5’11″, 193 pounds, a smooth skater with exceptional speed (bordering on mind-blowing), Slava Voynov is a prototypical skilled Russian defenseman. He was drafted 32nd overall in 2008 and, in three seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, Voynov has shown steady improvement. The last two have seen Voynov improve from 10 to 15 goals, 19 to 36 assists and a plus-minus from +0 to +21. He added 2 goals and 3 assists in 7 playoff games last season. That plus-minus is a testament to his play with the puck. If you see Voynov make a turnover, remember the moment because it doesn’t happen too often. If you give him a lane, he will drive a slap shot on net. Need a rush up the ice? Place the biscuit on his stick and watch him fly. He, Jake Muzzin and Nicolas Deslauriers are, to this Kings’ fan, the pride and joy of our young defensive corps who have not yet found a spot with the big club.
But there is always a but…
How many young, skilled, offensive defensemen can an organization have? Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Alec Martinez and these three make six. Six offensive defensemen, each with the potential to become NHL regulars, is a good problem to have until you realize that we are missing – the defensive defensemen . Yes, there is Derek Forbort, but he is still a few years away. Of the six, is Voynov the most likely to be traded? I think so.
First, he is not North American and that, by itself, puts him a half of step back in a Dean Lombardi run organization (my buddy, Zak, just cringed as he read that). This isn’t a slight against Voynov as much as it is the reality that our GM likes North American players on the back-end and, in general, at every position. Look up and down our lineup. How many European and Russian players do you see?
Second, he brings a skill set similar to Muzzin and Deslauriers but there is one element missing from Slava’s game that the latter two have – the “heavy” game. Now, that doesn’t have a specific definition but let’s not forget who our coach is and what he covets. Slava is no slouch but he isn’t yet that all around North American style defenseman that uses his body to punish opposing forwards.
Third, he may have the most value in a trade. Wait, what? That’s right. Take, for example, the New York Islanders. That is a team that badly needs a young defenseman in the mold of Voynov. Don’t ask me what, hypothetically, they would give back. That’s a different conversation. The point is Voynov, at 21, could hypothetically crack the Islanders’ lineup as well as produce. There are several other teams in the East and more than half a dozen in the league that would happily pick up the phone if Dean Lombardi wanted to package Slava in a trade.
Am I advocating we trade him? No, but I have reason to believe he is the odd man out. I am not sure what I would do but sooner or later (likely sooner), this log jam at the D position has to be addressed and the last thing Dean Lombardi wants to see is Slava bolt for the KHL if he doesn’t make the team this season.
If he makes it to training camp, can you see him making the team? Where do you put him and what do you think his future holds?