Whew. That was getting dicey. After the Washington Capitals were rumored to have landed coveted KHL winger, Sergei Shumakov, his agent came out and said that report was false. But after four nervous days the Capitals were finally able to sign him to a one year two-way deal worth $925,000.
This is rare territory for the Capitals who haven’t signed a free agent out of the KHL in, well, maybe forever. These uncharted waters are a perfect place to find a hidden gem that costs close to nothing.
LAST SEASON (KHL)
Last season, Shumakov scored 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 47 games. For his team, CSKA, he was tied for first in points and +/- (+28); he was also second in goals and assists. And though his team seemed to roll all of their lines close in time on ice, he was still ranked 7th among forwards on time on ice with 15:07 per game. The top three forwards on the team played between 16:05 – 16:28, so he was probably playing on the 2nd and 3rd line throughout the season. But he did lead his team in points per 60 with 3.38, so he probably should have received more time. If he did, he probably could have scored close to five more points.
His 40 points tied him for 19th among all forwards in the KHL. His +28 was tied for 1st in the league. And his 3.38 points per 60 was ranked 6th in the whole league. For players 26 and under he was tied for 5th in points among forwards. But what’s interesting is, like on his own team, his 15:07 of ice time per game was one of the lowest among league-league leaders. All 18 player above him in the points race played at LEAST 16 minutes besides two, and one of them was over 30 years old. 12 of the 18 skaters played over 18 minutes. In fact, the average ice time of all 18 players ahead of Shumakov is over 19 minutes. If Shumakov received four extra minutes a game then he might have averaged around 10 more points last season. That would have bumped him up to 50 points in 47 games, tied for 6th among forwards.
TRANSLATING TO NHL
Using Rob Vollman’s translation factors we can see that Shumakov’s 40 points would have translated into 56 NHL points; that would have been good for fourth among Capitals forwards last season behind only Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nicklas Backstrom. If he received those four extra minutes that most high scoring KHL forwards were getting and he hit 50 points, then that would have translated to 70 NHL points. To be more realistic, if he received just two more minutes, then that would be 45 points in the KHL or 63 points in the NHL.
The issue with KHL stats though is they are not very in-depth. They have the very basics: goals, assists, +/-, etc. It’s impossible to find out how the points were scored, whether at 5v5, on the powerplay, or others. Shumakov scored six power play goals so we know he did get power play time, but how much compared to the rest of his team? He had one short-handed goal, so maybe he got penalty kill time but that could also mean the other team was on the PK at the end of the game and pulled their goalie and he got a goal. Who knows. How much of his 15:07 ice time is at 5v5? That’s a big question. Because what if he was even lower on the rankings in terms of 5v5 ice time and still put up those point? Then he could be even better than we thought. Or on the flip-side, what if most of his assists are on the power play then that’s something he probably can’t duplicate over here and that would be a problem. But from the basic stats we know he’s been impressive in the KHL.
Now the question is what should fans expect from him. It’s hard to find too many scouting reports on him. The words associated with him is “highly skilled”. He’s not a speed burner but he can still skate. And like most KHL forwards, he isn’t great defensively, but don’t write him off yet. Even if he has a hard time with the defensive side of the game there are plenty of players to hitch him to in order to allow him to play his offensively deadly game.
Alex Nunn said of Shumakov that he’s a “Good all-round offensive game, strong on the puck, great shot, retains and cycles possession well. Should be pretty suited to North America.” That type of physical game mixed with skill is the kind of player that fits perfectly with the Capitals philosophy.
Daniel Weinberger, who is an analytic consultant and focuses some on the KHL, posted this graphic showing just how good Shumakov is.
The largest circle shows the 100th percentile among all players in the KHL. Shumakov is above 75% on all stats besides “controlled exits”. Everything else it looks like he’s above 80% with a few that are clearly over 90%, such as “xG (expected goal) per shot”, “shot attempts”, and even looks like he’s in the 100th percentile in “ixG (individual expected goals)”. Overall that tells us Shumakov is pretty good to great at everything, and though he isn’t the strongest at carrying the puck out of his zone or into the offensive zone, he is an absolute beast in the offensive zone and creates a lot for himself and his teammates.
As for the two bars below the graph, those indicate two things: that shot attempts (CF%) for his team are the same whether he’s on the ice or not, but expected goals percentage (xGF%) is much better when he’s on the ice. That’s to say his team is much better at preventing and/or creating dangerous scoring chances when he’s on the ice.
If you want a comparison, here’s the same chart but for Ilya Kovalchuk, who just signed a three-year deal worth $6.25M AAV with the LA Kings, and is considered one of the best Russian wingers ever. His team is actually worse in shot attempts and expected goals for% when he’s on the ice.
After watching Shumakov some, a comparison that might fit with him is Evgeni Dadonov who returned to the NHL just last season at the age of 28. Both aren’t the tallest or biggest but they play a good physical game and have fantastic offensive abilities. Their hands are soft and their eyes sharp, which leads to some beautiful plays and high offensive numbers. Dadonov is definitely better on the defensive side, but Shumakov might have better offensive skills. Below is how they compared in their KHL seasons by age.
They certainly seem to share the same KHL stats, even though Dadonov was getting more ice time. If Shumakov was getting that much time his stats would have certainly looked much better. Dadonov put up 65 points in 74 games with the Florida Panthers at the age of 28 last season, so if Shumakov can mimic Dadonov then just imagine what he could do in 82 games with the much better Washington Capitals team at the age of 26. Side note: it’s a good sign that Shumakov was getting better and better in the KHL every season.
It’s obviously too early to speculate or get too excited about anything. For every success story of a free agent European coming over there’s two that don’t make it. Shumakov could certainly come over here and be a bust but for the Capitals it is a very low risk for a potentially very high reward. If the Russian winger ends up being a bust the Capitals lose nothing. But if Shumakov ends up panning out then the Capitals found themselves a top nine player that cost them zero picks and could be part of the young players that will continue to carry this team forward for the foreseeable future. These are the kind of moves that help the best teams to stay competitive for years to come.
By Luke Adomanis