In my earlier post lamenting the struggles of Tuomo Ruutu that led to his departure, I almost neglected to mention the player the Hurricanes got in return from the Devils. That player being forward Andrei Loktionov. The Hurricanes lineup (namely the bottom-six) has been devoid of skill for most of the year and Loktionov should help out here, as he brings plenty of that to the table. He is a 23-year-old center who is very shifty & creative with the puck and was a adept scorer in both the OHL and the AHL. Unfortunately, like many skilled forward prospects he hasn't been able to translate this into NHL success.
The Hurricanes will be Loktionov's third team in the last three years and he has only 38 points in 135 games. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2008 and after being unable to earn a full-time role there, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils last season. He had some early success there with 11 points in 18 games, but had only one point the rest of the year and has only 12 in 48 games this year.
So, what we have here is a skilled, young player who is still looking to find his place in the NHL. There's a lot of guys like him, but what has kept Loktionov from earning a full-time role?He was only 20 years old when he was with the Kings and it's hard to get ice time there as a center with Koptiar, Richards & Stoll on the team.
The Devils gave him an opportunity and he seemed to do well with those minutes for awhile but faded and fell out of their plans this year. Him being able to stick with the Hurricanes will probably depend on what he can do when he isn't scoring. The team's bottom-six basically a mishmash of players who couldn't fit anywhere else (namely the third line) so he'll likely get plenty of chances, but what exactly are the Hurricanes getting with Loktionov and what kind of role is he best suited for?
|Year||TOI/60||G/60||Pts/60||Sh%||S/60||CF/60||On-ice Sh%||CF%||Corsi Rel.||O/DSt%|
There's limited data available on Loktionov because he hasn't been in the league very long, but he seems like a fairly useful player. His scoring production is roughly on-par with what the Canes were getting from Ruutu this year and that might work out if he's plays in the bottom-six. As for him contributing in other areas, he seems capable of doing that. Loktionov has been a positive possession player in over the last three seasons and made the Devils a better territorial team at 5v5 when he was on the ice in each of the last two years. Considering the Devils are already a great possession team, it's a good sign that they were getting a slight jolt from Loktionov.
However, the elephant in the room with Loktionov's impressive territorial numbers is that the Devils were giving him some of the softest minutes on the team. No forward started a higher percentage of their shifts after a whistle in the offensive zone than him, which means that Loktionov didn't have to do a lot compared to someone like Travis Zajac, at least when it came to driving possession. Loktionov is still useful in other areas, as he is a good skater and an excellent puck-handler, but the Devils coaching staff didn't show a lot of trust in him defensively.
Given that, can Loktionov fit into the Hurricanes system? Going by ice-time and offensive zone starts, it looks like they could have a place for him.
With Manny Malhotra's line getting all the defensive zone starts & Jordan Staal's line playing the tough matchups, the third line is basically freed to be sheltered as much as they want. This is where Ruutu played most of the year and he, along with Riley Nash, took plenty of draws 20 feet from the opposing goaltender. So if the Hurricanes want to shelter Loktionov as much as New Jersey did, then they are in a good position to do so. Loktionov is better at Nash when it comes to driving the play, so he will probably challenge him for the third line center spot and shouldn't have much trouble earning it if he is as good as he was in New Jersey. He could also see some time on the power play since that's been a rotating cast of players for most of the year and he has enough skill to be a fit.
My concern with Loktionov is whether or not he can work with sub-par wingers. The Hurricanes third line doesn't have a lot of talent or much of a scoring punch and it might be a slight downgrade over what Loktionov played with in New Jersey. Loktionov has spent most of his 5v5 ice time with Michael Ryder, Dainius Zubrus & Damien Brunner this year and last season he mainly played with Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Ponikarovsky & Adam Henrique. With the exception of Ponikarovksy, those players are better than what the Hurricanes are currently housing on their third line, so it will be interesting to see if Loktionov can mesh with players like Gerbe, Bowman, Nash & Dwyer. Although, it wouldn't surprise me if Muller uses him with Jeff Skinner in an another attempt to create a "sheltered scoring line." Given the usage of those two players, it may not be a bad idea but it hasn't exactly worked out too well in the past.
All in all, Loktionov looks like a nice player and a decent risk to take for the Hurricanes.