Welcome to the 3rd installment of our 'Names To Know', 2023 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
The Blue Jackets have two first-round draft picks—No. 3 and No. 22–giving the club an opportunity to solidify their core in a deep first round.
Today we're looking at Mikhail Gulyayev.
The 18-year-old, left-shot, defenseman from Russia played across a couple of leagues and teams in 2022-23. In 13 games for the KHL's Avangard Omsk, he had one point (an assist). In 12 games for the VHL's Omskie Krylia, he had four points (all assists).
In 22 games for the MHL's Omskie Yastreby, Gulyayev had 25 points (two goals, 23 assists), leading all defensemen with 1.14 points per game in the league. He had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 17 playoff games.
In The Athletic from May 30, Corey Pronman ranked Gulyayev 30th:
Gulyayev was a point-per-game player in Russia's junior league, being a major part of a top junior club. He also looked good in time versus men at the VHL and KHL levels. He had four points in three games with Russia's U18 team this season. He was a leading player and ran the top power play for Russia's U18 team at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky.
Gulyayev has obvious offensive talents as he has clear NHL skating, hands and vision. Gulyayev is a highly-intelligent and creative puck-mover and can make tough plays at a quick pace. He creates a lot of controlled exits and entries, he projects to run power plays at higher levels and be a point producer versus men. Due to his size, how well he’ll defend in the NHL will be a question. I've seen worse defenders, and with his great skating he should be able to hold up at higher levels even with his slight frame, but it will be a question he will have to answer repeatedly. I see a regular NHL defenseman who will put up points, but may need to be used in a specific manner by his coach.
In The Athletic's mock draft from May 23, Pronman had Gulyayev to Columbus at 22. As Pronman noted, Gulyayev would add to Columbus' growing collection of notable defensive prospects. In the latest mock draft from June 1, he also listed Gulyayev as a possibility at 30th in the draft as well as Gavin Brindley, another player we've covered.
From May 1, The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked Gulyayev 22nd and had this note as part of a larger analysis:
If he can become a second-pairing offensively inclined defenceman at even strength and a PP1 QB, that has major value in the second half of the first round. I think there’s a small chance he becomes a star or close with the right development, too.
Though considered undersized at 5-foot-10, 170 lbs, Gulyayev does play with an edge and he's a notable playmaker and skater.
Mikhail Gulyayev continues to wow me. This kid looks like the Russian Makar. Just an amazing skater, and he can defend as well. He is an absolute delight to watch 3-on-3, as you will see in this recent OT rush in the MHL. pic.twitter.com/th7yjj5pqC— Grant McCagg (@grantmccagg) January 12, 2023
NHL Draft Pros below talks about his traits as an up-and-comer in the NHL. Bulking up, improving his defensive play, and winning puck battles were some of the areas he could improve in.
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