The 2023 version of the Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 countdown list continues with an intriguing prospect swirling with enigma.
2023 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Daniel Laatsch
#24: Cooper Foster
#23: Thimo Nickl
#22: Dillon Hamaliuk
#21 Mikhail Ilyin
#20: Jack St. Ivany
#19: Chase Yoder
#18: Emil Jarventie
#17: Nolan Collins
#16: Raivis Ansons
#15: Ty Glover
#14: Taylor Gauthier
#13: Isaac Belliveau
#12: Lukas Svejkovsky
#11: Tristan Broz
#10: Sergei Murashov, G
2022 Ranking: N/A
Age: 19 (Apr. 1, 2004)
Acquired Via: 2022 NHL Draft (Round 4 - No. 118 overall)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 170 pounds
How fitting would it be if Ron Hextall figuratively planted a seed via a draft pick that might turn out to leave a goalie for the future for the Penguins? If Sergei Murashov happens to pan out, it might change how Hextall is remembered down the line once emotions fade. Stranger things have happened and the idea that a former goalie in Hextall could be responsible for a future goalie long after he departs Pittsburgh is a funny sense of irony.
Murashov was a product of Hextall giving the Penguins a presence in Russia, for the first time in recent memory. (From 2004-20, the Pens’ only Russian-trained drafted players were Evgeni Malkin - who it didn’t take great scouting to know to select- and randomly enough the one-game NHL wonder Alexander Pechurskiy).
Mursahov played most of the season in the MHL (the Russian junior league) and was dominant at that level, as seen by the high save percentages, minuscule GAA and excellent record.
But the standout had to be his KHL debut. Mursahov only got one game for Yaroslavl, typically one of the top/strongest clubs in Russian hockey. He made it count by only allowing one goal and getting the win. At such a young age, it was quite the accomplishment to make it even for a brief cameo to the top level.
Here’s Corey Pronman’s analysis of Mursahov from his recent update to NHL prospects by team:
Murashov was a top goalie in Russia’s junior league last season. He’s a super intelligent goalie who tracks and anticipates the puck like a pro. He’s aggressive and knows when to challenge at the right times. Murashov isn’t that big, though, and while he moves fine the lack of high-end athleticism is the question I have about him at the NHL given his frame.
Scouts always tend to favor the taller goalies that take up a lot of space, or ones with excessively obvious athleticism, and Murashov doesn’t stand out in either category. Igor Shesterkin (perhaps generously listed at 6’1, 190) is of a somewhat similar frame - though it should go without saying that Mursahov has miles to go before drawing much more of a comparison.
Still, between Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin and Andrei Vasilevskiy, Russia has produced some of the top goalies in the sport today. It’s very early yet, but Murashov is one of the most talented players at his age from a country known for developing goalie talent.
With that said, the Russian factor also plays in for very negative ways as well. Beyond the political ramifications and topic of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a result has been that Russia is shunned from the international community in ways large and small. One small way is the IIHF ban on Russian teams, so we can’t see Murashov test his mettle at the World Junior Championships against the top players from other countries. Small potatoes in the big scheme of things, but it’s impossible to ignore how that might shape his future.
The above-named Russian goalies are also worth comparing in the vein of just how long it took for them to get over to the NHL. Vasilevskiy was the exception to the rule when he joined Tampa in his draft+2 season. Sorokin was drafted in 2014 and wasn’t able to come over to the Islanders until 2020, despite being professionally ready years prior. Similar to that, Shesterkin was also drafted in 2014 but not in America until 2019.
Even worse, 2015 Philadelphia draftee Ivan Fedotov has been tied up with KHL contracts and is in the middle of a tug-of-war between his NHL contract and being able to safely leave Russia. So far, he’s yet to be successful in those efforts, including last season when he was conscripted into the Russian military in order to side-step the NHL deal he signed.
With all of that in mind, and the tremendous amount of uncertainty involved about what the future could hold for a young Russian national like Murashov, it would be almost impossible to know what his short and medium-term future will be.
The good news is that this is still an exceedingly young player, who professionally will stand to benefit and develop and grow if he stays in Russia while playing for a solid team like Yaroslavl. At his young age, there’s no point financially or culturally for Murashov to come play in the AHL (just as Sorokin and Shesterkin never sniffed the NHL’s feeder league).
It wouldn’t be ideal for an NHL club like the Penguins if it takes five or six years from the time of drafting to get Murashov over to America, like it did for Shesterkin and Sorokin respectively, yet such a path might also be unavoidable and completely out of their control, and possibly even the player’s control too. Murashov, for instance, has yet to come to Pittsburgh to attend a prospect development camp, given the timing and scheduling commitments he has with his Russian team. That’s more of the rule than the exception for unsigned Russian NHL draft picks, who typically aren’t seen until they’re signed by their NHL club. And often they’re not signed for a long while. (Note, the NHL and KHL do not have a transfer agreement, therefore according to NHL rules the Pens’ NHL rights to Murashov do not expire the way NHL rights for CHL
Realizing that, this is a player will require some patience and to wait and see what happens in the years to come. If Murashov keeps performing and growing, he will likely develop into something American fans clamor and hope can come play over here one day. But when that day will be is one of those things that can’t be known at the moment.