You really have to look closely to see the good things that Safonov does, as he isn’t a guy who will wow you with flash and dash. Whenever the play comes to him, with or without the puck, he seems to make the right decision. On defense, including on the penalty kill, he takes key…
|Jan 7/21||Safonov Ilya||21544 – Russia vs. Sweden||WJC-20||by Derek Neumeier||View Report|
|Jan 6/21||Safonov Ilya||21539 – Finland vs. Russia||WJC-20||by Olivia McArter||View Report|
You really have to look closely to see the good things that Safonov does, as he isn’t a guy who will wow you with flash and dash. Whenever the play comes to him, with or without the puck, he seems to make the right decision. On defense, including on the penalty kill, he takes key draws, uses his long reach to foul up opposing possession and uses his large frame to win battles. Seems to win a disproportionate amount of 50-50 battles thanks to his large frame and good hand-eye coordination, which helps his team control puck possession. His puck decisions are primarily neat and tidy, receiving and sending smart little passes in motion and in traffic. Plays in the net-front area on the power play and can bang away at loose rebounds, but he doesn’t really specialize in that role. Not a great skater, including a surprising lack of power at times, but he gets up and down the ice with consistent pace, relying more on his sense and awareness to reach where he needs to be and get into position. He has a really good and honest understanding of what his strengths are as a player, and he doesn’t have any weaknesses that are a huge red flag, either. The play just seems to consistently move in the right direction when he’s out on the ice, in a slow and grinding kind of way. It’s not too far-fetched to think that Safonov could be a bottom-6 NHL center one day, and those guys have value too. He’s old for this draft class, having been passed over twice already, but if you would have drafted him in the 6th or 7th round two years ago you’d be very happy with where his game is at right now, and it’s hard to see most first-time-eligible members of this class becoming as good as Safonov is right now after they have had two years of development.