It’s 2018 and the Colorado Avalanche is a year removed from the dreadful, embarrassing 48-point season and has shocked the hockey world by clinching a playoff place on the final day by beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2. It was a first-round exit for the Avs at the hands of the Nashville Predators but the rebuild had started to show fruition going into the Draft. Martin Kaut was their first-round pick and four more were chosen before they picked Russian defenseman Danila Zhuravlyov, or Lil Z as he would come to be known, at #146.
He was considered a talent in most mock drafts of the day who could go as high as the second round but with the ever-increasing trend of Russian players not making their way to North America he ended up slipping. The Avalanche alone picked Justus Annunen, Sampo Ranta, Tyler Weiss, and Brandon Saigeon before opting for Lil Z.
There was no doubt the talent was there, especially the skating, but it seemed as if teams could not get reassurance that the defenseman would make his way across the waters. Well, now it seems as if the gamble taken by Joe Sakic and company has paid off with Lil Z signing with the Avalanche on a two-year ELC deal.
The likelihood is he will join the AHL affiliated Colorado Eagles, whether for this season’s playoffs is still questionable, and be evaluated on his time in North America. Given the nickname Lil Z due to the Avalanche having a Big Z in Nikita Zadorov on the roster at the time, Zhuravlyov was drafted as an offensive defenseman but has become more of a shutdown D-man during his time in the KHL. With the way the Avalanche plays it will be interesting to see if that reverts or if they will keep him on track to be a defensive option, given the offensive talent they have on the blue line.