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Learning about 2018 NHL Draft prospects: Volume 5

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The draft will be here before we know it; let’s know some guys!

Saginaw Spirit v Peterborough Petes Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

With the 2018 NHL Entry Draft just a few weeks away, General Manager Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers could be adding up to nine prospects to the organization. There’s already a lot out there on those who are expected to be drafted in the top 31 to 62, but what about the guys who are supposed to go anywhere from 63rd to undrafted? In a series of articles before the draft, I’m going to try and analyze both the well-known prospects and some of the lesser-known prospects who aren’t expected to go relatively high this week. Let’s know some guys.

Stanislav Demin
A native of California, Stanislav Demin chose the route of playing in the British Columbia Hockey League for a few seasons before playing in the NCAA. The 6’1”, 187-pound left-handed defenseman had nine goals and 36 assists in 57 points for the Wenatchee Wild this season to finish fourth among BCHL d-men with 45 points. Demin’s seven points in 20 postseason games, as well as his two assists in five games at the Doyle Cup and the same stat line at the RBC Cup, wasn’t enough to help his draft stock, as he dropped from 32nd to 40th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s rankings.

Despite his slight drop in the rankings, Demin has a skill set that most NHL teams desire in today’s game. The Draft Analyst’s Steve Kournianos illustrated the blue liner’s game back in July of 2017:

“He’s got good size, a hard shot and skates extremely well. Demin is a three-zone defender who plays more mature than you’d think, and he didn’t crack under the pressure of consistently playing against opposing top lines. If the Americans want to repeat the success they had at last year’s Hlinka, they’ll need Demin’s puck-carrying skills and well-timed pinches to set the tone for what is sure to be a swarming attack.”

Demin, who is committed to the University of Denver for the 2018-19 season, is anticipated to go 48th overall by DraftSite.

Amir Miftakhov
The only knocks on goaltender Amir Miftakhov are maybe his size (159 pounds is light, but 6’0” isn’t small) and the fact he didn’t play in the KHL this season. Besides that, there’s plenty to like about the Russian netminder that posted a .934 save percentage and 1.91 goals against average in 26 MHL games with Irbis Kazan in the MHL. Miftakhov also played in five postseason games for Irbis Kazan, where he posted an .887 save percentage and a 3.22 goals against average.

As mentioned before in these articles, numbers (good or bad) don’t always paint the whole picture for draft-eligible players, especially goalies. There is a lot to like about Miftakhov’s game in both athletic and technical aspects. Brett Slawson of The Hockey Writers explains why the Russian goaltender thrived this season:

“Playing for Irbis Kazan in the MHL, Miftakhov has become an impenetrable force. Founded upon calculated positional play, Miftakhov offers little opportunity for opposing shooters and is quick to deny any and all well-placed shots owing to his quick reflexes. What’s more is that Miftakhov owns the unique ability to read plays as they develop as well as the tendencies of opposing shooters, allowing him to foresee where shots will be placed before they are directed his way.”

According to Draftsite, Miftakhov will go 65th overall in the third round.

Blade Jenkins
If he ends up being drafted and makes his way to the NHL, Blade Jenkins will be a memorable draft pick regardless of how well he performs. The 6’2” center that weighs 194 pounds would be the first player to ever be born in Mississippi to play in the NHL if he makes it. The closest the Magnolia state has come to producing an NHL player was Dan Weiss, a player who ended up playing eight games in the ECHL for the Toledo Walleye back in 2013-14.

Jenkins didn’t see his Central Scouting’s ranking change much between the mid-term rankings and the final rankings, as he moved from 24th to 26th after he was named OHL Rookie of the Month in November and posted 44 points in 68 games for the Saginaw Spirit this season. He added on three assists in four playoff games, as the Spirit were swept by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the opening round of the OHL postseason. His 5-on-5 numbers won’t exactly incite hype for the prospect, as he finished tied for 58th with 36 points, tied for 49th with 16 goals, and tied for 67th with 114 shots on goal among the 156 OHL forwards who played in at least 60 games this year. Of the 62 forwards who played in the same number of games and entered the season under 18 years old, Jenkins finished tied for 15th in points, tied for 15th in goals, and 14th with shots on goal.

Jenkins uses his size to his advantage and can be shifty for how big he is, but their are still concerns about his skating and the defensive side of his game. Dominic Tiano of The OHL Writers has more on the prospect from the southern state:

“At 6’1”, 195 pounds and still room to grow, Jenkins possesses decent size. He uses that size to his advantage and battles well along the walls and in front of the opponent’s net. He’s learning how to be dominant with each passing shift. He drives the net hard with or without possession and he’s extremely strong playing the cycle game.

Jenkins also possesses good hockey sense. He has shown that he can be elusive and make himself open for teammates to find. He can also play patient and wait for lanes to open up when he has puck possession. He can play the playmaker game, but at the same time, he can beat you with a very heavy shot.

Defensively, Jenkins’ game is a work in progress. On a lot of nights, you will walk away knowing he was one of the most noticeable players on the ice. Evidence that he will put the work in where he requires it.”

The beginning of this highlight package shows Jenkins’ heavy shot and his ability to get open to release that shot, which Tiano referenced ins his profile.

Draftsite believes Jenkins will go 75th overall in this week’s draft.

Kirill Nizhnikov
For a forward that doesn’t exactly thrive in neutral or defensive zone play, Kirill Nizhnikov should probably produce more offensively to be considered a high-end prospect. The 6’1”, 190-pound Russian right winger split time between the Barrie Colts and Sudbury Wolves this season, as he totaled 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points in 63 games.

Nizhnikov could argue he didn’t have luck on his side, as he finished the season with a 4.88 shooting percentage at 5-on-5 and a 5.81 shooting percentage overall (ten goals on 172 shots). Of the 156 OHL forwards who played 60 games or more this season, Nizhnikov tied for 99th with 26 points and tied for 136th with six goals at 5-on-5, but he also finished 62nd with 123 shots on goal. Reduce that number to the 62 OHL forwards who played in 60 games or more and entered the season 18 years old or younger, Nizhnikov is tied for 23rd in points and tied for 47th in goals while jumping to tenth in shots on goal at 5-on-5.

Combining skill and size, Nizhnikov is able to elude defenders to get open to use his great release to unleash shots on opposing goalies. Aaron Vickers of Future Considerations touches on the upside of Nizhnikov, but he also explains why the forward might drop in the 2018 draft in his player review from July of 2017:

“He has a tendency to rest on his natural talent, as he can coast when he should be covering his man on the backcheck, or fly into the zone instead of making sure the puck is in possession. Not overly physical but does use his size to get to desired areas on the ice. He will need to improve his two-way play, consistency, and add some more strength. He has electrifying offensive upside at the NHL level in a dynamic goal-scoring role, but he also a fair amount of bust potential in his game to be concerned with as well.”

Nizhnikov is expected to be a late-round pick, as Draftsite has him going 151st overall.

*All stats thanks to Prospect-Stats

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