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CBJ Snap Shots: Gavrikov hopes to build on playoff experience

Defenseman showed his abilities in two games with Blue Jackets

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The question was simple, and the answer was even simpler. 

Did Vladislav Gavrikov feel his two-game debut at the end of the Blue Jackets' Stanley Cup Playoffs run make the Russian defenseman feel like he proved to himself he can play at the NHL level?

"For sure," the 23-year-old replied. 

Gavrikov is a pleasant man, but a man of few words, at least to this point. He has learned English -- it's quite good, in fact -- with help from his wife Anastasia but still doesn't seem totally comfortable with the language in interviews. 

There was no barrier, though, when it comes to his game translating from the big ice of the KHL to the smaller confines of North America. Gavrikov slid into the lineup and looked strong, playing an average of 15:35 in Games 5 and 6 of the series vs. Boston.

Columbus lost both games and Gavrikov was minus-2, but that wasn't really an indictment on his play, including one goal Boston scored when Gavrikov was caught back as the lone defender on a 4-on-1. He looked comfortable from the beginning, playing with poise with the puck on his stick.  

"I've said this before in our internal conversation that I think he could have played for us all year in our top six," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "If he can step into the playoff games and play like that, he probably could have played for us all year and been a big part of it. I am excited about his potential and am really happy that he's on our team next year." 

"Gavrikov came in in the postseason and does some great things," Seth Jones added. "Big body, physical, can move his feet and skate." 

Gavrikov will head back to his native Russia this offseason after finishing up his stint at the World Championships -- he's a decorated international player, including a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics -- now feeling good about his ability to play in North America.  

"I have confidence now because I've played two games, so I know what's happening next season," he said. "I'm awaiting next season right now." 

It seems fair to say, as Kekalainen alluded to, that Gavrikov will play a big part in the Blue Jackets' plans next season after signing a two-year deal late this year. He should add to a crew that progressed mightily this season, especially on the depth side with the strong performances of Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington and Adam Clendening. 

A full year might also help him blossom after a standout past two seasons in the KHL with Russian giant SKA St. Petersburg. The defenseman was never known for his offense, scoring 10 goals with 34 points in 110 regular-season games over the past two seasons, but was a combined plus-69. 

Now with his feet wet in the NHL, including a pair of playoff games, he looks back on his Columbus cameo with good memories and hopes to create more next year. 

"It was a beautiful time for me because I came along in the second round of the playoffs," he said. "I was so excited and saw everything about the NHL and about the playoffs. It was a good time for me, but we lost and that's too bad and I'm sad. But it was the best experience for me and a big experience." 

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