Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2019 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Russian Defenceman Artemi Kniazev.
Drafted in the first round, 10th overall, in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, Artemi Kniazev had an excellent rookie season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He scored 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 55 games. He also scored two assists in four playoff games, but the Sagueneens fell in four straight games to the higher seeded Rimouski Oceanic.
Kniazev has been a regular for Russia at the international level. Last summer, he played on the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup team, coming home with a bronze medal. He also played for Team Russia at this winter’s World Junior A Hockey Championships, scoring two goals in six tournament games. Last season, Kniazev played in the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, putting up a goal and two assists for three points in five tournament games. He won a gold medal at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2017, putting up four goals and 12 points in four games.
Artemi Kniazev Scouting Report
Defence — shoots Left
Born January 4th, 2001 — Kazan, Russia
Height 5’10.5″ — Weight 182 lbs [178 cm/83 kg]
Kniazev is a very strong skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to join the rush or to pinch in at the blue line and still get back to make defensive plays. His first few steps and his acceleration are very good and allow him to reach that top speed quickly. Add in smooth pivots and he has the ability to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. His edgework and agility are also strong. One area where he can improve is in his core strength. This would give Kniazev better balance and allow him to be stronger on the puck.
Kniazev is a strong puck mover. He combines his strong skating ability with excellent puck handling. He can skate the puck past forecheckers as well as carry it through the neutral zone. Kniazev is very good at generating effective zone entries. He also has very good vision and makes a smart first pass. This is true if he is starting the breakout with a short move to a forward or if he is hitting a streaking winger with a long breakaway pass. Kniazev has the poise to handle the puck at the blue line. He has good vision and passing skills and can quarterback the power play.
Kniazev likes to sneak in from the blueline and let his wrist shot go from the top of the circles. He also likes to shoot the puck off the rush. His wrist shot is extremely accurate and features a very quick release. However, the power of the shot is merely average. His slap shot could also use more velocity. This could improve with added upper body strength. He also makes the most of his shot by using his agility to move side-to-side across the blue line and open up shooting lanes.
Kniazev could stand to work on his defensive game. He needs to be more patient and disciplined. He often looks to make a big play, whether that be a hit or stealing a puck from an opponent. This can lead to him over-committing and getting himself caught out of position. Despite his lack of size, Kniazev is willing to play physical, especially against the rush. Away from the puck, Kniazev has a tendency to get caught puck watching and to stop moving his feet. This can lead to him losing his man and his positioning needs some work. He retrieves pucks quickly and moves them up the ice quickly, limiting his team’s time in their own end. These are all issues that can be worked on and improved with proper coaching and time, but he does need some work.
Projection and Comparison
Kniazev has the potential to be an offensive defenceman. There is room to improve his defensive game, with better positioning and discipline. While it is unlikely that he will ever become a defensive stalwart, he has the tools to be passable as an NHL defenceman if he develops well. He will be a bit of a project and the team that drafts him will need to have patience with his development. Expect him to be back in the QMJHL for a couple of years before going to the AHL. His game is reminiscent of Marek Zidlicky, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Artemi Kniazev that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
BOISBRIAND, QC – SEPTEMBER 28: Artemi Kniazev #8 of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens skates the puck against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the QMJHL game at Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau on September 28, 2018, in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens defeated the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)