Vladislav Gavrikov, 6-3, 213 pounds
November 21, 1995 (26 years old)
Drafted 6th round (#159 overall), 2015 NHL draft
Cap hit: $2.8M through 2022-23
Role: Second pairing defenseman
Just three years into his NHL career, Vladislav Gavrikov has quietly developed into a rock on the back end for the Blue Jackets. Taken later than expected at the 2015 NHL draft, Vlad developed slowly in Russia while the Blue Jackets waited patiently for his arrival. After finally making the move in 2019, he was thrust right into a second pairing role alongside veteran David Savard, and the two developed immediate chemistry as a shutdown tandem. After Savard’s departure, Vlad has maintained his role nicely, becoming a leader and standout defender on the team’s young defense corps.
Gavrikov is really everything you want in a stay at home defenseman. He has good size and uses it well to make opposing forwards work around him. His gap control is very good and though he isn’t the best skater in the world, he does a nice job slowing the play down. He can block shots, and uses his stick very well. He’s pretty good in transition, often making a good first pass the other way; and can even chip in offensively, as his 33 point effort this past season would indicate.
On top of his talent, Vlad is a great teammate with an infectious personality. He’s undoubtedly an important part of the leadership group in Columbus, keeping things light and fun. Admittedly, I didn’t know a ton about him prior to his arrival in North America. We saw his eye-popping +48 rating through just 60 games in his last KHL season and thought we might have a good one. But you never know what you’re getting until these guys come over, and the Blue Jackets really plucked a gem in the late rounds.
Three Keys to Success
- Partner up. The team signed Erik Gudbranson and I think the two could make a nice pair – but more likely, I think Andrew Peeke in this role might be a better fit. He and Vlad could grow together and give the team a lockdown tandem for many years to come.
- Be the rock. Let’s face it, this team is loaded with offensive talent from the back end, and will only be successful if Vlad is shutting down the opposition’s top players.
- Stay out of the box! Too many times last season, we saw #44 in the box at key times. Some of it was bad luck, but a lot of times it was just mental errors that cost him positioning. 68PIMs is far too many for Vlad, he should be on the ice when there’s a penalty to kill.
2022-23 Expectation: Lead the way.
This year, he’ll have to continue to lead the way for the younger defensemen on the team. The Blue Jackets really set themselves up nicely by being patient with Vlad as he developed in Russia. Though he’s 26 and entering his prime, I think he’s still trending up and has a lot to give for this team as they improve up the standings. In time and with a more consistent partner, I think Vlad could be one of the best pure defenders in the game. Getting him locked up long-term beyond this coming season, should be a high priority for the Blue Jackets. Read: 2022 Season Preview: Elvis Merzlikins