Blackhawks’ prospect, Max Shalunov, helped CSKA Moskva (KHL) win the Gagarin Cup. During the 2019 playoffs, Shalunov had a respectable showing while posting 10 points (3G, 7A) in 20 games.
If you are unfamiliar with Max Shalunov, he was originally drafted by the Blackhawks in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Shalunov is a big-bodied center (6’4″ 210 lbs) who is a good playmaker and skates fairly well for his size.
He was initially brought over to North America during the 2013-14 season, where he had an unsuccessful 20 game stint with the Rockford IceHogs (AHL) as he only tallied 4 points (4A). He also had a 40 game stint with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) where he posted a more respectable stat line of 34 points (18G, 14A) in 43 games. Shalunov would then return to Russia where he has been ever since.
After winning the Gagarin Cup, Max Shalunov doesn’t have much left to accomplish in the KHL. The Blackhawks are currently in need of forward depth and Shalunov would definitely help bolster the roster. However, he may need a brief stint with the Rockford IceHogs to help him acclimate to the North American rink size, speed, and tempo again.
When Will We See Max Shalunov In the NHL?
Now, I’m sure most Blackhawks fans are thinking the same thing. When can we expect to see Shalunov in the NHL? He is currently under contract through the 2019-20 season with CSKA Moskva, so we won’t be seeing him in the NHL next season.
Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov, who is a fellow Russian, has made it known that he would like Shalunov to join the team. In May of 2018, Scott Powers of The Athletic had an interesting interview with Max Shalunov. Anisimov was actually there when Scott Powers interviewed Max Shalunov. Maybe StanBo & Co. can use Anisimov’s influence to try and persuade Shalunov to finally come over from Russia.
The most frustrating thing about drafting Russian players is the fact that there is basically no transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL. This tends to prevent Russian players from joining the NHL as soon as some teams might hope upon drafting them. It is a good thing for the Blackhawks that they may finally get their guy after the 2019-20 NHL season. However, at that time, Shalunov will already be 27 and is only eligible for a 1-year entry-level contract.
Evaluating Max Shalunov’s Career
Max Shalunov has had a relatively successful career in Russia to this point. Adding the Gagarin Cup to his list of accomplishments certainly enhances his career resume.
In case you haven’t seen him play, here’s a clip of two really impressive goals on his birthday in 2016. In this video, Shalunov showcases his skating and puckhandling abilities while flashing a deceptive shot that sneaks up on goalies.
Maybe after winning the Stanley Cup of the KHL, Max Shalunov will want to hoist the real thing. That could very well be Stan Bowman’s pitch to Shalunov next offseason. Going forward, this will definitely be a situation worth monitoring.