Leafs prospect poised to take a huge step in his development, playing a key role for his team this season

Published August 11, 2023 at 10:54

It's common knowledge that 1st round draft picks have the best chance of panning out as impact players in the NHL. Even in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, teams can find viable NHL options and even potentially hit on a future star, such as Jordan Kyrou (35th overall in 2016) or Brayden Point (79th overall in 2014). But, as you get beyond the first 3 rounds, it becomes harder to find players who project out as legitimate future NHLers.

The Leafs took a swing on an overage forward last summer, drafting 6'2 winger Nikita Grebyonkin/Grebenkin in the 5th round, 135th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft - a move that is looking better by the day. Grebyonkin was named the KHL's Rookie of the Year in 2022-23, leading all U20 players in points with 26 points in 45 games. He was often cast a little lower in the lineup, which did provide some softer matchups, but this year, it does not appear as though that will be the case.

Magnitogorsk Metallurg is currently in the midst of their preseason in the KHL and has cast Grebyonkin in a much more important role this season. Through 3 preseason games, Grebyonkin has been relied on as a primary scoring option on the team's top line. The now 20-year-old is even playing on the team's top power play unit, and looking sharp on that unit to boot. Take a look at this slick setup from Grebyonkin for the primary assist from Metallurg's preseason game yesterday:

Granted, this will be Grebyonkin's first full season on the top line, if he is indeed cast there by Metallurg, but the early returns on the promotion look good for the big winger. If he does excel on the top line, it's also important to note that the KHL differs greatly from the NHL, so just because he becomes a KHL star, it doesn't necessarily mean that he'll become an NHL star - so tempering our expectations is important here. However, it's tough not to get excited about the idea of perhaps ending up with a future NHL star in a former 5th round draft pick.

August 11   |   223 answers
Leafs prospect poised to take a huge step in his development, playing a key role for his team this season

Will Nikita Grebyonkin become an NHL star for the Leafs?

Yes, he looks very good so far5424.2 %
No, it's more likely that he doesn't5122.9 %
Not sure, but it's hard not to be excited8739 %
See results3113.9 %
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