Marat Khusnutdinov of Russia during the Beijer Hockey Games between Russia and Finland on February 11, 2021 in Malmö.
Fantasy Hockey

Fantasy Hockey Feature: Marat Khusnutdinov has landed

Marat Khusnutdinov has had a successful KHL career to date. As the prospect turns his attention to the NHL, we look back at how developed to this point and what upside is left. Could he be high high-scoring forward for the Minnesota Wild? What exactly is his upside in fantasy? We will dig into those questions and more.

Khusnutdinov was drafted 37th overall by the Wild in 2020. The EP Rinkside team ranked him 48th that year, which was a similar range, though a bit earlier than the team would have taken him. Despite seeing the grit and competitiveness in his game, the team felt he lacked offensive upside. There were concerns about his inability to finish at a high level.

The team wasn’t too worried about his size, despite being only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. His competitiveness in all zones seemed to make up for that shortcoming. In the end, the team saw him as more of a third-line center. That evaluation was based on his MHL and international viewings while playing for Russia.

Since his draft season, Khusnutdinov has played 162 KHL games and put up 75 points for nearly a half point-per-game in that time. His best season was 2022-23 where he had 41 points in 63 games for SKA St. Petersburg. This season, he was loaned to HK Sochi, a much worse team and he had just 20 points in 49 games played. With the KHL season over for Khusnutdinov, he has signed his entry-level contract with the Wild and is set to debut soon.

According to the Hockey Prospecting model, Khusnutdinov has a 29% chance of being a star producer. This has trended up since his draft season, though it did peak in his draft plus one season and regressed slightly after that. His comparables in this model are Wild teammate Kirill Kaprizov, fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Martin Havlat. That is some pretty elite company and even if he came close to ending up like any of them, the Wild would be pretty happy.

In the pNHLe model run by Mason Black, Khusnutdinov peaked at a 64-point pace potential in 2022-23. With his move to Sochi, the model has him looking more like a 33-point pace player. The comparables here are far less favourable and are David PerronJakub Voracek, and Alex Formenton.

The Fantasy Hockey Life player card shows that Khusnutdinov has good coverage for hits and blocks, but doesn’t shoot that much. Indeed, Khusnutdinov only shot 1.33 times per game for Sochi in 2023-24 and that was similar to what he did in the rest of his KHL time. While his points upside might not look that great here, it is just based on his down year in Sochi.

To get a better idea of what to expect from Khusnutdinov moving forward, I reached out to colleagues who have followed him closely over the years.

Dylan Loucks who covers the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey News:

“Once his visa goes through Khusnutdinov is expected to play right away. The organization views him as a center but he is versatile and can play the wing which makes him even more valuable. He is quite skilled and plays a good two-way game. An exciting player and one the Wild are happy to have gotten signed.”

Brett Marshall from Sound the Foghorn Podcast:

“I think there is some concern for those who haven’t watched Khusnutdinov closely this year because of the dip in his production, but I’m not as concerned. 

Once he announced his intentions to come to North America last year, SKA basically kicked him to the curb and slashed his minutes before sending him to a poor team in Sochi. He ate up minutes there and found ways to produce. 

The Wild should be excited to get him in the lineup. He brings such a strong blend of speed, skill, and intelligence. He’s a guy I think you can plug in anywhere on lines two through four and he’ll make it work.

If it were me, I’d put him on the second line, even if that means he moves to the wing. Marcus Johansson and Ryan Hartman have not been so good lately, so he could slide in there with Marco Rossi and Mats Zuccarello. Now, would the Wild be comfortable running a line with 3 small players like that? For the rest of this season, I don’t see why not. 

If they decide they want him to stick at center, a line with him centring Marcus Foligno (once, or if, he returns from injury) and Ryan Hartman creates some more size, but also some speed and skill. Khusnutdinov’s defensive acumen would pair nicely with Foligno, who also excels in that area.”

As Brett stated, understanding the context of the decreased production in the KHL this season helps adjust expectations for Khusnutdinov’s future production. There is certainly room for him in the top six if he can make the transition as we think he can. There is also always the possibility that he jives with countryman Kaprizov and that would obviously be fantastic for his fantasy value.

More realistically, Khusnutdinov should be a top-six forward with a strong floor of shots and blocks. There should be considerable excitement about this player, assuming those are your expectations. He is most likely not a top-line player, though he may get turns there occasionally. If there is someone in your league who views him as a top-line player, or having that upside, you might want to sell.

You may also be interested in:
EP Rinkside 2023 NHL Prospect Pool Rankings: No. 7-ranked Minnesota Wild
EP Rinkside 2023 NHL Prospect Pool Rankings: No. 7-ranked Minnesota Wild
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Fantasy Hockey Minnesota Wild NHL KHL Marat Khusnutdinov
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