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Free Agent Profile: KHL Superstar Evgeny Dadonov Could Be A Major Addition To The Maple Leafs

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This highly skilled forward could be the “Eric Thames of Hockey” and the steal of the offseason

Slovakia v Russia - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images

Evgeny Dadonov (AKA: Yevgeni or Evegeni) is a 28-year old free agent winger who finished 5th in the KHL in scoring this past season. We previously highlighted Dadonov in this article after Chris Johnston of Sportsnet mentioned the Leafs interest, and KatyaKnappe correctly predicted Las Vegas as a potential destination for the big KHL free agents. The Golden Knights already scooped up his former linemate in Vadim Shipachyov, but the Leafs still carry an opportunity to beat out Vegas in the Dadonov sweepstakes.

Dadonov’s market has now been established, as Shipachyov signed a 2 year deal for $4.5 million per year. As a winger, I expect Dadonov to get a bit less, and Shipachyov was likely paid a premium to agree to play on an expansion team. The question now becomes: will Dadonov follow suit and come overseas to the NHL?

Scouting Report:

Dadonov is a flashy and offensively-focused winger with the ability to make opposing defenders look foolish. He’s quick, elusive, and flat out dangerous on the rush, but he does not boast a ton of skill in terms of defensive ability. He resembles Artemi Panarin in terms of size and playing style, and would likely receive plenty of offensive zone starts as a result.

His ability to make defenders miss makes him a beast in terms of zone entries, and this allows him to constantly set up shop in the offensive zone. From my viewings of Dadonov, he is faster and more elusive than Shipachyov, although both are quite skilled with the puck on their stick.

Dadonov is a left-handed shot and would surely play left-wing if he signed with the Leafs. He could become a strong playmaker for Auston Matthews, or potentially be paired on an extremely offensive-focused line with Mitchell Marner. The Chicago Blackhawks pair Patrick Kane with Artemi Panarin, and while it is next to impossible to achieve that level of offensive fire power, the Leafs could look to mimic that strategy.

In general, I expect the Leafs to look to add stronger two-way forwards this season, rather than looking at players with such an offensive skill set. Still, Dadonov could be too good to pass up if he costs less than Shipachyov, and there is a ton of potential upside if his offensive production transfers over to the NHL.

Previous Numbers In The NHL:

Dadonov played 55 games for the Florida Panthers between 2009-2012, scoring 10 goals and 10 assists in this span. He spent most of the 2011-2012 season playing in the AHL, where he posted only 28 points in 55 games. Still, Dadonov’s KHL numbers have steadily risen over the years, and he posted 13 points in 10 games for Russia in the 2016 World Championships.

At five-on-five, Dadonov posted a 1.65 points/60 mark during his time with the Panthers. For perspective, out of 351 forwards with 500 minutes played at five-on-five in the 2016-2017 season, Dadonov would rank 135th with that rating. While not terrific defensively, his ability to gain the zone allows his team to spend more time in the offensive end.

Take a look at Dadonov’s With-or-Without-You (WOWY) Numbers During His Time In Florida: (Stats courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

Shot Attempt Differential/Corsi (Zone Start Adjusted)

Player Time On Ice CF% Together CF% Dadonov Apart CF% Teammate Apart
Player Time On Ice CF% Together CF% Dadonov Apart CF% Teammate Apart
Jason Garrison 201.47 53.1 50.8 49.6
Mike Weaver 186.1 52.4 51.2 49.1
Dmitry Kulikov 163.42 53.6 50.7 47.6
Stephen Weiss 146.36 53.1 51.1 48.3
Mike Santorelli 139.4 53.9 50.6 49.7
Shawn Matthias 120.01 53.2 51.2 47.9
David Booth 102.49 48.7 52.3 53.2
Marty Reasoner 99.19 49.4 52 46.7

Clearly, the Panthers looked better when Dadonov was on the ice, and he was only 21 during the largest portion of this NHL stint. It looks quite possible that Dadonov is now a better player, and you have to wonder what type of numbers he could post in 2016-2017.

Artemi Panarin Vs. Evgeny Dadonov: Final Two KHL Seasons + Playoffs:

Panarin vs. Dadonov: Final Two KHL Seasons

Player GP G A Points/Game
Player GP G A Points/Game
Panarin 129 51 71 0.95
Dadonov 145 65 75 0.97

We cannot possibly expect Dadonov to match Panarin’s NHL scoring numbers, but this is quite clearly a player with plenty of offensive potential. The major knock on Dadonov is that he finished 4th on his team in scoring behind Ilya Kovalchuk, Shipachyov, and Nikita Gusev last season, but he is still a huge contributor offensively. Panarin and Dadonov were linemates both in the KHL and internationally, so there is a long history here.

A Glimpse of Dadonov In Action:

Dancing Around A Defender:

Dancing Around A Defender.... And A Goalie:

Dancing Around A Defender (This is a Recording):

Breakaway Move:

Assist:

Breakaway Move (Pass from Shipachyov):

Breakaway Shot:

Wraparound In NHL:

Beating Chris Pronger Out Wide:

The Big Picture & The Eric Thames Comparison:

Eric Thames started off his MLB career with the Toronto Blue Jays, posting -0.1 wins above replacement (WAR) through two seasons. He headed overseas to play in Korea and quickly broke out in a big way, before making a comeback to the MLB this season. Although many were wary due to his previous major league sample, Thames is turning out to be the bargain of the offseason.

Signing KHL forwards could be a major market inefficiency, and it is possible to add a major scoring threat here for nothing but money. While the Leafs will surely look to help their defensive play, Dadonov looks too intriguing to pass up. There’s always a risk associated with signing a player with a limited NHL track record, but I’d take my chances if his price tag is lower than what Shipachyov received.

All in all, adding Dadonov to play with players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nazem Kadri, and Kasperi Kapanen would make this team even more incredibly fun to watch. If the Leafs win the Dadonov sweepstakes, I picture Lou Lamoriello walking around the city of Toronto like this: