem to fly when Hextall is at the podium. Then again with a stocked pool of prospects, maybe Hextall is willing to take a swing for the fences.
Photo via Dans La Bande
Disclaimer: All of these scouting reports come from aggregated content from throughout the Internet. Any opinion I give is merely a combination of all the information I have gleaned while researching these players.