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Maxim Denezhkin begins rookie season in the KHL

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Liam Horrobin
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers hosted their annual rookie camp over the summer and just wrapped up at the NHL Young Stars tournament in Penticton, British Columbia. With that, fans started to become familiar with what the future looks like down in Bakersfield and who might be a key contributor down the line. However, there are a few names that fans haven’t become accustomed to yet, and one of them is Maxim Denezkhin. 
Maxim Denezkhin is one of three Oilers prospects playing in the KHL this season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made his way over to North America just yet but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a player worth following.
This season, Denezhkin is playing for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg and has got off to a decent start in his rookie campaign. At the time of this writing, the seventh-round pick from 2019 has a goal and an assist through eight games while averaging around 16 minutes a night and playing in critical moments.
On draft day, the scouting reports for Denezkhin all acknowledged his work ethic, skill set, and hockey sense, which would all be welcomed additions to an Oilers depth chart that’s lacking skill up front. After watching a couple of his games from this past week, those traits remain in his game and are worth talking about.
Here’s a look at that hockey sense on display. In the play, Denezkhin is quick to be the support man before ending up with the puck and quickly finding a teammate in front of the net for a goal.
The thing I noticed most is that Denezkhin’s compete level is present on every shift. His hockey sense comes into play here too, as he is quick to put pressure on puck carriers and seemingly has a knack for interrupting plays defensively. One note, however, is that Denezkhin would benefit from getting stronger. I watched him battle for space a few times and wasn’t quite strong enough to execute the play as I’m sure he hoped. Once such play led directly to a goal against. Of course, it’s his first year playing against men so the strength will come.
Another bright side is that Denezkhin’s skating showed promise, as well. He has some speed and quickness to him, however, he isn’t going to leave opponents in the dust either. Denezkhin struggled to find a second gear to catch opponents on the edge, which typically resulted in a dead play. If he can find the balance of knowing when to attack or hold up, his game will take another step forward.
There’s plenty of promise in his game that could one day translate to the North American game provided that Denezkhin keeps polishing his skills. His skating is good, showing quickness and acceleration. He’s quick to close down opponents, giving them little time to think before he’s putting on the pressure. 
Overall, Denezkhin has much to offer. His numbers might not look great after the season, but let’s not forget it’s his first season in Russia’s top league. He will get stronger as the season progresses, which will help elevate his game. That said, Denezkhin looks to be a prospect that could have a future if he can get himself to North America one day.

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