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San Jose Barracuda

7 Noteworthy Mukhamadullin Plays in His Cuda Debut

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Credit: Colorado Eagles

There was a bright spot in the San Jose Barracuda’s 8-0 loss to the Colorado Eagles last Saturday.

David Quinn’s sense of humor.

The San Jose Sharks bench boss quipped, of top prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin’s Cuda debut, “I think he was only a -1 in an 8-nothing loss. So there had to be some positives to his game.”

But actually, Quinn was right. Mukhamadullin, the centerpiece of the Timo Meier trade, was on the ice for only one of those goals against, a shorthanded marker in the first period.

And there were more than some positives.

Let’s illuminate those positives, and maybe a few of the not-so-positive parts from that rout, as well as from the Cuda’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Eagles the next day.

It’s worth noting that these are just two games, and that many of these plays may not be trends in his game, but may just be adjustments to a new ice surface, new country, new team, new everything.

Mukhamadullin is No. 85 in white.

Mukhamadullin is able to adapt to a potential 2-on-1 really well here. He angles Justin Scott (20) to the corner, but maintains decent position to get back to trailer Ryan Wagner (13) if necessary. His frame and stickwork allows him to take up a ton of space defensively.

Alex Beaucage (74), trying to enter through the left lane, has a bit of issue carrying the puck cleanly into the zone, and Mukhamadullin immediately recognizes this. He’s able to adjust his skates and aggressively cut off the attacker, allowing Thomas Bordeleau (17) to swoop in. Simple, but the immediate recognition and quick close is what saved this play from turning into prolonged zone time for Colorado.

Mukhamadullin’s feet and length are already terrorizing AHL competition: He recognizes Callahan Burke (68) is fumbling the puck, and angles Burke until his opponent runs out of real estate.

Mukhamadullin was advertised as a two-way force, so let’s look at his offense now.

Very simple here. Mukhamadullin heads to the middle of the ice with some steam and baits a stick check from forechecker Gustav Rydahl (68), then hits Tristen Robins (52) with the pass. He also sucks in Rydahl, and then zooms past the Eagle. That could make Mukhamadullin an open trailer option.

I came away impressed with Mukhamadullin’s ability to hit pass options and transition the puck. Here’s another:

He’s originally around the slot, near the goal here, then recognizes the passing lane, stepping in front of the pass to Scott. He then hits Adam Raska (57) with a short pass. It’s very simple, but that recognition of where the puck is going next catches the eye, as is the quick transition.

I also came away impressed with Mukhamadullin’s ability to carry the puck through three zones with speed — like here, when he dekes forechecker Wagner. He is then able to set up.

It’s essentially a carbon copy of the previous play, as he dekes F1 Burke.

In general, I do feel like he could have driven this puck in a bit deeper before dumping it off, or made entry. While I appreciate his ability to carry the puck with speed, I do think he could be a bit more aggressive in threatening to attack the net, instead of trying to move the puck back outside.

The San Jose Sharks prospect was aggressive here, in his second game.

Mukhamadullin beat Oskar Olausson (25) out of the corner, cut inside, kept his head up and lobbed an extremely dangerous combo lob-pass-shot that could have easily led to a goal. I like the simplicity, as there could have been a wrong play here, such as aiming for the short-side corner or shooting for the goalie’s chest.

It wouldn’t be right to have this article without Mukhamadullin’s first Barracuda point now, would it?

The only part to highlight here is I think Mukhamadullin does have some power play utility in the future. He’s got a hard and accurate shot, from what I can tell (although he wasn’t able to get it off very frequently these two games). He keeps his head up when he’s passing, and has a knack for hitting players with quick successive passes to cycle the puck around.

I think with some refinement with keeping the puck in and pinching more effectively, there’s a possibility that Mukhamadullin could become a power play asset.

All that said, Mukhamadullin could improve in a couple key areas.

I wanted to highlight this play to give you a feel for what I think might be an issue with the speed at which Mukhamadullin stops and starts.

He’s a good skater in straight lines and after his feet are moving, both forward and backwards, but this play highlights some slow feet trying to get back for a lost puck at the blueline. While there was little chance he was going to catch Burke, the turn and acceleration to get back left something to be desired.

Here’s another example: Mukhamadullin gets beat by Rydahl, in part because of his slow, gliding turn behind the net, leading to him taking a penalty too.

So the good news is…that’s mostly it for the negatives that I could see from these games. There were a few plays with a lack of urgency holding on to pucks at the blueline, and some slow starts and stops, but other than that, I thought Mukhamadullin had a very solid and promising two outings.

In summary, I found quite a few positives from Mukhamadullin in two otherwise dismal Barracuda performances. And yes, maybe I lied a little bit in the title and it was more than seven plays.

Mukhamadullin’s recognition of weakness from attackers and knowing how and when to capitalize on that weakness to affect play stood out to me. Also, his ability to carry the puck with speed for a defenseman his size, something that will hopefully continue to develop. He could be a bit more aggressive in using that speed and size offensively to challenge defenders and push the puck towards the center of the ice.

In addition, his passing ability was a standout, both in zone and in transition.

Finally, the 21-year-old needs to work on starting and stopping with his turns, instead of attempting to glide, as it can leave him behind the play occasionally.

Still though, it’s only two games, so let’s see where the rest of this AHL season can take the potential future of the San Jose Sharks defense.

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