With the 48th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Sharks have selected Russian defenseman Artemi Kniazev (also transliterated as Knyazev) out of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL. Kniazev is five-foot-11, 176 pounds, and shoots left.
Kniazev was fourth among draft-eligible QMJHL players in primary points per 60 minutes. Kniazev recorded 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 55 regular-season games with the Saguenéens; in two playoff games, he recorded two assists.
According to Curtis Pashelka, Kniazev said that his first season in North America “wasn’t perfect” but overall was not bad considering the adjustment.
Kniazev was projected to be selected anywhere between the 46th and the 112th picks. NHL Central Scouting ranked him 41st among North American skaters, ISS Hockey ranked him 46th overall, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie ranked him 54th.
Emmanuel Perry did not rank Kniazev within the second round; Perry listed Finland’s Mikko Kokkonen as the best available defender at the 48th spot. Perry predicts Kniazev will have a 23.8% chance of making the NHL. However, Sheng reports that the Sharks rated Kniazev as a first-round talent.
Back in 2017, ISS Hockey wrote that Kniazev was a two-way defenseman with good passing and “confidence in his mobility” prior to his appearance in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
This year, Future Considerations called him an “offensive defenseman” and also mentioned his skating skills.
Our colleague Sheng Peng gives us an excerpt from the HockeyProspect.com preview for Kniazev:
From @scoutingservice draft preview: Blueliner Artemi Kniazev is "very active on the back end...likes to use his feet to skate the puck out of his zone & create some offense...Often looks like a 4th forward on the ice."— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) June 22, 2019
Sound familiar, Sharks fans?
These descriptions make him sound like a smaller Brent Burns; Kniazev himself lists Erik Karlsson as his favorite player.
Before coming to the QMJHL, Kniazev spent a season in Russia’s under-20 professional league, and recorded four goals and three assists for seven total points in 39 games.
The Sharks originally had the 41st pick, received in the Justin Braun trade with Philadelphia, but traded the pick to the Vegas Golden Knights who selected defender Kaedan Korczack. The Sharks also received the 82nd overall pick from the Knights, which they then traded to get the 55th pick (Dillon Hamaliuk).