Don’t get your Shakir Mukhamadullin San Jose Sharks jersey just yet.
While the Russian defenseman has been arguably the breakout star of Sharks training camp so far, his size and skating and skill apparent on most every shift, he’s also just 21 and playing an unforgiving position.
Head coach David Quinn, who’s been as complimentary of Mukhamadullin as anybody, was also the first to slam the brakes on the idea of the prospect breaking camp with the San Jose Sharks.
“My opinion is American League is the best spot for him for an extended period of time,” Quinn told reporters today.
This is nothing against Mukhamadullin, who Quinn has, I’m not exaggerating, gushed about throughout camp.
“Mukhamadullin has really impressed me,” Quinn said on Tuesday. “He’s rangy, he’s fast, he’s agile, there’s a lot of athleticism there. He passes like an NHL’er.”
Quinn also dropped a Hall of Famer into the conversation last night, though it must be stressed, he was talking strictly about how the 6-foot-4 and still lean Mukhamadullin physically resembles the teenage version of this all-time great.
“He reminds me, just the way he looks, of Chris Pronger. Got the high hands, just the way he carries himself.”
It’s clear that while Quinn is excited about Mukhamadullin right now, he’s even more excited about him in the future. He’s talked about him in the future tense on multiple occasions during camp.
“He wants to be physical, but when you’re his size and still haven’t fully grown, you’re probably less apt to be as physical as you want to be,” he noted.
Mukhamadullin is currently listed as 6-foot-4 and 178 pounds.
“As we talked about as a group, picture this guy in three years, what he’s gonna look like,” Quinn said, “and how much more aggressive he’s gonna be able to be to win his battles.”
It’s worth noting that Pronger entered the NHL with the Hartford Whalers as an 18-year-old in 1993 at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. In his prime, the 2000 Hart and Norris Trophy winner tipped the scales at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds.
So Mukhamadullin still has a ways to go physically. He can also get nastier.
“If he’s half as mean as Chris Pronger,” Quinn quipped, “we’ve got something.”
Overall, Quinn, lock step with San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier’s philosophy to marinate prospects for longer, doesn’t think the NHL is the place to build confidence, especially at a position with little to no safety net as defense.
“There’s nothing worse than putting the guy in the situation where he can’t have success,” he said. “We want to put him in the best position possible to be successful.”
For Quinn, there’s no doubt that’s in the AHL right now. There, Mukhamadullin can play heavy minutes and dominate, which he isn’t as likely to do in the NHL, not just yet.
“That’s where you learn to play at this level,” Quinn said. “In order to think you’re good, you got to play well, right? You can form a lot of swagger in the American Hockey League. Here, it’s hard to start your career at this level and have swagger. Very, very few people can do that.
“It’s hard to come here as a young player and earn swagger because you’re going to suffer. You’re going to be exposed. You’re going to make big mistakes under pressure situations.”
That’s especially true on defense.
Quinn agreed: “You can’t hide a defenseman.”
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