Back in February, I wrote a piece about Anatoly Golyshev, declaring him to be the “World’s Best Unsigned Prospect“. He’s an undersized, super-skilled winger who has been passed over multiple times on draft day and, despite this, has become one of the KHL’s best forwards. I stand by that opinion, but since then, new information has come to my attention. As such, I have a revision to make.
The Leafs should go off the board and use a draft pick on a 21-year-old kid from Perm, Russia.
From Article 8.4 in the 2013 NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, on Draft Eligibility:
8.4 Eligibility for Claim.
(a) All Players age 18 or older are eligible for claim in the Entry Draft, except:
(i) a Player on the Reserve List of a Club, other than as a try-out;
(ii) a Player who has been claimed in two prior Entry Drafts;
(iii) a Player who previously played in the League and became a Free Agent pursuant to this Agreement;
(iv) a Player age 21 or older who: (A) has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and (B) played hockey for at least one season in North America when he was age 18, 19, or 20 and shall be eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1(d); and
(v) a Player age 22 or older who has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and shall be eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1(d).
As a 21-year-old who hasn’t been drafted and hasn’t played in North America, Golyshev is eligible for this year’s Entry Draft. It will be his last year of eligibility before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent on this continent.
Now, you might be wondering what the point of drafting a player like Golyshev would be if he’s weeks away from becoming a UFA. There are a few reasons why such a move would make sense.
For starters, there are no guarantees that other teams aren’t looking at him. The numbers paint Golyshev incredibly favourably and paint him as arguably the best Under-25 forward in the world’s second best league. If I can figure this out from the desk in my bedroom as a non-stats guy who still uses Excel and prefers to Copy and Paste rather than scrape, you have to imagine that teams with analytics departments , if not actual scouts that travel to Yekaterinburg are aware of what he’s done. You don’t want to be the team out of the running for a young talent because you felt like waiting a week.
Getting ahead of the other teams is even more advantageous if Golyshev’s initial answer is “no”. We actually have no idea if he wants to come over to North America right now. He might not even be able to, given that his current contract with Avtomobilist doesn’t expire until 18/19. But by drafting him, the Leafs buy some time where they can be the only horse in the race:
(ii) Notwithstanding any provision of Sections 8.6(a) or (b) to the contrary, if a Player drafted at age 20 or older is drafted from a club outside North America, his drafting Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for his services through and including the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft. The Club need not make a Bona Fide Offer to such Player to retain such rights.
This would buy the Leafs until the end of the 17/18 season to agree to terms. Golyshev can take his time, and so can the Leafs; maybe they’ll want to see if his performance is repeatable before signing him, though becoming 22 will decrease his ELC length from 3 years to 2 no matter what.
This still wouldn’t bring Golyshev to the end of his KHL deal, but NHL out clauses are extremely common for contracts signed by youth players. The odds that a draft-eligible player signed a four-year deal without an out clause, even if he doesn’t have NHL aspirations, are slim to none.
It’s worth nothing that Golyshev’s playoffs didn’t go quite as well as expected; the sniper had just one goal in six games. With that said, Avtomobilist were an offensive mess in the postseason, somehow winning two games against champions Metallurg Magnitogorsk in a series where the team scored just nine goals.
Realistically, the Leafs wouldn’t have to give up a massive pick to make this happen. If they feel another team has the same train of thought, it could make sense to take the plunge as early as their own fourth rounder (91st), but the team could probably exhibit some patience and get him in the 5th or 6th rounds (121/151) as well. Waiting until 178 or 181 might work too, but could also be a risk. Granted, some would say that drafting a 21-year-old is a risk of its own, but when you have twelve selections and a player this good in front of you, it would appear to be a valuable one to take.
Interestingly, Yekaterinburg may have already found their replacement for Golyshev if he departs. Ryan Lasch, who was traded to the Leafs with a 7th round pick for David Steckel in 2013, signed with the team last week after leading Andreas Johnson’s Frolunda to an SHL championship.