After spending two picks in the fourth and sixth rounds on defenseman, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected another forward in Russian left-winger Mikhail Shalagin as the 198th overall pick. He’s 19 years old and spent last seasons sharing ice time between multiple minor Russian leagues in the MHL and VHL. Shalagin was undrafted in 2017 and 2018 and was close to remaining undrafted again in 2019.
Shalagin drew a lot of attention after his last season in MHL. He scored 48 goals in 43 games for the MHK Spartak Moskva (HC Spartak Moskva affiliate). Overall, he recorded 75 points and was the second highest scorer in the whole league. Shalagin was rewarded for his play by being named the MHL’s 2018-19 regular season MVP. His 48 goals is the most for any player in the nine seasons of the MHL’s existence.
As is obvious for a top scorer, his best skills are his wrist shot and his quick hands. He has also shown that he can be effective at scoring either from long distance or in front of the net. Shalagin’s 27 assists in 43 games last season also indicate that he has some playmaking ability. His size is also pretty impressive, he is 6‘4” and weighs 185 pounds. However. he will probably have to add some muscle to be more effective playing against bigger opponents. The biggest concern is his skating. Corey Pronman, the only junior hockey expert who included him in his rankings in 2018 and 2019, already mentioned in 2018 that Shalagin needed to work on his footspeed but it is fair to say that Shalagin’s skating has improved since that time. Pronman as well values his creativity and vision.
I’ve already seen a lot of people showing excitement about drafting Shalagin and even comparing him with Nikita Gusev who was also drafted in the seventh round of the NHL Draft. This comparison is reasonable, both players are pretty skilled offensively and both players even recorded almost the same numbers at the MHL at the same age. Gusev scored 76 points in 34 games in 2011-12 season. However, I don’t think MHL is the best way to evaluate players.
At 19 years old, Shalagin is considered as the overager in the MHL. His size is also a pretty big advantage over most players in the league. We should also mention the transition of MHL players into professional hockey. The following list is the list of the MHL all-time top scorers. How many players do you recognize here? Yes, most of them are still very young. But the only decent players here are Nikita Gusev and Alexander Barabanov.
By the same age, Gusev had already played at the U20 World Junior Championship, recorded nine points in seven games, and earned a silver medal. On the other hand, Shalagin doesn’t have a lot of experience playing for the national team. In November, he played three games for the U20 Team Russia at the exhibition tournament in the Czech Republic. He scored one goal, but mostly struggled playing alongside such players as Vitali Kravtsov and Vasili Podkolzin.
After the NHL Draft, he participated in the Lightning development camp and already surprised everyone with the “no move“ shot. Some people also noticed his solid performance at the 3v3 tournament.
He will probably be given a chance to play more games in the KHL next season. He already made his debut in the KHL with HC Spartak Moskva last season. In four games, he averaged just 1:41 per game. According to reports, he has been offered a three-way deal, but information on if he already signed an extension hasn’t been released yet.
I’ve been very skeptical about him since the draft. Yes, his shooting skills are impressive but the lack of national team experience and playing at the age of 19 in the MHL could be an issue here. Hopefully, we will see him in the KHL next season and can evaluate his ability to play at the professional level.