The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eleven writers and 480 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2019 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
I want to start off by wishing Vladislav Kamenev a happy belated birthday. The young man turned 23 on August 12th, one day before this article goes live. Here’s hoping he had a fun day with friends and family, he deserves it after all the awful injury luck he’s had over the past two seasons.
One year ago, we had little to say on Kamenev as a result of him playing a grand total of 20 games in all professional leagues (three in the NHL). He had broken his arm early in the season and had to sit out the entire rest of the campaign.
This season we’re talking about the same thing. On December 8th in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Kamenev injured his shoulder just 25 games into his season (23 in the NHL) and was shut down for the rest of the season to have surgery on it.
So after a meager 45 games played over two seasons for a prospect in his age-21 and age-22 seasons, do we think we know Kamenev well enough to know for sure whether he’s going to be anything? No.
The Sample Size
We need one more year, and hopefully within that year we can see whether Kamenev’s poor shot production and lack of points is a real issue or just luck. Right now, Kamenev has less than 200 minutes of even strength ice time with the Avalanche and the vast majority of those minutes have come on a sheltered fourth line. That’s not enough to get a proper read on a player.
For all we know Kamenev was on a cold streak for the first three months of the season and he’s actually a middle-six player. It’s also equally as likely that he was on a hot streak and five points in 23 games is what he is. Or he just needs time to get acclimated to the league and the pace.
An ideal evaluation includes lots of playing time with different players up and down the lineup, and seasons where we can see a player’s ceiling and floor as they go through different ebbs and flows in a season.
Here are Kamenev’s three primary points this season. A power play goal, a shorthanded goal, and a primary assist at 5v5. I thought since there were only three of these plays that we can go through each of them to see if we can find anything productive out of them. Long story short, there isn’t much because all three goals are complete flukes or the product of good positioning on a power play.
First let’s start off with the primary assist. Kamenev won the faceoff, but he had his stick tied up in the draw so he cleverly kicked the puck back with his skate to the half wall. Barberio jumped down from the line and saw that there was traffic between him and Devan Dubnyk so he whipped it on net... and it went in. A fluke goal, but one that did show Kamenev’s competency in the faceoff dot. He was 51% this season, which is statistically average and all you can really ask for.
This one was another complete fluke, but the chance was created from a great play on the penalty kill. Kamenev was a regular penalty killer until his season ended, I feel like this fact got lost on some people including myself. For a 22-year-old rookie to be trusted on your second unit while playing on the fourth line, that’s something you can hang your hat on.
On the goal, Kamenev and Bourque were able to corner Matthew Tkachuk and get the puck off him in a fairly clean manner. From there, Kamenev sped down the ice and wired a slapper that Mike Smith definitely needed to save for his first career goal. A lucky goal, but one that is well deserved because of the work throughout the penalty kill before the goal and in the play leading up to the change of possession.
Here is the goal Kamenev scored on the power play with the second unit. As the far-side winger, Kamenev didn’t have very much to do on the goal until he tapped the puck home in the crease. Most of the work was done by Alexander Kerfoot and Carl Soderberg (“Fare Thee Well, Love”) on the right side. Nevertheless, Kamenev is a bigger body who was able to get to the high-traffic area he needed to get to in order to score. I guess all you can say is that he looks competent.
I really like a player who can defend well in a bottom-six role. I think those players have value, especially if they have a history of putting up some points in limited ice time. For example, I wrote a long piece on fellow 2014 draft pick Pierre Engvall over at our sister site Pension Plan Puppets about a week ago and I think a lot of what I wrote about in Engvall also shows up in Kamenev’s play.
I think Kamenev has a lot of the tools needed to be a bottom-six center who can take on some defensive responsibility, but right now he hasn’t shown it at 5v5, or he hasn’t been given the opportunity to yet. In 196 minutes at even strength, Kamenev spent 60% of his zone starts not in the neutral zone in the offensive zone. He also had a 43% corsi rating, which is ~7% below the team’s average. So again, sample size sample size sample size.
Kamenev is a creative player who kind of lives in a middle world between being stuck on a fourth line but also having some skills that can push him up to a third line. When he was played with the likes of JT Compher in a scoring role, he was able to keep up and didn’t hurt his linemates in terms of shooting rates. On the flip side, when he was played with someone like Gabriel Bourque (his most-common linemate) they both struggled to get any offense going.
I think this offseason saw the Avalanche invest in a deeper lineup, starting with Nazem Kadri and going down the list with players like Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky. I think that will help Kamenev a lot because it pushes better players down the lineup and onto his wings.
Kamenev needs waivers this season. For most tweeners with limited time in the NHL, this is a boom or bust season. They either find a role and stick themselves into a lineup, or they get sent to the AHL and hope for an opportunity. Rarely do these players get claimed on waivers and succeed elsewhere.
I think because of his small sample size of games in any professional league that Kamenev is one of those players a team who has done their homework and has watched his time in the NHL very closely might take a flier on him on their bottom line. Ideally, I’d like that to be the Avalanche.
In terms of the voting, this season was mostly a mulligan for a lot of the masthead. Kamenev was 13th last summer, and is 14th this summer. The voting spread was about the same last season with most of the votes coming in the teens and a few on the edges. One thing that is interesting is that Kamenev is the first player so far to have been on everyone’s ballot. No one behind him on our list can stake a claim to that (although some should).