The Minnesota Wild need more prospects to improve their consistency and special teams, which would allow them to play at their best for a full 60 minutes. That’s where Khusnutdinov comes in. In late December, The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported that Khusnutdinov will be coming to play in North America in 2024-25. So, let’s look at what we can expect from him.
Marco Rossi and Joel Eriksson Ek will be Minnesota’s top two centers, relieving the pressure on Khusnutdinov. He doesn’t have to be a savior upon arriving in St. Paul. However, Khusnutdinov has the ingredients to improve the team’s scoring depth and special teams.
Khusnutdinov should immediately play third-line minutes with a mix of Ryan Hartman, Freddy Gaudreau, Marcus Johansson, and Marcus Foligno. If the Wild extend Connor Dewar (RFA) and Brandon Duhaime (UFA), expect Khusnutdinov to also get minutes with them.
Recently, we’ve learned that the Wild lack depth scoring when injuries occur. Khusnutdinov had a down year in the KHL, but experts still project him to become a top-six contributor thanks to his unique blend of speed and skill. Even in a down season, Khusnutdinov has shown his potential as a high-end assist machine. Remind you of anyone? Khusnutdiov is like Mats Zuccarello, but he’s a center.
Khusnutdinov is producing similar assist numbers to Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Kirill Kaprizov, Artemi Panarin, and Pavel Buchnevich in the KHL, which shows that he deserves the lofty Zuccarello comparison. However, Khusnutdinov is not a perimeter. He has an Eriksson Ek-level grittiness that will make him more valuable to the Wild.
The Wild will likely give Khusnutdinov the responsibility of quarterbacking the second power-play unit and play penalty-killing minutes. Ideally, Eriksson Ek should be a valuable mentor for Khusnutdinov, helping him become a penalty-killing force. Khusnutdinov should be able to replace Dewar or Duhaime on the penalty kill if Guerin chooses not to extend them.
Minnesota should play Khusnutdinov with a goal-scorer on the power play because he’s not a sniper. The Wild should have a shooting presence on both power-play units. Using Rossi, Zuccarello, and Kaprizov as the snipers should make for an elite powerplay trio with Hartman as the net-front presence. Brock Faber takes over as the defenseman.
Khusnutdinov partners with Matt Boldy, Johansson, and Eriksson Ek on the next unit to create a lethal threat. Eriksson Ek and Boldy are going to switch roles. Boldy gets to play like Eriksson Ek as the net-front presence, allowing him to also be lethal from behind the net. Eriksson Ek will be set up in the slot, with Khusnutdinov and Johansson making plays and zone entries.
Khusnutdinov's transition to North America will present opportunities and challenges. Similar to Kaprizov, he will need time to adjust to speaking English. Adapting to the smaller ice rink will also be a significant adjustment. However, much like Faber, he seems prepared and eager to take on these challenges. Khusnutdinov has a resilient mindset that suits his success in his new environment.
Having Kaprizov as a mentor will ease Khusnutdinov's transition to North America. From his own experiences as a rookie transitioning to the NHL from Russia, Kaprizov can provide Khusnutdinov with valuable guidance. Offering comfort and confidence. That should build a bond and set the stage for a new and meaningful friendship based on shared experiences.
The potential for Khusnutdinov and Kaprizov to play together during line juggling is intriguing. Much like the chemistry displayed by Kaprizov and Zuccarello, it's evident that the dynamic between Kaprizov and Khusnutdinov holds similar promise. While acknowledging Rossi's abilities, it would be hard to split Kaprizov and Kusnutdinov if line adjustments result in them reaching another level together.
Kaprizov and Khusnutdinov's chemistry could improve the team's performance and create an exciting prospect for fans and the coaching staff. The NHL will witness a new adoring friendship. Danila Yurov has yet to arrive, but the potential trio sounds exciting.
Yurov's delayed arrival to the NHL alongside Khusnutdinov may disappoint some fans. But Khusnutdinov's arrival offers a good distraction when he can showcase his all-around skill.
Khusnutdinov's arrival will bring a bright future, proving his qualifications for a spot on a high-caliber roster. Despite the challenges he is bound to face, Khusnutdinov's presence will offer the Wild a consistent chance to triumph every night. His passion for the game and his ability to let his effort speak for itself.
In many ways, Khusnutdinov embodies the qualities that Luke Kunin couldn't fully deliver for the Wild. Khusnutdinov presents genuine first-round skill combined with unwavering grit. As he emerges, Khusnutdinov is poised to arrive and firmly establish himself. He should become a mainstay for the franchise, marking the beginning of an exciting new era.
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