The Hurricanes are without a first round pick in this draft, but the draft is still exciting for the team. They have eight picks in rounds 2-7 and will likely add a few more given their history in the past few drafts. I’ve been following the WHL closely this year for Smaht Scouting, but I’m branching out for draft coverage here at Canes Country. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at a few players that could be available around the time the Hurricanes will be selecting.
As we get closer to the draft, I’ll be exploring the team’s needs heading into the draft, doing a mock draft, and possibly more. It’s an exciting time, even without a first round pick. This draft class represents the possible future of the team, and even though it may be a “weaker” draft according to some, there are some gems to be found. This week, I’m profiling Alexander Pelevin from Russia.
Pelevin’s Style of Play
Pelevin isn’t the biggest player on the ice, so he has to compensate with strong skating speed and physical play. That’s how he makes an impact when he’s on the ice. Pelevin is quick and can dart around the defensive zone with relative ease. His stride isn’t long, but he constantly keeps his feet moving and makes his way around the defensive zone quickly. When I watch Pelevin, I see a stay at home defenseman that’s atypical of what we would normally consider “stay at home.” He’s more of a new school stay at home defender, one that plays with pace and the ability to move the puck.
In today’s NHL, you not only have to keep up with the pace of play, you also have to be able to carry the puck in transition. Pelevin has the pace of play handled well with his skating ability. The puck playing is currently a work in progress. I see flashes of strong play with the puck a handful of times in each game that I’ve watched, but for the most part, Pelevin handles the puck like a live grenade. As soon as there’s a bit of pressure coming from the opposition, Pelevin will get rid of the puck as quickly as possible. Sure, sometimes he’ll find a teammate, but often, he turns the puck over, moves the puck up the ice to nobody, or fires the puck into a shin pad in the offensive zone.
It’s a bit frustrating, but then there are times where Pelevin makes a nice play in the defensive zone to shift to the backhand and create enough space to make a pass and get the puck out of trouble. These little moments make me see more of the potential in Pelevin’s game. It’s clear that his puck playing is raw, but could be good with some refinement.
Pelevin isn’t the biggest player, but he uses his physicality to make zone entries difficult for the opposition. He’ll stand someone up at the blue line, seal a play off along the boards or hit someone behind the net to disrupt the play. This is when I find Pelevin to be at his best defensively. This clip shows how Pelevin can throw his weight around and disrupt a zone entry. It’s in a playoff game in the Russian U20 league, the MHL.
Watching some Alexander Pelevin for a Canes Country profile and came across this gem of a hit. He takes the forward out of the play completely and does it without getting himself too out of position. pic.twitter.com/7cOcXwR42O— Matthew Somma (@Mattsomma12) June 15, 2022
It’s a nice play and is pretty encouraging to see. When you think of a 5-foot-11 defenseman that’s barely 170 pounds, you don’t think of that player being a physical player. Pelevin is a strong physical player, defying the expectations of normal players his size. I wouldn’t say he’s a unicorn, because other smaller defenders play like him, but he’s definitely not the norm.
I’m waiting to see what Pelevin can bring offensively. So far, I’m seeing a player that spends the majority of his time in a shutdown role in the defensive zone and very little time in the offensive zone. There were multiple games that I tracked where he spent 70% or more of his time in the defensive zone. Typically, it was a 65-25-10 split between the defensive, neutral and offensive zones, respectively.
Now, that’s not a bad thing. Pelevin plays a strong defensive game and can take away the puck from a player in close. He’s not the strongest player but will make sure that he times his stick lifts perfectly to prevent a pass in close. He’ll push and shove in order to get players out of a screening position and will battle to get his stick on a pass before it connects. This is where I see Pelevin’s hockey sense start to appear. He’s able to anticipate plays at a high level and react to them quickly, giving him an advantage over his opposition.
Pelevin is a player with a lot of untapped potential. He has the skating, physical play and smarts in the defensive zone in order to play at the NHL level, but the biggest question is his upside. Pelevin has shown flashes of high-end play in the games that I’ve watched, but nothing on a consistent basis. Right now, he’s a safe, stay at home defenseman with the potential to play on your third pairing in time. If he’s developed properly, I could see a top penalty killer with some offensive potential.
I don’t think that Pelevin will be a dominant offensive presence, but the hope for a team drafting him will be that he can move the puck in transition and keep the play going. Is he a fit for the Carolina Hurricanes’ system? Possibly. With the pace that he plays at, I could see it working. Pelevin’s overall upside makes me question whether or not he’ll be a possibility for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes currently have Jesper Sellgren, Ronan Seeley, Alexander Nikishin, Dom Fensore and Cade Webber on the left side in their prospect depth chart. That’s plenty of depth, but with Pelevin, you have the benefit of holding his rights for an indefinite period of time. They never truly expire since there’s no sort of agreement between the NHL and KHL, so Pelevin could sign with the Hurricanes when he’s 25 if that’s how long it takes for him to reach his ceiling.
There’s also the benefit of the KHL still being a strong league even with the vast majority of foreign players departing over the course of the past year. Pelevin might be a safer pick for the Hurricanes. There’s a reasonable chance that he becomes an NHL player and has a fairly long career. To me, he seems like a player that Ron Francis would be inclined to select, but one that the current regime wouldn’t. Pelevin is a low risk pick and if a defender such as Mats Lindgren is available, I feel that the Hurricanes would prefer him over a player like Pelevin.
This is the first of four or five draft profiles that I’ll be writing in the weeks leading up to the draft. If there are specific players that you’d like for me to target, leave a comment and I’ll include that player in my weekly Twitter poll for that week’s profile. That’s right, you all can vote on which player you’d like to know more about each week. I’ll be tweeting the poll out on CanesProspects on Twitter.