The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues today with a fourth post! The three previous posts are on Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund, and Reilly Walsh, and be sure to check out the rest of the “Draft Prospect Series” tag all the way up until Devils Development Camp!
RW Nikita A. Popugayev was selected 98th overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Entry-Level Draft by the New Jersey Devils, and he fills a huge need for them. The 18-year old Russian winger, born November 20, is one of the older players in the draft; he clocks in at 6′ 6″ and 205 lbs. His size is one of his biggest advantages and is a great asset, especially for a right wing.
He was ranked #28 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and could prove to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. I’m extremely surprised that he fell to the Devils in the fourth round if a lot of teams had their eyes on him. Central Scouting has him listed as a left wing, Elite Prospects says right wing; he played both left and right for Prince George this season.
Here are some of his stats over the last few years:
He’s played 141 regular season WHL games and has 116 points, about 0.82 points per game; he has seven points in 12 playoff games. He’s played for both the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Prince George Cougars, and will likely play (at least) another season with them. It would be good for his development. Popugayev has an excellent shot and he’s compared himself to another famous Russian, Evgeni Malkin.
I really like him and his style of play. He has a great shot. He’s offensively-minded, as evidenced by his point totals. He made the adjustment to the WHL, a completely different system. He has good hockey sense/puck sense and sees the ice well, and (a bonus!) he’s good at protecting the puck. The Devils need that. He’s also a playmaker but even with his size, he doesn’t play a physical game (but he should). That’s something he could definitely work on.
If you haven’t already watched him play, I have plenty of footage for you to watch and YouTube has a ton more:
For more, check out a quick draft profile from NHL.com, a short scouting report from Future Considerations, and another profile from The Hockey Writers. The last piece in particular is really well done!
And that about does it. I’m really excited to watch him play too! I hope that he comes up for at least one game with how dire the Devils’ right wing situation is but who knows? He’ll do great things in the future and hopefully he’ll be with the Devils.