Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Vladislav Gavrikov's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Nov. 21, 1995
Height/Weight: 6-3, 215
Nickname: "Gavvy" or "Gavry," he said. Or perhaps it will end up simply as "Vladdy."
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 0 GP, 0-0-0, 0.0 PS
Contract: Signed through 2019-20 season
You might be wondering: We're really going to break down a player who suited up in just two games for the Blue Jackets this year, both of which were playoff games?
It'll be a breezy read at least, right?
OK, so there won't be a ton of looking back with this edition of Battalion Breakdown, but there's no reason we can't look forward. And it seems clear Gavrikov will be a big part of the Blue Jackets' plans for 2019-20, as the big defenseman arrived in North America in late April and showed head coach John Tortorella enough that he was trusted to play in Games 5 and 6 of the Boston series with the Blue Jackets' season on the line.
Gavrikov is another late-round steal the Blue Jackets have become adept at finding over the past few drafts, as the Russian was chosen in the sixth round (No. 159 overall) of the 2015 draft. For the past few years, it has seemed certain that Gavrikov had the talent to be an NHL player, as he starred on Russian power SKA St. Petersburg the past two seasons, won an Olympic gold medal in 2018 and has become a mainstay on the Russian international teams.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, who tried to bring the sturdy blue liner over to North America in the summer of 2017, the call of the Olympics as well as the urge to continue working on his game prompted Gavrikov to stay in his home country two summers ago. But the phrase better late than never likely applies, as Gavrikov appears ready and able to make the NHL a permanent home if he so desires.
Entering the season: Gavrikov was impressive a year ago in his first season with SKA after leaving his hometown team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, playing in 50 regular-season games and posting a 5-9-14 line with a plus-21 rating.
He was expected to again be a stalwart on defense for the Russian power, then consider his options once his two-year contract with SKA ran out at the end of the campaign.
What happened: Gavrikov's numbers were impressive again with SKA, including a plus-48 mark in 60 games that borders on the absurd, though the team is among Russian on-ice royalty as a former military team that is now owned by energy giant Gazprom.
Gavrikov also added five goals and 15 assists for 20 points while taking just 10 penalty minutes all season. He then took part in 18 playoff games, posting a goal and zero assists, before SKA was eliminated in the Gagarin Cup playoffs by CSKA Moscow.
With his season over, Gavrikov was a free agent and quickly signed with the Blue Jackets, arriving in Columbus between the opening-round win vs. Tampa Bay and the second-round series with Boston. Head coach John Tortorella opted not to insert Gavrikov immediately as he liked the cohesiveness and chemistry of his defensive unit, but finally Gavrikov went in for Game 5 in Boston and also played in the series finale. He averaged 15:35 in the two games but was minus-2 with a shot on goal.
"I was so excited and saw everything about the NHL and the playoffs," he said. "We lost and that's bad and I'm sad. But it was the best experience for me and a big experience.
"I'm confident now because I've played two games. I know what's happening next season. I'm awaiting next season right now."
OK, here's the one section of our Battalion Breakdown that will be a little tough to fill given Gavrikov played only two games. With that in mind, enjoy the video of his first interview with the CBJ media.
Video: Gavrikov comments on joining the team
By the Numbers
97: In five seasons at the KHL level, Gavrikov was a combined plus-97 and never finished a season with a negative plus-minus.
3: Gavrikov has made three appearances with the Russian entry at the World Championships and is one of the most consistent members of the national team.
1: In 35 playoff games over the past two seasons with SKA and Columbus, Gavrikov has taken a single penalty, a minor.