Doug Wilson got his draft week off to an early start as he acquired prospect Maxim Letunov (C) and a 2017, 6th. round selection from the Arizona Coyotes for their 4th round pick in 2016 (120th.) and 2017 3rd round selection. The third round selection was the pick they acquired from the Red Wings in exchange for then unsigned prospect Dylan Sadowy. Letunov, born in Moscow, Russia was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft with the 52nd overall pick. He was acquired from the St. Louis Blues by the Arizona Coyotes as a part of the deal that sent defenceman Zbynek Michalek to the Blues in 2015.
Letunov is a 6’2″, 170 lbs. left shooting center. A product of the USHL development system playing for the Youngstown Phantoms for two years before making his way to the University of Connecticut (NCAA – Hockey East) where in 36 games he scored 16 goals and added 24 assists for 40 points and with 2 penalty minutes and was a -16.
I think this is a good pickup for the Sharks while their picks in this year’s draft are now few and far between a player like Letunov is closer to being ready than any player they would have selected in the third round of the 2017 draft. The Sharks have a decent group of prospects right now for a team that has only missed the playoffs once in the last decade and while the defense is a concern in the system the Sharks shouldn’t simply ignore any offensive talent that is made available to them. Since Letunov made is way through the USHL system he is already well adjusted to the North American ice surface and in my opinion less likely to be lost to the KHL. The big concern with this player that should not be undersold is the fact that despite his nice 6’2″ height his 170 lbs. frame won’t cut it in the NHL and he will need to continue to work on filling it out.
This was his scouting report from Future Considerations leading into the 2014 draft.
“Letunov is a skilled forward with slick hands, a hard wrist shot who makes crisp, accurate passes. Uses his frame to protect the puck but can get pushed off by stronger opponents. Flashes some gritty play and willingness to play a defensively responsible game but does not do so consistently. Has to add substantial strength and correct some issues in his mobility.”
They also said the following about him the following year.
“Letunov is nifty with quick hands, an explosive shot and strong passing skills. He handles the passes well, but needs to build strength to be more effective against bigger defenders. He takes advantage of easier defensive targets and driving the net from an outside lane. He likes to attempt power moves. Letunov has good stick skills and creativity, and he likes to open space with a quick toe drag before firing off a quick, heavy wrister or before setting up a teammate with a crisp feed off the rush. He gets the puck off his stick quickly however is easiest: shot or pass. He works hard to get the puck off his stick. Letunov doesn’t make a huge issue of going into the corners, but again, added muscle is a must. Letunov’s skating and defensive play are two areas of his game that progressed during the year. He is more balanced on his skates, but needs to improve his foot quickness and his first few steps. Defensively, Letunov has shown more understanding and his defensive effort in February was much stronger than it was in September. He still has a few learning years left before making the leap to the pros.”
Hockey’s Future said the following in their Talent Analysis
“Letunov is an offensively-gifted forward whose defensive game could use some work. He is quite lanky for his height and is not yet a reliable two-way player. He needs to add a significant amount of muscle mass while developing the physical side of his game. With one more year of junior hockey and potentially a four-year college career he should have time to address those areas. Letunov mixes a slick, sneaky wrist shot with an effective passing game in a slight frame.”
The Sharks currently hold five picks going into this weekend’s entry draft. They are picks 60 (2nd round), 111 (4th round), 150 (5th round), 180 (6th round) and 210 (7th round).