In March of 2015, not very many North American hockey fans recognized the name Nikita Soshnikov. Only one year later, Soshnikov has become one of the most well-known prospects in the Leafs organization. Though his first North American season was not magnificent (points wise), Soshnikov certainly impressed upper management last season. His skill set makes him an exciting player to watch, and he became a fan favourite in his brief 11-game NHL stint last season. So, what exactly should we be expecting from 22-year-old Soshnikov in the upcoming season? What is he capable of producing, and what is his ceiling?
Coming in at number 10 in our TLN Top 20 feature is our very own Russian rocket, Nikita Soshnikov.
|Jeff||Ryan H.||Shawn||Ryan F.||Adam||Dom||Jess||Katy||Readers|
Soshnikov was ranked at number 13 in our 2015 series.
|RW||Nizhny Tagil, RUS||5’11||183||L||Toronto Marlies||UFA (2015)|
|2015-16||22||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||11||2||3||5||37.27||6||-4|
|pGPSn||pGPSs||pGPS%||pGPS PPG||pGPS PP82||pGPSr|
|670 (2/18)||126 (3/18)||18.8% (16/18)||0.38 (16/18)||31.02 (16/18)||7.11 (16/18)|
- pGPSn: The number of matches between the subject and the player-seasons (one season by a single player, i.e, John Tavares 2008 OHL) in the historical sample.
- pGPSs: The number of statistical matches that became NHL regulars. This is determined by playing 200 NHL games.
- pGPS%: Simply s divided by n, this is the percentage of statistical matches that successfully became NHL players.
- pGPS PPG: The NHL points per game of successful matches.
- pGPS P82: The same as pGPS PPG, but stretched over 82 games.
- pGPSr: A bit of a hybrid number, this pGPS Rating combines the percentage and points per game to produce a number that includes both likelihood of success and potential upside.
Based on the success of his historical comparables, Soshnikov is projected to become a third line forward.
To learn more about the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System, check out this post.
THE EYE TEST
Soshnikov plays a quick, skilled game as a smaller forward. He works hard in all areas of the ice and does not shy away from physical play, despite his size. Soshnikov is a very exciting player to watch; he can be flashy at times and is very energetic on the ice. He is able to control and protect the puck very well and utilizes his speed to quickly move past opponents. Soshnikov is also excellent at driving offence, particularly through his impressive shot generation. He is exceptional on the penalty kill and was often seen headlining the Marlies penalty kill last season.
AS SEEN ON TV
Highlights start around the 0:25 mark.
Soshnikov, an undrafted NHL forward, began his career in Russia. He played in the MHL (the Russian junior league) in his teen years, scoring at an above point-per-game pace in his last season (2012-13). Soshnikov made the jump to the KHL midway through the 2013-14 season, playing for Atlant Mytishchi and scoring 5 points in 33 games. He followed his not overly-impressive KHL debut with an eye-catching sophomore season, scoring 32 points in 57 games on an Atlant team that did not qualify for the playoffs. Soshnikov signed with the Leafs in March of 2015.
Soshnikov certainly impressed Leafs management last year, taking in 11 NHL games in his first North American hockey season. He also scored 28 points in 52 AHL games (2015-16).
Soshnikov had a good rookie season in the AHL, and I expect his point totals to increase next season. I do not believe that Soshnikov will be able to make the Leafs out of camp this year, though. Another year of AHL hockey, while combined with a few call-ups here and there, will be the best option for Soshnikov. His consistent work effort is a strong point in his game, and I’m sure the Leafs would like to see improvements in both Soshnikov’s point totals and his on-ice finishing ability.
Soshnikov played on the Marlies makeshift fourth line for the majority of the season, alongside Frederik Gauthier and Rich Clune. It is pretty remarkable to see what Soshnikov was able to achieve on a line with two players who are not typically known for their offensive abilities. One has to wonder what exactly Soshnikov would be able to achieve if consistently placed on a line with more skilled players, NHL-level talent or even a mix of different skill sets. The Soshnikov/Gauthier/Clune line was effective in that Gauthier/Clune were able to retrieve the puck and pass to Soshnikov, who dominated against the opponent’s fourth lines.
I look forward to seeing how Soshnikov’s game will improve in a year’s time. I do truly believe Soshnikov will be able to make the jump to the NHL in a couple of years or so, as well. I would project him to be a third line, skilled, power forward with good offensive capability. At his ceiling, Soshnikov could be a play-driving, top 6 NHL forward. For now, a few more seasons in the AHL will help Soshnikov round out his game and develop to his full potential.
THE RANKINGS SO FAR
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #11 Jeremy Bracco
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #12 Brendan Leipsic
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #13 Zach Hyman
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #14 Carl Grundstrom
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #15 Andrew Nielsen
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #16 Tobias Lindberg
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #17 Yegor Korshkov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #18 Adam Brooks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #19 Kasimir Kaskisuo
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #20 Garret Sparks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: 10 players who received no votes from us
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: Honourable Mentions