It’s funny what two years can do.
Two summers ago, a Google search for Alex Volkov resulted in site after site about a UFC fighter by that name. Now, although that person still claims the top slot, the results are much more hockey-orientated than they were back then. The Lightning prospect known as Alexander Volkov has worked hard to make a name for himself, and the effort has paid off. The forward, who is in the final year of his entry-level contract, now looks to making it to the next level.
Volkov seemed like an easy player to place this year among both the readers and the writers. His lowest rank among the writers was 13, and his highest was 6th. He hovered mostly around 10 or 11 for the majority of the writers. It was the higher rankings from Geo and Justin, the latter of whom has spent a season and a half watching Volkov in Syracuse, and from our readers that pushed Volkov firmly into the top 10.
Volkov has put together two very consistent and very similar AHL seasons in a row, at least if one looks at the scoresheet only. In 2017-18, he was 10th in this countdown. He played in 75 games for Syracuse, had 23 goals and 22 assists, for a total of 45 points. Although he took a little time to transition to the professional game in North America, he built up a solid first season. He ended 4th on the team in points and first in goals.
Volkov put up similar numbers this past season in Syracuse, but he did it while also focusing on honing other aspects of his game. During his first season with the Crunch, he was adjusting to many professional and personal changes. His on-ice focus was on scoring, and he certainly showed he could. His efforts during his second professional season, however, shifted to making him a more well-rounded player, to improving the defensive side to his game. He saw a lot of time on the penalty kill. The Crunch’s forward depth meant that Crunch head coach Ben Groulx could switch guys around fairly easily, and Volkov saw time on every line, from the first to the fourth.
Given all of this, it’s actually pretty impressive that Volkov was able to work on improving his 200-foot game while also maintaining consistency on the scoresheet. In 74 games with Syracuse in 2018-19, Volkov totaled 48 points (23G, 25A). He was 5th on the team in points, and 4th in goals. He also had five power play goals. While his defensive game was his focus, it was still always exciting to see him fire up to take a shot.
Volkov stuck around late into the Lightning’s 2018 pre-season and training camp last fall, and was one of the last players cut to head to Syracuse. The Lightning’s health and the acquisition of Danick Martel made it so Volkov wasn’t able to get his first cup of coffee in the NHL, but all bets are on him making an even bigger splash this upcoming fall. With Adam Erne out of the picture, there’s a nice, shiny space in the Lightning’s forward group just waiting to be claimed, and Volkov should be one of those in line to nab it. However, his main competition - fellow upstart Carter Verhaeghe - is waiver-eligible, something Volkov is not.
Juggling the waiver wire and seeing which players the Lightning are more comfortable with potentially losing is always part of the game every year, and this may delay Volkov’s NHL dreams for a little while. Chances are, though, they won’t be delayed for long. If he doesn’t make the Opening Night roster in Tampa, then Volkov should be one of the first in line for a call up once the need arises.