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First Round Targets: GRIGORI DENISENKO

Grigori Denisenko is a Russian-born left-winger who’s made his name at international tournaments, playing on the Russian top line. Denisenko is a small guy, standing only at 5’10”, but is very fast to make up for his lack of size.

His defensive game needs some work, but if he can figure it out, he has the potential to be a very dangerous top-6 winger in the NHL.

NHL CS RANKING

Projected to go 7th among European skaters.

THE STATS

From EliteProspects.com

As a U16 and U17 player, Denisenko was putting up crazy amounts of points in Russia. He cooled off a bit as he played with older players, but was still an active contributor to the Loko Yaroslavl team of the MHL.

His regular season play is great, but his playoff performance is perhaps most encouraging. It shows consistency in his production and that he won’t disappear during big games. He’s yet to play in the KHL, but with his point totals, it’s only a matter of time until he gets a shot.

Internationally, Denisenko was a big part of Russa’s U17 team in 2016-17 and the U18 team in 2017-18. He was their top-line winger and contributed a ton of offense to the team.

THE EYE TEST

The first thing you’ll notice about Denisenko is that he’s fast. He’s not necessarily strong on his skates, but he can take off on the rush and find open ice. Once he gets the puck in that open ice, he makes his opponents pay. His stick handling and vision keep him one step ahead of the opposition and help him find his teammates. He’s got an accurate shot, but it’s not very strong. As he develops more upper-body strength, that will come.

The scary part of Denisenko’s game is his defensive play. He’s lazy on the back check and is often caught looking instead of actively being part of the defensive zone play. The good thing about this is it’s something that can be taught and developed.

IS HE A MOTOR CITY MATCH?

The league is trending towards speed and Denisenko definitely has that. He’d be a great fit in Detroit, especially if they have to deal some wingers like Gustav Nyquist or Andreas Athanasiou to clear some roster space. He’s still a few years away from the NHL as his game needs to develop a little more, either in the KHL or the AHL.

The one thing that will drive the Wings mad is his defensive game. We see how Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha have been handled because of their perceived laziness on the back-end. I could see similar issues with Denisenko.

Alas, I don’t see a scenario where he lands in Detroit’s lap at the draft. He won’t go high enough for them to take him at 6 and he’ll likely be gone by the time they draft at 30. If he somehow slips to the second round, I could see the Wings taking a shot at him. They’ve done it on Russians in the past.


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