As far as draft-eligible talent goes, Anton Silayev has been the year’s biggest revelation.
Last season, the Russian defenceman only added eight points in 41 regular season games in MHL against junior competition. This year, however, Silayev has emerged as a top-four fit with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, an above-average team in the KHL.
Historically, playing in the KHL as a 17-year-old defenceman has been a rare feat. Since 2010, only four U18-aged blueliners have managed 10 games or more of regular season action. Shakir Mukhamadullin holds the record for most games played in that time frame with 27, and he barely averaged over three minutes of ice time in those contests.
Times are changing, though. It’s not a coincidence that two out of the four players who have cleared the 10-game mark in the past 13 years, Dmitri Simashev and Mikhail Gulyayev, happened to do so last season.
There’s evidence that suggests the quality of Russian leagues, the KHL included, has been in decline for the past few years. This should result in more openings for prospects in the future, even if certain teams still seem to be wary of playing their youngsters with the big club.
Still, what Silayev has been able to accomplish to start the season is quite remarkable. He’s easily averaged over 17 minutes per night through his 22 games, which means he’s already played close to four times as many KHL minutes than Mukhamadullin in his entire draft year. Just one point shy from becoming the highest-scoring draft-eligible defenceman in the league’s history, it’s only a matter of time before Silayev seizes that honour for himself, too.
Based on the surface-level stats and his unique ability to cover the ice as a smooth-skating 6-foot-7 defenceman, Silayev easily looks the part of a top prospect, even a contender for the top pick depending on who you ask. But does that claim survive a deeper dive into his underlying numbers and how do they compare against other draft-eligible KHL defencemen of the past?
Let’s find out.