Leading up to the Blackhawks’ 2018 development camp, The Rink will profile the Hawks’ top 10 unsigned prospects.
Next on the list at 4th is center Maxim Shalunov of CSKA.
2017–18 Team: CSKA (Russia)
Date of Birth: January 31, 1993
Place of Birth: Chelyabinsk, Russia
Weight: 216 lbs
Acquired: 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 4th round, 109th overall
Maxim Shalunov’s NHL future has been a long time coming. After time in Russia’s junior league, he gave North America a shot in 2013–14, splitting time with Rockford and Toledo in the ECHL. He saw more success in Toledo, tallying 18 goals and 16 assists in 43 games, compared to just four assists in 20 AHL games. Despite the mixed results, Shalunov returned home to Russia for 2015–16, where he has been ever since. He has developed into a big-time player in the KHL and looks to have all the tools needed to be a skilled offensive contributor in the NHL.
Shalunov is a good skater for being a big guy. His leg strength gives him a powerful stride. Shalunov is very good at changing directions quickly. He can stop on a time and cut to the middle of the ice to increase his angles. Shalunov is able to beat defenders to the outside with his speed and cut to the goal with his edgework.
Shalunov possesses a high-end shot with an excellent release and great accuracy. He can beat goaltenders with his shot from the outside as well, as he has pretty good power on his shot. Shalunov’s go-to shot is definitely his wrist shot. His shooting ability allows him to be dangerous on the power play.
Despite being a high-end offensive talent, Shalunov is also very reliable in his own end. He has been regularly relied upon to kill penalties in the KHL and has even been able to produce offense while short-handed as well.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Shalunov would be a big add for the Hawks if he comes to North America. He would finally give the team much-needed size up front, especially at the center position. It would be interesting to see how he would fit into the lineup, as he is a top-six type of player. But, with Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz seemingly holding down the top two center spots for the foreseeable future, Shalunov may need to move to the wing or play on the third line. Shalunov has also been a winger at times in his career, so he could instead slot in on the wing for a top-six opportunity. Another thing to consider is the fact Shalunov would be required to be signed to a one-year entry level contract given his age, so, if things do not go well for him in Chicago, he could be gone after one season in the NHL.
As reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic, Shalunov hopes to come to the NHL after his current KHL contract is up. The contract, a three-year deal signed prior to the 2017–18 season, will expire after the 2019–20 season, meaning Shalunov would join the Blackhawks for the 2020–21 season.
Determining Shalunov’s NHL potential is a bit tricky. On one hand, he has shown he can be a high-end offensive player in the KHL, to the point where he could be a legitimate top-six option in the NHL. On the flip side, Shalunov’s production was more or less non-existent during his time in Rockford. Obviously with the NHL being a better league than the AHL, some concerns could be had with his lack of production with Rockford. Another factor is Shalunov’s age. He will be 27 years old entering the 2020–21 season. He likely would need some time to get acclimated to the North American game, which may limit his production at the beginning of his NHL career. Considering all of the factors, Shalunov should be able to be a middle-six forward in the NHL when he comes over.
What others are saying
“Shalunov has a combination of skills and size and plays a direct style that fits the North American game. He likes to play the off-wing and likes going to the net. He is pretty effective in doing this and has the skills to protect the puck with the goal scoring ability to beat opposition goalies.”
— Hockey’s Future
“He brings a lot to the table. He’s a big kid. (He has a) great skillset and his skating has come along over the last couple of years.”
— Stan Bowman/Chicago Blackhawks General Manager