Bright future for this twice undrafted blackhawks prospect

Published June 16, 2023 at 1:46
BY JOSHUA
     
Ilya Safonov plays in the KHL for Ak Bars Kazan, with former NHLers Alexander Radulov and Vadim Shipachyov as teammates and linemates.

Initially, when Byron Bader was first tracking him, the outlook for the enormous Russian center didn't look good.

The Blackhawks are about to add to their prospect pool in a big way. But which current prospect took the biggest leap this past year? It might be twice-undrafted Ilya Safonov.

Get to know the big center with this
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However, his output changed after he listened to the Chicago Blackhawks player development coach over Zoom.

According to data scientist Byron Bader's player development tracking model on Hockey Prospecting, Safonov had a 4 percent chance to be an NHL player based on his production in the 2021-22 season. That season also marked when Bader normally concludes tracking a prospect. The model includes a five-year span ranging from the year before a player is first draft eligible to three years after. Bader does that because he's found players have substantial diminishing returns after those five years.

The model basically closed the door on Safonov ever becoming an NHL player. No one from the Blackhawks may ever admit to being pessimistic about Safonov's potential at that point, but he probably wasn't high on Kyle Davidson's priority list when he was made general manager.

He said he was listening to the advice of Kendall Coyne, and it helped change his game and take note of his weaknesses, primarily being one-on-one battles in the corners, and has been developing alongside the Blackhawk's opinions of his game.

Bader's models didn't account for growth after slating him downwards, as the following season, after he stopped tracking him, he put up 37 points in 64 games in the KHL.

You can't consider this prospect down and out, considering Kyle Davidson likes his body of work and physicality on the ice.

Safonov's dream is to play in the NHL for the Blackhawks one day, but for now is fulfilling his contractual obligations to the Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL, while his teammate, Dimitry Voronkov, will be shipping out to Columbus soon.

As Seen On: theathletic.com
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