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Maybe Later: Bulat Shafigullin

Listen, I’m not going to pretend that I spent a whole lot time scouting the Russian leagues all season. There are some really good great people who do that, and I yield to their expertise as much as possible. I will tell you that looking at the stats across all draft eligible players, here’s a guy who really stood out and as far as I can tell is as worthy of a mid to late round draft pick as anyone else.

Who Is Bulat Shafigullin?

Bulat is a 6’0 (165lb) forward, born December 29, 1999. He shoots left and has been playing the past couple seasons for Reaktor Nizhekamsk in the Russian Junior league.

This year Bulat earned 17 games in the KHL for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. He hasn’t represented Russia in any international tournaments and that’s probably why he hasn’t been discussed much.

Where is Bulat Ranked? 

Yeah, he really isn’t. Steve Kournianos put him 210th on his top 500 list, but there hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to this guy.

What the Numbers Say About Shafigullin

There’s going to be eyes drawn to that really low output in the KHL and it’s worth remembering that this is an 18 year old kid getting a taste of the one what can comfortably be acknowledged as one of the top three leagues in the world. It’s also safe to say he probably wasn’t getting more than ten minutes a game.

This should really make it clear where the love for Shafigullin is coming from. His NHL equivalency is top ten of all draft eligibles. Notably it’s better than Filip Zadina, who is projected to go third overall.

Additionally, Shafigullin’s goal involvement percentage is the highest of any non-Minnesota High School draft eligible. He also has one of the highest points per game totals, again behind the Minnesota High School kids and not many others. Some quality of competition factors need to be considered, but considering the MHL is a feeder league for the KHL, they aren’t producing garbage.

The Eye Test

What’s Been Written About Bulat

Much like rankings, there isn’t a whole lot out there, so here’s a quick discussion I had about Bulat with @Scouching of Dobber Prospects who helped me fill in some of the blanks on Shafigullin…

Additionally here are some thoughts from a Shafigullin write-up on Last Word on Hockey: 

Shafigullin is a natural sniper. He is gifted with an excellent wrist shot, and very good snapshot. He varies his release points which can fool goaltenders. Shafigullin also has an excellent one-timer. He has very good hockey sense and the knack for finding open spaces on the ice. Shafigullin also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. He can beat goalies on a breakaway. He also has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections, and bang in rebounds in tight. Shafigullin is not afraid to go to the net to score.

Why The Leafs Should Draft Bulat Shafigullin

The Leafs certainly haven’t been shy about Russia in recent years. Starting with bringing in Nikita Soshnikov as a free agent, the Leafs have followed up with Yegor Korshkov, Vladislav Kara, and Nikolai Chebykin in the draft, and added Nikita Zaitsev and Igor Ozhiganov through free agency. The could have potentially been “Hunter moves” but that doesn’t change the fact that the Leafs did have a scouting presence in Russia this season and they likely know their stuff on this kid and if he’ll be a fit.

Shafigullin is 100% a swing for the fences pick. If you can’t see him fitting into the Leafs top six, you probably don’t want to go through the trouble of bringing him over from Russia. On the other hand, there are no shortage of bad local players that won’t be offered pro contracts from the Leafs either, and they didn’t put up points in the MHL at a historically high points per game rate.

The criticisms of Bulat paint the picture of him being a one dimensional offensive player. The thing is, if you are only going to have one dimension, that’s the one to have, and at 18 it’s to early to say that he can’t learn other elements of the game.

A patient GM will wait to see if they can snag Shafigullin in the sixth or seventh round, but personally I’d call his name in the fourth or fifth round out of fear of missing out on a potential top six forward for the cheapest possible price.

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