Prior to the July 1st acquisition of Phil Kessel this summer the Pittsburgh Penguins were making noise when rumors surfaced about their interest in 25 year old Russian player Sergei Plotnikov. So now that the Penguins have signed him and he has made his way to Pittsburgh to start his transition what should we all expect from the big Russian forward?
Plotnikov isn’t your typical Russian forward, he doesn’t hide from physicality as he actually relishes in it. At 6’2″ and a solid 205lbs Sergei will not sway from getting in the dirty areas of the ice. However this isn’t to say he wont be capable of putting up points.
So what kind of points can we expect from Plotnikov, a player who has never played in an NHL game?
Unfortunately I am unable to find a good source for the conversion percentage between KHL and NHL for players and the points they have scored. It seems there is a flux ranging from 58% to 78%. So for the sake of argument I am going to split the difference and use a conversion rate of 68%.
So lets take his total goals from last season in the KHL – 15 – multiply that by .68 (answer 10.2) Divide that by the 56 games he played in the KHL (answer .18) now multiply that by the 82 games he should play in the NHL and we get 14.76, lets round that up to 15.
So according to this above we could potentially see Plotnikov score 15+goals this season. However I believe this number will fluctuate depending on where he finds himself on the roster, whether it is next to Malkin or in the bottom six.
Using the same formula above I converted his 36 points from last season in the same fashion. and it shows he will score roughly 36 points this season.
If you ask me these numbers are not too bad at all. You figure with the type of game he plays, very physical and hard nosed, putting up 36+ points is an impressive feat for a 1st year in the NHL.
What is his skill set?
As I stated above Plotnikov is a physical hard nosed player. He uses his size (6’2″ 2015lbs) fully to his advantage. However he shows great hockey sense and great vision on the ice. After watching quite a few videos of him I can say his biggest downfall is his skating. This isn’t to say he’s not fast or skilled in this department, it’s just he lacks a strong start when at a complete stop.
Despite scoring just 15 goals in 56 games last season in the KHL I believe he has a knack for getting into prime scoring areas in front of the net as well as an ability to find open space on the ice where a premier passer like Crosby or Malkin could feed him the puck.
There are many reasons to be excited about this signing, so don’t be afraid to purchase your Plotnikov Jerseys or Shirtseys and wear them proud. This should be an interesting season for him without a doubt.
Where does Plotnikov fit on the Roster?
Rumor has it that the acquisition of Plotnikov was done in large part due to a request by Evgeni Malkin. Knowing him and playing with him earlier in the summer they had conversations of Sergei making the jump to the NHL. It isn’t far fetched to imagine Plotnikov finding a spot next to Malkin at some point in the season. However as many of you read in my article “Predicting the Pens Top Six Analytically” I see Perron, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Kessel as the potential top four wingers to start the season.
So with Eric Fehr out possibly until November or December Sergei will have ample opportunity to score a spot on the third line along side Nick Bonino. With that said everything will hinge on how well he is able to transition to the smaller ice and bigger skaters on the rink.
In closing I am going to leave this video here for you all to watch. Some of you may have seen it already but if you haven’t this surely shows off all of the skills Sergei is bringing to the Penguins. HIs vision, shot, physicality, strength and tenacity. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading!
– Robert Slavinsky