It took a while for Vladislav Gavrikov to make the jump overseas.
The Blue Jackets drafted him 159th overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft, but he continued to play in the KHL. In the summer of 2017, the Blue Jackets hosted Gavrikov in Columbus in an attempt to woo him to the NHL, but he informed the club that he had signed a two-year deal with SKA Saint Petersburg to stay in the KHL.
After SKA lost in the 2018-19 KHL playoffs, Gavrikov was released from his contract and signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets. He appeared in two playoff games, both against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In his first full NHL season, he's showing why the Blue Jackets wanted him in Columbus as soon as possible.
The Russian defenseman has logged 41 games, notching four goals and three assists with a +4 rating. In his last 15 games, he's registered a +10 rating.
A defensive defenseman by nature, Gavrikov is excellent at positioning himself to make the right play depending on the situation. He's third on the team in blocked shots, with 49.
While his first instinct is defensive, he will join the rush from time to time, providing a big goal for the Blue Jackets. His most important goal this season came against the New York Islanders, finishing a rebound with three minutes left to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 win against a Metropolitan Division rival.
With injuries to the Blue Jackets' defensive corps, Gavrikov has been logging heavy minutes as of late. In his last five games, he's only played less than 21:20 one time, and he's played more than 23 minutes three times.
In a turbulent season with lots of injuries and question marks, Gavrikov has been a staple in the lineup that head coach John Tortorella knows he can count on.