"The San Jose Sharks recalled defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov from their AHL affiliate San Jose Barracuda on Saturday, March 7th. Here’s what to expect from the 21-year-old."
One of the few things the San Jose Sharks don’t have to worry about this offseason is defenseman depth. They have several NHL-ready defensemen in the AHL to fill roster spots in case of injury.
This is where undrafted 21-year-old rookie defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov comes in. With Mario Ferraro day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Knyzhov has received an opportunity to show what he can do at the NHL level.
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Knyzhov is not a guy that will come into the lineup and put up points. In fact, Knyzhov has never scored more than eight points in a season throughout his recorded hockey life.
Last season in the VHL, playing for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, Knyzhov played in 46 games and only managed five points (one goal, four assists). So far this season Knyzhov has suited up for 33 games in the AHL but has only scored five points (one goal, four points).
Instead, at 6-foot-3, Knyzhov is a larger, stay-at-home defenseman who plays solid defense and uses his exceptional skating to get into position and avoid taking many penalties.
Over his 46 games in the VHL, Knyzhov only had 22 minutes of penalties and was a plus-16. In his 33 games in the AHL, Knyzhov has 22 penalty minutes and is a plus-four.
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With the Barracuda being in last place in the AHL and giving up the 10th most goals in the league, it’s very surprising and impressive that Knyzhov is a plus-four.
What to expect
After playing in his first NHL game the other night against Ottawa and his second two days later against Colorado, we can get a better idea of what to expect from Knyzhov.
In his debut, Knyzhov played third-pairing minutes, having just 11:48 of ice time. In that 11:48, Knyzhov had a takeaway, giveaway, and blocked shot. However, he had a minor penalty but also had an even plus/minus in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Using his first game for the Sharks as a model, I would expect similar ice time and stats for the rest of the games he plays. However, I wouldn’t expect Knyzhov to take a penalty every game, but I wouldn’t expect any points being racked up by the young defenseman.
Like I said earlier, Knyzhov is a larger, stay-at-home defenseman, so I would expect his plus/minus to remain close to around even — even with the Sharks being the team allowing the ninth-most goals in the league.
Also, I wouldn’t expect Knyzhov to be up very long. Once Ferraro is back to being healthy and ready to go, I expect Knyzhov to be sent back down.
But for now, let’s see what the undrafted rookie has in him. After all, it’s very impressive that an undrafted rookie is already up in the NHL at 21-years-old without at least a full season in the AHL.