Mikhail Gulyayev is a name most people are not going to be familiar with at this point so let me give you a brief introduction. He’s a skilled, undersized, offensive defensemen playing in the VHL for Omsk. He’s fast, has great acceleration, and loves to shoot the puck. He’s one of the better defensemen available in the 2023 NHL draft, expected to be a first rounder. Not many places have rankings available for the 2023 draft class yet, but he is ranked 25th by The Hockey News. He also has that elusive “top prospect eligible for” tag on his Elite Prospects page.
This article will be the first in a series I do on 2023 draft eligible players throughout the season. Here, we will break down how Gulyayev played in one of his recent games, going over some general thoughts and data that I track myself. Proper, full fledged articles on individual prospects will start coming out in the month or so leading up to the draft. Until then, we will primarily be discussing individual game performances, perhaps picking up on trends as well, as the season goes along.
The game we are going to discuss today is Gulyayev in his first meaningful contest of the season, the season opener for his MHL club. As previously mentioned, Gulyayev is currently playing in the VHL, but as the MHL season started before the VHL season, many teams, including Omsk, had some of their best young players get a warm up game or two at the MHL level. That was probably a good decision by the organization, because this game was rough.
The first five minutes or so were relatively normal. Gulyayev got a couple of shifts early on, including the first shift of the game, and he performed well. Nothing too spectacular went on, but Gulyayev was effective in transition, especially with a couple of defensive zone breakouts that he led himself. After that, it was pretty much all downhill. While Gulyayev remained an effective force in transition throughout the game, his teammates did not and the play overall got very choppy. While there was only one penalty called late in the first period, nearly half of the rest of the game would be played on special teams as players just kept taking unnecessary penalties. You could tell that this was the first game of the season for these teams. That being said, Gulyayev did record a goal and an assist so why did his performance not live up to expectations? Let’s dive into some data.
As a preamble, I need to mention that all the data I discuss in this article will be for 5 on 5 only.
We will start with Gulyayev’s possession data. While he was on the ice, his team took 15 shot attempts. Of those, four were from high or medium danger areas and four came on the rush. Gulyayev personally took two of the 15 shot attempts, both from low danger areas. He also recorded four shot assists, two of which were from high or medium danger areas. In total, he was directly involved in six of the fifteen shoot attempts his team made with him on the ice. This is reasonable. Nothing that would necessarily be indicative of a really good player, but this is just one game. Additionally, defensemen are going to be less involved in creating shots than forwards are, at least most of the time, especially at five on five.
When it comes to his passing, there is not really that much to talk about. He attempted six passes in the offensive zone, completing five of them. Of the six, two were to high or medium danger areas, both of which he completed. In order for Gulyayev to really stand out as an offensive defensemen, he is going to have to have better performances in this area either by creating more chances through sheer volume, or by creating more high and medium danger chances. Although I do not track data on the powerplay, it would also be nice to see him pass the puck more on the man advantage rather than taking low danger shot attempts.
Finally, we have to talk about Gulyayev’s transition data. This is easily the area where he succeeded the most in this game. He attempted four controlled offensive zone entries, all four of which he completed successfully. Three of these transitions came on a pass, and one he carried into the offensive zone himself. While he was on the ice, his team attempted eleven controlled offensive zone transitions, completing ten of them. This means that Gulyayev was involved in 56% of his team’s offensive zone transition attempts, and 40% of the team’s successful ones. Both of these are very solid numbers, especially for a defensemen. That being said, his defensive zone transition data is perhaps a bit more impressive.
Gulyayev attempted seven controlled defensive zone breakouts, successfully completing six of them for an 86% efficiency rate. Of the six successful breakouts, three were on passes and three came by him skating the puck out of the zone himself. His team in total attempted sixteen d-zone breakouts, successfully completing just ten of them. If you take out the transition attempts in which Gulyayev was involved, the rest of his team completed just four of nine attempts for a terrible efficiency of 44%. In total, Gulyayev was involved in 44% of his team’s d-zone breakout attempts, but what is really impressive is that he was involved in 70% of the team’s successful breakouts. To put it more simply, he was involved in less than half the attempts, but nearly three quarters of the successes.
For a more visual breakdown of his game, be sure to check out this video.