The first player signed from an NHL team's draft class in any given year isn't typically a seventh-round pick. But the Vancouver Canucks have liked what they've seen from Kirill Kudryavtsev, who they selected 208th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, and have signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract.
"Kirill has had a good season so far and our development team has been happy with his progress in the OHL," said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin in a press release. "Our group looks forward to the opportunity to continue to work with him and get him ready for a pro career."
The 6'0" left-shot defenceman has 45 points in 60 games this season, a step up from the 39 points in 68 games he had in his draft year. While his plus/minus is minus-15, it should be noted that his Soo Greyhounds team is near the bottom of the OHL standings — all but one Greyhounds player this season is a minus player and it's not a proper reflection of Kudryavtsev's game.
Getting Kudryavtsev in the seventh round represented good value for the Canucks, as several independent scouting services projected him to go in the third or fourth round. Scouts praised his intelligent, well-rounded game, which leans heavily into the offensive end.
“One of the smartest activators in the draft class, Kudryavtsev’s upside comes from both supporting the offence and creating it,” reads his Elite Prospects scouting report. “The give-and-go from the point features heavily in his game, often used to create a shot for himself or a set-up a teammate across the slot.”
Kudryavtsev has great speed and hands to match, making for some exciting moments when he jumps up in the rush.
The question marks for Kudryavtsev, as they frequently are for young offensive defencemen, are on the defensive side of the ice. It's not a major weakness in the OHL, where he plays sound positional defence and has been a consistent penalty killer for the Greyhounds, but it's an area he'll need to improve in order to make the NHL.
The issue for Kudryavtsev is one of pace — not the speed at which he plays, but the speed at which he processes the game. He's too often reactive rather than proactive, which could become a significant issue as the pace of play increases at higher levels.
“Kudryavtsev is slow to react to just about everything,” said Elite Prospects’ Mitch Brown in a scouting report in his draft year. “He’s late on pivots, his check, pinches, and late to identify passing lanes.”
If he can continue to adapt to the pace of play, however, the Canucks could have a very nice hidden gem on their hands. Even just getting a player worthy of an entry-level contract is a nice find in the seventh round.
Kudryavtsev impressed in his first time in a Canucks jersey, as he was quietly one of the Canucks' best players at the 2022 Young Stars Classic. While never flashy, Kudryavtsev looked calm and polished, particularly on retrievals and breakouts, despite being one of the youngest players on the ice.
There was little opportunity to worry about Kudryavtsev's defensive game because he so rarely spent time in his own zone. It seems likely that such a strong performance at his first training camp with the Canucks, combined with a solid post-draft season, played a role in him so quickly signing his entry-level contract.
Another factor is his agent, Dan Milstein, who now has five players signed to Canucks contracts: Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, Vitali Kravtsov, Danila Klimovich, and now Kudryavtsev.
The fact that Kudryavtsev moved to Canada to play in the OHL for his draft year speaks to his desire to play in the NHL. Still, that's likely at least another year away from happening, as he'll most likely be returning to the OHL with the Greyhounds next season, and will probably need seasoning in the AHL as well.