There's been so much excitement lately!
That's what happens when the Columbus Blue Jackets pick up the best available free agent in the form of superstar Johnny Gaudreau.
But we're going to go back a little bit, a few weeks ago to the NHL draft, to take a look at an interesting prospect that comes in the form of six-foot-six, 234-pound Kirill Dolzhenkov.
Taken in the fourth round with pick No. 109, the Russian winger is obviously a lot of hockey player...and human. An imposing player on the ice, he was listed as the heaviest prospect in the draft. He can play a little bit, too.
(While I was talking to Jordan Dumais)— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) July 8, 2022
The #CBJ have drafted wing Kirill Dolzhenkov with a fourth-round pick (109 overall) in the NHL draft.
No.-22 ranked European NA skater by NHL Central Scouting
14-14-28 in 33 games in juniors this year
Here's what Corey Pronman of The Athletic had to say about him:
Analysis: It’s easy to spot Dolzhenkov on the ice as a 6-foot-6 forward with skill. He can put pucks through legs and sticks at a high rate and create around the net. I wouldn’t call him a dynamic playmaker but I’ve seen him make tough plays that show strong hockey sense. He’s not afraid to use his size to win battles and can PK. Dolzhenkov’s major flaw is his skating. He has a heavy stride that will be an issue as he advances levels and is the main reason I can’t yet tab him as an NHL player.
Dolzhenkov spent the last year with CSKA Moskva U18 scoring 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in the regular season, with 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in eight playoff games. The 14 points led the team.
With Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL, a Junior Hockey League, he scored 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 33 games. In the playoffs, he put up eight points (three goals, five assists) in 19 games.
NHL TEAM PROSPECT POOL STRENGTH RANKINGS (JULY 2022 - POST DRAFT) pic.twitter.com/45y2t91y8Q— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) July 19, 2022
Currently, the Blue Jackets are quite loaded with forwards on the big league team, and inside the system, so exactly when we can expect to possibly see Dolzhenkov is presently unknown. It's fairly certain that we probably won't be seeing him in Columbus any time soon.
That jives with what Eugene Helfrick of The Hockey Writers said in May.
"Dolzhenkov still has questions about some of his defensive fundamentals, decision-making, skating, and use of his size," Helfrick said. "If he is drafted by the right franchise and given the time to grow into his frame both physically and mentally, he could become one of the most dominant players in this class."
Dolzhenkov, alongside another Russian, Sergei Ivanov, taken by Columbus in the fifth round, was absent from the development camp held by the Blue Jackets from July 11-13. Below is a quick film sesh on Dolzhenkov and his goals with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva via InStat, including "The Michigan" at 1:25.
At just 18 years old and still unsigned, Dolzhenkov will have time to refine his game, and particularly, his skating. Back on July 5, Pronman ranked Dolzhenkov as his 68th top prospect, but under the category of having a projected chance to play NHL games in the future.
Grades for the winger including puck skills and hockey sense were average while his compete is considered above average and his skating poor. It's really just coming down to skating and correcting the heavy strides that he currently possesses.
Kirill Dolzhenkov has the protypical coke machine build (6'6' 236 lbs) but the production is actually pretty good. A 4th round pick with this size and production and he's decently young (born in early Spring). Don't mind this one at at all for Columbus! pic.twitter.com/JFbSw8Dmru— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) July 8, 2022
When you think of Dolzhenkov, you might think of some other notable and imposing players like Big Z, otherwise known as Zdeno Chara, the tallest player in NHL history, at six-foot-nine, 250 pounds, Tom Wilson, who is six-foot-four, 220 pounds, and Ryan Reaves, checking in at six-foot-two, 225 pounds. Chara is on his way to the Hall of Fame once the 45-year-old decides to hang up the skates, Wilson has put together an All-Star career, and Reaves is a long-time pro.
Not that Dolzhenkov is going to be either of those players, or forge the respective careers they have, but he's one interesting story to watch for the Blue Jackets, and for his career as an NHLer in particular.