It took awhile, but the draft finally began to wind down into the seventh round, and the San Jose Sharks had just one pick remaining. At 199 overall, the Sharks drafted their third and final defender, Evgenii Kashnikov, from the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
There’s a lot about Kashnikov that can be summed up as ... well ... interesting? He has a large frame, standing at 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds. He’s going into his age-19 season, with a December 25 birthday. He can play both defense and forward, a rarity in the NHL, but something the Sharks are familiar with, thanks to Brent Burns.
Of course, players with this kind of flexibility are generally one of two things: great scorers, or face-punchers.
In 2019-20, the Russian skater played 59 games with the Olympiques, scoring two goals and five assists, taking 30 minutes of penalties. The delay in the start to the QMJHL season allowed Kashnikov to be loaned to Russian juniors, playing for AKM Novomoskovsk in the MHL. In 22 games, he split 10 points evenly between goals and assists, serving 22 penalty minutes. Surprisingly, those 10 points ranked seventh on the team while his five goals and assists ranked eighth and tenth, respectively.
Kashnikov was limited to just eight of the 31 games the Olympiques played when the QMJHL returned in 2021, adding one goal, four assists and 11 PIMs, as well as going scoreless over four playoff games.
Is he a face-puncher? Almost certainly. Can he score aside from that? A little bit.
Last summer, The Hockey Writers had him among Olympiques players to keep an eye on, saying:
Another rookie in the 2019-20 season, Yevgeni Kashnikov didn’t explode right out of the gate as [Zach] Dean did but watch for him to take a big step forward this season with his freshman campaign under his belt. He finished the season two goals, five assists and seven points in 59 games.
The left-handed defenseman was the 12th-overall pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft and, like Dean, is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. He likely won’t be a guy who lights up the scoreboard on a nightly basis, but he plays well above his age in his own zone, using his big, 6-foot-4 frame to force forwards to the outside and interrupt the offensive attacks coming his way.
I haven’t been confident in the Doug Wilson method of selecting defenders and I don’t think this selection does much to assuage that feeling.