The first round of the KHL playoffs has come to an end for Nikita Grebyonkin. Hi team, Metallurg, were the top seeded team in their conference and just defeated the 8th seeded Amur in six games. Four of the six games were decided by one goal, including the final game that went to overtime.

When we last checked in on Grebyonkin, I talked about how he had grown and improved as a player once the regular season had ended:

Maple Leafs Prospect Report: Nikita Grebyonkin Season Summary
As of Monday, the KHL’s regular season is over. That means Nikita Grebyonkin has finished his first full KHL season, and we have a pretty large sample of his games and stats to talk about.

I was really curious to see how he'd fare in the KHL playoffs for the first time. I had guessed he could be one of their better players because of his style of play, which to me seemed very suited to more intense, physical playoff hockey.

And after one round at least, I'd like to say that he met my expectations. Not that he was a clearly dominant player, but he emerged as one of Metallurg's top performing forwards. He also earned more and more trust from his coaches, finishing the series with the most minutes played in all situations and at 5v5 of all the team's forwards.

I won't need break down his game as much as I have in the usual prospect reports since not much has really changed in his game, but I can share some brief notes that are just fun to know.


Grebyonkin started the playoffs where he finished the regular season – he started the first two games on the third line, but being one of the most played forwards. He didn't have any points in the first two games, but he was playing very well. So much so that from the third game onward, he was bumped up to their top line where he continued to perform at a high level.


Nikita Grebyonkin (#71 in white/blue) - All Assists

Series Totals:

  • 1 goal, 3 assists – all primary. Tied for second in points, most among forwards.
  • 9 shots on net – second fewest among team's forwards.
  • 18:03 average TOI in all situations – most among team's forwards.
  • 16:34 average TOI at even strength – most among team's forwards.
  • 1:10 average TOI on the powerplay, 0:19 on the penalty kill.
  • Tied 5th in hits (5).
  • Tied 4th in blocked shots (4).
  • 1st in takeaways (6).
  • 6th in pass interceptions (2).
  • Tied 4th in completed passes (63).

Grebyonkin was instrumental in two of Metallurg's wins. His two primary assists in game three included their first goal, and the winning goal. His primary assist in game five opened the scoring in the game, and Metallurg built a 3-0 lead before Amur scored late. And then in game six, Grebyonkin scored the overtime winner to win the series. So ultimately all of his points came in games they ultimately won, including having primary points on two opening goals and two game winning goals.

Stylistically, Grebyonkin's strengths from the regular season continued in the playoff series. If there is one element of his game that seemed more muted, it was his rush game. That isn't too surprising, as teams really tighten up their defense and play conservative to avoid giving up rush chances as much as possible. Still, Grebyonkin's team leading takeaways helped him go from defense to offense, or help prolong possessions by preventing the opposing team from getting the puck out.

Where Grebyonkin really shined was with his physical play. Not that he was throwing a lot of hits and gooning it up, but he did the opposite of wilting under the physical intensity – I'd say he elevated his game with it. The other team was very aggressive in throwing big hits and trying to get under Metallurg's skin with shoves, late scrums, late hits, and so on. Grebyonkin did not back down from any physical challenge, nor did he shy away from the dirty areas of the ice. He probably took more hits than he threw, but he did so to make plays.

Most importantly, his play around the net, getting the puck from the outside to the dangerous areas in front of the net, and his cycle play along the boards helped Metallurg a lot. Here are some highlights that I saw outside of his actual points:


Nikita Grebyonkin (#71) in either white or dark blue

All in all, there are a few slightly new things that I am taking away from his first playoff series. First, the fact that he's earning more ice time and a top line role, plus the fact that he's started being used on the penalty kill again after not for most of the second half of the season, are all good signs. Him elevating his play and not shying away from the increased physical intensity of the playoffs is also a good sign.

Now, I don't always want to just sing praises and make it seem like he's the next coming of Gretzky fused with McDavid. So let's talk about some of his weaknesses and areas of improvement.

The first part is something you can see in the video highlights above. He has enough skill with his skating, puck handling, and passing to create chaos and scoring chances that can come from that. However, he's not the best at consistently executing on the chances he can create. He'll hold onto it for too long so the puck gets knocked away, he'll try and force a pass and have it deflected or intercepted, things like that. In the KHL he succeeds more than he fails, and there's something to be said for at least creating chaos even if you don't directly succeed in your pass/shot attempt. But that's something that would be nice to see him refine and practice, so he learns some tricks to help him succeed more often.

Another area of concern I have is his defensive consistency. He's good at the takeaways, and at getting sticks in passing lanes to either intercept or at least deflect them away. That's part of what makes him dangerous on rush chances he can create for himself, and why I think he has promise on the penalty kill. The problem is that I'll see him in the defensive zone at least standing in the right area where the play comes his way, but then he just sort of... doesn't do anything. He doesn't step in the way of another player to box them out of rebounds, or tie up anyone's stick, or push them out of the way, or try and poke the puck away. This isn't something that happens all the time, but it can be frustrating to see how often it does happen. He can be good enough other times that I think this is something he can work on, as far as showing a consistent effort in his own end that would help him turn the play back up on offense even more often.

I don't think either of the above two issues are so significant that I think it will keep him out of the NHL. I still think he's more of a safe bet to become some kind of depth player than most of Toronto's prospects not named Minten or Cowan. But they are definitely two areas for improvement I've noticed the most.


The second round of the playoffs still hasn't been scheduled yet, as there is one final series to be decided. I don't fully know the KHL seeding rules, but if it works the same as the NHL where the conferences play each other until the finals, then Metallurg will next face Traktor Chelyabinsk – Semyon Der-Arguchintsev's team. They were the 6th seed that is coming off a 4-1 series upset against the third seeded Salavat Yulaev.

The schedule hasn't been made yet, but will probably start this coming weekend at the latest. The KHL scheduling so far has been pretty consistent – there's one game every other day, regardless of travel. So this second round should be wrapped up before the end of the month.

If Metallurg wins, they'll advance to the conference finals for another two weeks. Even if they lose, this is a win-win for me. If he wins, he makes a deeper playoff run. If he loses, he could sign an ELC and join the Marlies for their late season/playoff run. That said, if you try and ask me in the comments, I'll repeat what I've said when asked this all year: I am not an insider, so I have no idea if he will or not.

I sure hope he does, though!