Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2019 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Matvei Guskov.
Drafted in the first round, 42nd overall in the CHL Import Draft, Russian forward Matvei Guskov joined a deep London Knights team. That team became even deeper when as a number of players who started the season in the NHL were returned to the junior clubs. As a result, it became difficult for Guskov to get a lot of quality ice time or power play minutes. This has been a common theme in London in recent years, as 17-year-old players have often struggled to find minutes. This is reflected in his stats as Guskov put up 12 goals and 30 points in 59 games. He added two goals and four points in 11 playoff games.
Guskov has represented Russia on the international stage. He put up two goals in five games at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka tournament. He also put up five points in five games at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. Guskov also played for Russia at the World Junior A Hockey Championships, putting up one goal in five tournament games. His father, Alexander Guskov, spent a number of years in the Russian Super League and later the KHL.
Matvei Guskov Scouting Report
Center — shoots Left
Born January 30th, 2001 — Nizhnekamsk, Russia
Height 6’1.5″ — Weight 182 lbs [186 cm / 83 kg]
Guskov shows a good skating stride and generates speed through the neutral zone. He gets in quick on the forecheck and can also pull away from defenders and create an odd-man rushes. Guskov has very good acceleration. If he gets a step on a defender, he can go wide and cut to the net. His agility and edgework are good, making him elusive both with and without the puck. Guskov can stand to improve his core body strength. He can be pushed around along the boards and knocked off his stride when skating with the puck. This should improve as he matures and this will also help him to drive the net and to establish his position there without the puck.
Guskov is a hard-nosed player who plays a gritty game. He loves to get in on the forecheck and create havoc for opposing defencemen. He is a good stick handler and protects the puck well, looking for the opportunity to set up a teammate. When he gets that chance, he is able to pass the puck through tight spaces. Guskov has very good vision and finds the open man. He is not the most creative player but instead makes the right plays with and without the puck. He is at his most effective in playing a north-south game, instead of moving laterally.
Guskov scores the vast majority of his goals in tight to the net, with quick hands to tip in shots and pounce on rebounds. He is quick enough to finish in tight to the goalie. He needs to improve his wrist shot and slap shot though. Guskov needs to work on having a quicker release to fool goaltenders. Added upper body strength would also help him to improve the power on his shot. Fortunately, he is willing to get to the dirty areas of the ice and make plays in tight to the net.
Guskov is good defensively. He brings his gritty game to all three zones and is willing to work down low to help contain the cycle game. Guskov backchecks effectively supporting the defence with effective back pressure. He is strong positionally and does a good job of cutting down passing and shooting lanes. His active stick creates turnovers and he can transition those into offence quickly. Guskov still needs to continue to work on his faceoff skills, as he struggled in the middle of the ice.
Projection and Comparison
Guskov is a bit of a project. He should get more minutes in London next season, but with Liam Foudy and Connor McMichael both expected to be back with the Knights again, he could find himself as the third line centre again. Given his issues in the faceoff circle, it might lead to spending some time on the wing with London.
That said, he has the vision, the defensive responsibility, and the skating ability to be very effective at centre if those faceoff skills improve. His gritty game would translate at both positions and it is unclear where his future lies. He could be an effective two-way player, capable of playing in all situations and contributing at the NHL level if he develops his offensive game. Even if that offence does not come, he is gritty enough and good enough defensively to still carve out a roll in the league. Guskov’s game is reminiscent of Ryan Kesler, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Matvei Guskov that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
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