Columbus Blue Jackets prospect watch: Nikolai Makarov

Nikolai Makarov is a depth prospect for the Blue Jackets. The left shot defenseman may be a long shot roll of the dice, but he has size and plenty of potential.
CSKA Hockey Club player, Nikolai Makarov (No.18) seen in...
CSKA Hockey Club player, Nikolai Makarov (No.18) seen in... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Players picked in the late rounds often have one or more big question marks about them. That's usually what makes them a late round pick, after all.

In the case of Nikolai Makarov, the big question mark comes from his place of birth. Being Russian makes it hard for NHL teams to gauge if - or when - a player might come to North America.

The KHL has been known to make it difficult for NHL teams to pry away talent. They'll throw big money around to keep a young player, or do anything else in their power to prevent a transfer.

As was the case with Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ivan Fedotov - whose recent case caused sanctions to the player, the KHL, and his former team, CSKA Moscow.

Those sanctions directly affect two Blue Jacket prospects: forward Kirill Dolzhenkov, and the subject of this article, Nikolai Makarov. They can't "legally" get these players across the pond for at least two more years.

dark. Related. Kirill Dolzhenkov. CBJ prospect watch: Kirill Dolzhenkov

Which is too bad, because I think both guys are intriguing prospects for the Jackets. Makarov has good size (6'1", 195 pounds), and is a steady, physical presence on defense.

There's not a ton of offensive upside here, but that's fine. He often chooses to just make the smart, simple play to get his team out of danger; rather than trying to do too much with the puck.

I think he's a fringe prospect, but he does have NHL upside because of his skating, gap control, and physicality. He's good at timing defensive plays, getting himself inside positioning and breaking up chances against.

This all sounds like a pretty good return for a guy taken in the 5th round (#132 overall) at the 2021 NHL Draft.

It might also sound familiar, because he's following an eerily simliar trajectory to former Blue Jacket Vladislav Gavrikov. The team was patient with Vlad, and by the time he did come over, he stepped right into the lineup and played valuable second pairing minutes for the Jackets.

With that said, I don't think Makarov has the same kind of potential because I don't see him bringing as much offense.

More likely, he'll develop into a #5/6/7 guy who eats up minutes against the opposing team's bottom-six forwards. He should also be able to play some penalty kill minutes.

All of that is assuming he ever comes over to North America. This is a case of "wait and see" for the Blue Jackets.