2024 NHL Draft notebook: Gridin excelled after making major 1st impression


The 2024 NHL Draft will be held June 28-29, reportedly at Sphere in Las Vegas. NHL.com will take a closer look at some of the draft-eligible players to watch. This week, a profile of right wing Matvei Gridin with Muskegon of the United States Hockey League.

Matvei Gridin made a significant first impression this season in the United States Hockey League.

It came in the form of three goals on three shots for Muskegon in a 6-2 win against Omaha in the season opener at the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23.

The 18-year-old right wing (6-foot-1, 182 pounds) finished with five points (three goals, two assists) in two games at the five-day event, which attracted more than 400 scouts from the NHL, college and junior-hockey levels.

“That performance helped a lot for sure,” Gridin said. “[In 2022-23] I wasn’t playing a lot and nobody knew who I was as a player. In that first game in the Fall Classic, I showed all the scouts what I can do.”

And he’s been doing it ever since.

“Matvei just has real elite hockey sense,” said David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting. “His play without the puck is so good that you think he’s anticipating, but it’s kind of like he’s already where he needs to be all the time and then his ability to move it to the open man. He possesses a complete package of hockey skills. I’ve seen his mobility and pace getting better as the season’s gone on.”

Gridin, No. 21 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2024 Draft, began playing hockey at the age of 3 in his hometown of Kurgan, Russia. It was there his father, Andrey, began teaching him the fundamentals.

“He helped me become the player I am,” Gridin said of his father. “All that I do on the ice is because of him; he played hockey in Russia.”

The younger Gridin played for St. Petersburg and Omsk in Russia’s development leagues before being chosen by Muskegon in the 15th round (No. 223) of the 2022 USHL entry draft.

“The USHL is one of the best junior hockey leagues in the world and I just felt it would be perfect for my development in taking that step to the next level,” Gridin said.

He led the USHL with 83 points (38 goals, 45 assists) in 60 games this season, a vast improvement on the 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) he had in 40 games last season.

Gridin was able to play to his strengths, which include his intelligence, playmaking and an impressive release on his shot. He is committed to play at the University of Michigan next season.

“Matvei is just so driven to impact the game however he can, whether it’s with his offensive flair, making a play,” Muskegon coach Parker Burgess said. “I know he thinks of himself at times as a pass-first playmaker type of forward, but he’s got one of the quickest releases I’ve seen.”

Burgess, who was promoted from associate coach in December 2023, has seen the improvement in Gridin’s game since the day he was hired ahead of the 2022-23 season.

“I don’t know if there’s a kid in the league who has the same combination of skill, size, strength and shot,” Burgess said. “He can be F-1 [first forward] on the forecheck, he gets under sticks and creates a lot of turnovers because he has such a good stick. We’ve also given him time on the penalty kill and he’s been one of our top penalty killers since we’ve done it because he’s got a good reach … his stick detail is through the roof.”
 
Said Gridin: “When [Burgess] took over as coach after Christmas [in 2023], he started to trust me and I was getting more ice time. It’s been building my confidence and that helped a lot for sure.”

Gridin was second in the USHL with 29 power-play points (10 goals, 19 assists) and had one short-handed point.

“Matvei is really good at finding where the next guy is going to be before he picks up the puck a lot of times, so you got to look at his head because he’s already surveyed the entire situation,” Gregory said. “That just means he looked where everyone was before he picked up the puck and that’s really good hockey sense, really good playmaking ability.”

Prospects on the radar (listed alphabetically):

Leo Sahlin Wallenius, D, Vaxjo Jr. (SWE): The 18-year-old left-handed shot (5-11, 176) is No. 7 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of the top International skaters, up from No. 11 in the midterm ranking in January. He had 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 43 games in Sweden’s under-20 league.

“Our group feels he’s the best Sweden-born player in this year’s draft,” NHL director of European Scouting Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen said.

John Mustard, C, Waterloo (USHL): Mustard (6-0, 180) jumped to No. 27 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters from No. 41 at the midterm. He ranked second for Waterloo and second among USHL rookies with 56 points (29 goals, 27 assists) in 60 games and is committed to play at Providence College in 2025-26. Born in Newmarket, Ontario, the 17-year-old played his minor hockey in New Jersey with the North Jersey Avalanche and at Bergen Catholic High School (2020-22).

Adam Jecho, C, Edmonton (WHL): Jecho (6-5, 197) can play a physical or finesse-style of game. No. 22 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, he was fifth on Edmonton with 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists) in 54 games in his first season in North America after developing in his native Czech Republic and Finland.

“Playing in Canada, it’s more about forechecking, getting turnovers, so the physicality is a big thing,” Jecho said. “I think it’s really great for the younger guys to get used to it because this is pretty much how the professional leagues are.”

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