After debuting with Nikolai Chebykin at #20 yesterday, our #19 prospect, Vladimir Bobylyov (his name is also written “Bobylev” in North America), is the second Russian 2016 draft pick in as many days to be profiled in the TLN Top 20 Prospects Ranking.
Bobylyov fit a “traditional scouting” narrative last year that soured many Leafs fans as perhaps the most noticeable thing about him would be his 6’2″, 203 lb frame. Of the Leafs’ eleven draft picks in that draft, eight of them were 6’2” or taller. A fifth round pick, Bobylyov was unranked last in our rankings year, but he did make the Honourable Mentions list.
Adam Laskaris: 18
Ryan Fancey: 11
Scott Maxwell: 15
Evan Presement: 15
Hayley Hendren: 15
Ryan Hobart /// Megan Kim /// Bobby Cappuccino /// Brayden Engel /// Jon Steitzer /// Dylan Fremlin /// Shawn Reis: Unranked
Overage prospects with pro size are great in theory, but can be incredibly hit-or-miss, and Bobylyov’s career to date has been exactly that. A pretty good skater for 6’2” and 203 lbs, he’s excelled with the Victoria Royals of the WHL, but struggled on other teams, including Spartak Moscow, the KHL club he signed with last summer.
Although he played for the Vancouver Giants in his WHL rookie year, his best results have been in the last two seasons while he was with the Royals, including the year he was drafted by the Leafs in the fifth round.
Much like our #20 prospect, Nikolai Chebykin, Bobylyov did not impress in his first year of draft eligibility; but he was snapped up by the Leafs after hitting nearly a point per game in 2015-16. He put up solid numbers in two seasons with the Victoria Royals of the WHL, but he hasn’t shown as much promise in his other ventures.
His rookie WHL season was spent with the Vancouver Giants, where he only averaged 0.17 points in 52 games, but still managed to accrue 59 penalty minutes. After a 67-point season with the Royals in 2015-16, and after being drafted by the Leafs in the fifth round, he left the W to play in the KHL. Bobylyov lasted 20 games with Spartak Moscow (recording only 3 points in limited minutes) before being demoted to the VHL, and then he returned to Canada in December to finish out the year in Victoria.
The Eye Test
It’s a shame Jack Walker is no longer in the Leafs’ system, since Bobylyov had some great chemistry with his Victoria winger. In fact, that’s probably one of the most common things that’s been said about Bobylyov, besides comments on his size–that he and Walker played well together. Bobylyov still has another year in the WHL, but Walker already aged out, so it will be interesting to see how Bobylyov does without him.
A big, tough forward, Bobylyov has shown he’s not afraid to get physical in junior, and his skating isn’t holding him back, which can happen a lot with larger players. The raw skill is there, too, but since he was severely underused in the KHL, it’s hard to get a good picture of how well he can play above a junior level (where he’s definitely capable of improving on his current numbers).
Scouting reports appear mostly focused on his size and relative skating ability, and although as Jeremy Crowe pointed out last year, his chances of making the NHL are not very high, Bobylyov’s current skill gives him a higher ceiling than you might expect, and he certainly would not be the first fifth-round big guy to make it full-time in the NHL.
As Seen on TV
Here’s a look at his ability to stay after the rebound (there’s quite a few moments like this on his reel).
And if you were looking for something a little more flashy, this might be that. Bobylyov brings the puck all the way from his own zone (past four defenders), before sliding the it across to a teammate and stopping in the crease for the easy tap-in.
When we first told you about this guy, his highlight videos mainly consisted of fights. And while that is no longer the case, he still went a few bouts in the WHL last season, including this one:
Check out more of his 2016-17 highlights from SEER Video:
It’s looking likely that Bobylyov will finish out his junior eligibility by spending 2017-18 with the Victoria Royals, where he’s had the most success. Outside factors and extenuating circumstances aside, this might not be the best thing for his development, as he’s one of those players that has already shown us what he can do at a junior level. But if the Leafs don’t sign him and Spartak doesn’t bring him back to Russia, it’s nice that he’ll have another full season in Victoria to impress other clubs who might have an interest when if he becomes a free agent next summer.
Before they make any long-term decisions, the Leafs’ front office would probably want to see him face more of a challenge than he will as an over-ager in the WHL. But will they want to use up one of their precious few remaining SPCs on trying him out with the Marlies? The argument in favor of that route would be that his rights expire next summer, which means they’re running out of time to make a decision on whether or not to sign the fifth-round draft pick. The argument against? Check out some of the other names in the Leafs’ system, and then weigh the pros and cons of using a final contract spot on a big over-ager whose resume highlights are two pretty good seasons in the WHL. If you need a refresher on his competition, look no further than the upcoming posts in our Top 20 series (or the opening night roster).
Although his time in the KHL was not particularly successful on paper, that taste of what awaits him after junior hockey could have been just the boost he needed to start preparing for the big leagues. Only averaging 6-7 minutes a game over an entire season is not usually a good recipe for player development, so it may be for the best that Bobylyov returned to Victoria to finish out last season. And if we learned anything from Mitch Marner, it’s safe to say an extra year in junior isn’t always the worst thing.
It’s encouraging, regardless, that Bobylyov still has another full season before the Leafs have to make a decision on him. And if he continues to develop his two-way game and improve on his past WHL performance, he has a chance to become more than just one of many, many draft picks.