From a purely skills perspective, Danil Gushchin is in the discussion for the best of the 2020 USHL class. The production numbers aren’t an exact match for the skill level, but they are close enough to be reasonable and his totals over his first 34 games this season have already surpassed his 51-game production from his USHL rookie year last season.
Like several high-end Russian talents of yesteryear (Andrei Svechnikov, Yegor Afanasyev), Gushchin has chosen to spend his draft year in Muskegon, as he passed up on a move to Regina of the WHL, which selected him seventh overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Gushchin doesn’t have a college commitment at present and his next step is unknown, although it wouldn’t surprise to see him try to follow in Svechnikov’s and Afanasyev’s footsteps with a move to the OHL before turning pro.
The skill set is top material, but his inconsistent effort level from shift to shift and game to game may be infuriating and unacceptable to some teams. If he can reach that type of consistency, he will be a top six NHL winger. If he can’t, he will tease us from the AHL and before too long, the KHL.
|Danil Gushchin||2020 NHL Draft Eligible|
|Position: RW, Shoots L||H/W: 5-8", 161 lbs|
|Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS)||Muskegon Lumberjacks, USHL (34-18-20-38-38)|
|Russia U18, Hlinka Gretzky Cup (5-1-1-2-2)|
|Russia U18, WJAC-19 (6-3-0-3-4)|
Skating – Gushchin’s regular game play speed is more or less average, which can be disappointing in a player as small as he is, but everything plays up thanks to his dazzling edgework and agility. His cuts are extremely sharp and they allow him to fit into the role of a team’s primary zone entry specialist. His skating could play up even more if he played with more regular urgency as he can get to a good top speed when he pushes. Further, he doesn’t always keep his feet moving in his own zone. Grade: 55
Shot – On power alone, Gushchin’s shot isn’t anything noteworthy. It plays to average though thanks to placement, timing, and selection. He also scores his share of goals through stickhandling as much as firing. It is hard to say how much of this aspect of is game will carry with him to the higher levels, but the skill set will put him into scoring positions often enough to get his share of goals. Grade: 50
Skills – His puck skills are at least as high as anyone’s in the USHL in the 2020 draft class. His hands are quick, soft, and coordinated. They work well together with his feet, as you can see with the way he cuts sharply before or immediately following, a zone entry. The puck sticks to his blade as if glued. He is extremely dogged with the puck and can shelter it from the poking sticks of multiple defenders at a time, leading to his share of drawn penalties. The occasional lack of urgency mentioned in the skating section also sometimes extends to his puck play as he can cough up the puck unnecessarily due to a lackadaisical approach. Grade: 60
Smarts – While Gushchin is used on both special teams’ units for Muskegon, he should not play on the penalty kill at higher levels, as he can be too easily overmatched. He is responsible in the sense that he hustles to get back to his own zone when the puck belongs to the opposition, but the switch can be turned off if the play in his zone lasts too long after his initial attempts to force a turnover fail. His vision and ability to read the defense are both advanced for his age, and he often plays at the point, or on the half wall in the offensive end to take advantage of his ability to break open the D. On the other hand, he can be paralleled by his failure – or unwillingness – to read the offense when the opposition is cycling in his end. More consistent effort can make up for some of these perceived deficiencies. Grade: 55
Physicality – Gushchin is tiny, but can be feisty and dogged when he has the puck or senses that he can win it back. Also to his credit, he doesn’t shy away from contact or tight spots, trusting in his agility to stay clear of too much danger. Will need to be more careful at higher levels. Grade: 45
Overall Future Projection (OFP): 54
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.