When Nikita Soshnikov gets the puck, good luck taking it away from him. We’ve said this a few times already this year, and we won’t stop saying it until he stops doing it. Last night, he dazzled us yet again, this time not even needing his stick to do it.
The play came on a man advantage for the Marlies. Up 4-0 and having already converted on the powerplay once, this wasn’t a vital moment for the team, but still one that they would’ve liked to capitalize on. The group set themselves up, and eventually, Stuart Percy set Soshnikov up for a one-timer. It didn’t go as planned.
As you can see, though, he was very quick to respond. Soshnikov initially appeared to be heading towards the bench to grab a new stick, but when he realized that Dan Catenacci was in a potential breakaway position, he ever so slightly altered his trajectory. In doing so, he got ahead of the Rochester forward, used his frame to protect the puck, and kicked the frozen rubber from his left foot to his right, and over to the other side. While Catenacci’s stickwork eventually tripped him up, the Russian rookie’s quick thinking meant that Sam Carrick was already carrying the puck back into the offensive zone.
Being able to make plays like this consistently can be seen as a sign that a player has higher-end upside. Other than puck protection being a difficult to learn skill that requires physical fitness and high intelligence, the whole action requires you to have the puck. If you’re protecting it often, you have it often, and if you come out on top, it’s not going to waste.
Admittedly, Soshnikov’s production has dried up a little bit over the past few weeks; in eight games this month, he has two goals and no assists. But the effort has been there; in that same time frame, he’s taken 20 shots, bringing up to 40 on the year, which trails only TJ Brennan (44) and William Nylander (51) among Marlies skaters. He’ll get his next opportunity to break out of the cold spell in a few hours, when the Marlies take on the Binghamton Senators.
Photo Courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com