The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Russian winger Maxim Groshev in the third round, 85th overall, in the 2020 NHL Draft. Groshev was Tampa Bay’s third pick in the draft but is arguably the most promising prospect from his class.
This might be a bit of a hot take since it seems insulting to consider the two prospects the Lightning drafted ahead of Groshev — Jack Finley and Gage Goncalves — lesser than the guy picked behind them, but when you look deeper each players ceiling and likelihood of making the NHL, Groshev has a slightly stronger case to make than the two players drafted in front of him.
Lauren Kelly questioned the Lightning’s draft because of all the talent they left on the board; especially in the second round. There were a handful of prospects that she and other scouts thought would fit in perfectly with the Bolts philosophy on the ice that were shockingly skipped on.
After reading her insight, I have to completely agree. This draft — for whatever reason — was full of smaller players with great numbers for a league that is showing that small players are just as good or better than ones six inches taller than them. The Lightning swam against that tide and I think it really put them behind.
In terms of the players they did get, no one is writing them off as “busts” (no, not even Lauren). Groshev is one of those big players (6’1”) that has flashes of skill when playing against his peers and above, but lacks the consistency to make him a top-six power forward.
If you read the sidebar above and noticed that Groshev hasn’t scored a goal in 22 games this season, you might be wondering what the fork I’m talking about. I’ll explain by saying the KHL is a silly beast and there is actually a lot to be excited about with Groshev.
Understanding Groshev’s KHL Career
First off, time on ice matters, especially when it comes to teenagers in the KHL. The KHL has a rule where they can dress a junior player as an extra skater to their gameday lineups. As a 13th forward or seventh defenseman, they don’t get much ice time, usually less than 10 minutes a night. That’s currently the case for Groshev and has been for two seasons now.
Groshev was then traded to SKA St. Petersburg as a warm body (but not too warm) because most of the team caught COVID-19 — seriously, they’ve had to dress nearly 50 different skaters this season. He played five games for them and was then sent to the VHL (a league lower than where he’s used to) two weeks ago, because SKA wants the depth and they have higher-profile prospects to fill those junior spots in the lineup.
You must be asking how a team can just do that and the answer is that SKA is a massive fish in the KHL pond and they can pretty much throw their weight and get what they want. Groshev’s ice time actually went down from nearly 12 minutes a night with Neftekhimik to eight minutes with SKA.
Back to last season, Groshev scored 7 points in 36 games averaging 7 minutes per night. For a 17-year-old, it’s unheard of that he even got minutes. Groshev accomplished this because he developed physically quite quickly and was over six feet with a filled out frame by that age and could hold his own in the top men’s league in Europe. In terms of comparables, he really only has one in Kirill Kaprizov, prospect for the Minnesota Wild and third in KHL scoring last year at 22.
“This past season, Groshev was one of just 10 draft-eligible skaters to play in the KHL, and one of six to play more than 10 games. He led them all in scoring with seven points in 36 games. Groshev playing in the KHL makes it hard to find statistical comparisons, but that rarity is a good thing in my books. There are only ~10 draft-eligibles to receive games in the KHL every season, and Groshev’s point totals are the highest since Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov in 2014-15.” — Silver Seven Sens
Will Groshev turn into Kaprizov within four years? I don’t think so, but anything is possible. I think the main thing holding Groshev back is that he’s more of a grinding-type player that hasn’t gotten power play time in a while and almost seems safe in the bottom six, whereas Kaprizov is 5’10” and a dynamic and deadly scorer. They both got into the KHL, which is commendable on its own, but they did it different ways.
Speaking of how Groshev does it, here’s a scouting report. Described by many as a high-energy, dependable forechecking forward with good defensive ability and reasonable skating skills. For Russia, he’s been their prototypical third line winger at the U18 and U20 level and as a result will probably be representing them at the World Juniors this winter.
On video, Groshev has the ability to take advantage of off-guard defensemen by driving hard to the net and finding holes through the goalie to bury chances. He makes a mess and he’s done a reasonable job at converting them. You could even say he does a third line job at scoring.
“Groshev impressed for the first time at last year’s WJC-18. He scored three goals in that tournament, including the tie-breaker on a great rush against Sweden in the final game. This season, he has earned a roster spot in the KHL with Neftekhimik, and a little bit surprisingly made the Russian roster at WJC-20. Even though he hasn’t impressed at the KHL level, he managed to produce points at the junior level and elevated his game throughout the season.
“Groshev is a winger with large frame, and he likes to rush the puck himself. He is a pretty prototypical power forward. He knows how to take advantage of his size and move the puck through the neutral zone. He shows some flashes of creativity sometimes but his game is mostly strict and aimed to go to the net. He likes to shoot the puck, and his wrist shot is quite a good weapon. He lacks tempo at senior level so far, but his skating isn’t weak as he is pretty agile taking size into equation. Top speed is decent for his size, but acceleration definitely needs some work.” — Dobber Prospects
His play shows that he has the determination and work ethic to improve his game and meet challenges as he faces harder competition. That quality alone will get him further than a lot of players who beat up at the junior level but struggle to meet the standard once they hit the pro level. The Lightning have drafted a few of those guys that we’ll get into later in the T25.
The fact that he’s in the KHL right now and sticking there is a good thing. He has plenty of time to move up the lineup into a third or even second line role before it becomes time for him to jump to North America. I said this in his Draft Profile, but I think the Syracuse Crunch are going to love him when he comes over. He does a lot of things that work well for other players in the AHL; he’s hard on the puck and causes disruptions with sometimes surprising acceleration. He’s a neutral zone monster when he’s on his game, which is exactly how the Lightning are when they’re clicking.
Consistency really is the only thing that’s lacking at the moment and I’m saying that about an 18-year-old. He’ll get there with time and work, I hope he can also elevate his puck skills and top speed a little more while he’s at the SKA hockey academy. Those two things will come in really handy when he gets to the AHL/NHL and opponents are a lot closer in terms of space and decision time.
Maxim Groshev gives Russia the lead! Third time's the charm. pic.twitter.com/pyZyfHrHIL— Lauren Kelly (@laurkelly24) November 6, 2019