Keeping up with the Pups: Vladislav Kotkov off to good start

The Sharks’ other Russian prospect in the QMJHL is pretty good too.

Last season, a 17-year-old Vladislav Kotkov came over to North America and was able to have a successful rookie season, scoring 21 goals and 49 points; not bad for someone who’s adjusting to a new country, culture and style of play. Despite that, he went undrafted over the summer, and the Sharks were able to sign the forward in free agency.

To start the season, it’s his fellow countryman and Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich who is stealing the headlines right now in the QMJHL, but Kotkov is putting together a solid start to his second year. With ten goals and 20 points in 19 games, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens depend heavily on Kotkov to help generate offense. His efforts have helped launch the Saguenéens to seventh overall in the QMJHL standings and fifth in the Eastern Conference.

However, one statistic stands out in his breakout season, and that’s his shooting percentage. Shooting at nearly 23 percent, Kotkov’s shooting percentage has him ninth among forwards with over 18 games played, which explains how he’s already outperforming his stats from last year, but says little about the potential sustainability of this early-season success.

Also, he’s making sure he uses his size around the net, and it paints a picture of what his potential role could become in the National Hockey League. At 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, Kotkov is a big body, and he’s using his frame this season to shoot pucks from close range like a prototypical power forward, as shown on the heat map below (courtesy of Prospect Stats).

With a high shooting percentage, Kotkov is facing the possibility of regression to what he’s previously shown. Things look good with Kotkov being an older member of the squad, since older skilled players tend to dominate in juniors. Combine with his size and no longer adjusting to North American ice, Kotkov may to continue to trend upward — or at the very least, maintain.

One of his stellar games came against the Saint John Sea Dogs where Kotkov tallied a hat trick, using his skill as well as his size. On the first goal, he rushed to the net for wraparound. Then on the third, he showed some flash, curling and dragging to get the hat trick.

Despite being his excellent start, Kotkov didn’t get the call to represent Russia in the Canada-Russia series, so perhaps this places a chip on the teenager’s shoulder for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, Kotkov will be 19 in January, so he has one more year of World Junior eligibility. A strong finish to this season partnered with another fast start next year and his name will be hard to ignore for Team Russia.

Chekhovich and Kotkov have Doug Wilson sitting pretty with two potential Russians that could turn into late-round and undrafted gems. It’s early to say that what he can turn out be, but it doesn’t hurt to get excited to see leaps that Kotkov is taking.