Sasha Pastujov is an intriguing prospect eligible for the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft. Ranked 33rd on TWC’s consolidated draft rankings, Pastujov has seen his draft stock increase steadily over the past year, working his way into the mid teens on some draft boards.
He will almost certainly be available when the Flames select at number 12 and depending on how things go, he could slip down to the Flames’ next pick at 45. He’s definitely a player to keep a close eye on as his production for a very strong US Development Program has been sky-high the past few seasons.
Who is Sasha Pastujov?
Pastujov was born on July 15, 2003, and is one of the youngest players available in the draft. In fact, among EliteProspect’s full list of 418 draft eligible players, there are only 37 younger than Pastujov; he’s in the ninth percentile in terms of age.
He started his junior career playing AAA hockey in Detroit, and transitioned into the United States Development Program (USDP) in the 2019–20 season. This program is known to be a factory for producing first round draft picks, and this year is another example of that.
He played primarily on the US U-18 team in the USDP last season but also suited up for the USNTDP team in the USHL. Pastujov is committed to the University of Notre Dame next season in the NCAA, where Flames prospect Jake Boltmann plays. If he has a change of heart and chooses to go the CHL route, his rights belong to the OHL’s Guelph Storm.
Pastujov was born in Florida is listed as an American skater, but has two brothers who are listed as dual American and Russian players.
Sasha Pastujov’s on-ice production
Pastujov has been a point producing machine his entire career thus far.
|2019–20||D-1||USDP||U.S. National U17 Team||49||14||36||50|
|2020–21||D+0||USDP||U.S. National U18 Team||41||30||35||65|
With both the USHL and USDP, Pastujov generally hovers around or above the point per game mark. In his first season with the US U17 team, he put up 50 points in 49 games, first in the USDP in terms of points per game. He scored more points than Chaz Lucius, Matthew Beniers, Dylan Duke, Luke Tuch, and other noteworthy players projected to or already selected higher in the draft.
This past season while playing on the U18 team, Pastujov finished second in scoring behind 2022 top prospect Isaac Howard, but first in points per game. He outscored other top prospects Lucius, Duke, and everyone else.
In his first season, Pastujov racked up significantly more assists than goals, but that evened out this season when he scored 30 goals in 41 games.
Internationally, Pastujov has done well representing the USA at both the U-17 and U-18 tournaments. Most recently at the U-18s, Pastujov scored five goals and eight points in five games for the Americans, and was named one of the team’s top three players.
Sasha Pastujov’s strengths
Pastujov is an offense first player, through and through. He is an excellent playmaker and can find tight passing lanes with ease, making him a very good playmaker at the junior level so far. His vision is top notch and he’ll be able to translate this skill to the NCAA level as well, plus will have more skilled players to accept those passes too. Some scouts have Pastujov on their list for best passer in the draft and he absolutely deserves to be on that list.
He’s also worked on his shot fairly substantially the past couple of seasons. Adding more quickness and deception to his releases has been very effective for Pastujov, and it’s definitely one of the reasons his goal totals climbed in 2021.
Pastujov is also a physically mature player who uses his size well. He often wins battles along the boards and pushes defenders aside on the rush. This also helps him on the backcheck, when he does end up coming back and helping on D.
An area that Pastujov really excels in is his lateral skating. He is phenomenal at moving with agility across the ice and while his stride does appear clunky at times, his top speed is incredible and he can burn defenders with that alone. Working with an NHL level skating coach will no doubt smooth out his stride, but he’s got all the tools to be dangerous in transition.
Sasha Pastujov’s areas of improvement
This is an area of contention among scouts, but one area of improvement for Pastujov is his defensive game. Generally, players from the USNTDP are fairly well rounded in their game, but Pastujov is very much an offensive minded winger and does cheat on defense to generate offense. He can often be found circling around the point in the defensive zone and will burst up the ice looking for odd man rushes, similar to Johnny Gaudreau. However, he is lethal on offense and does make those opportunities count, even if it causes havoc when his team fails to clear the puck. It’s just something that comes with being an offense-first player.
As well, Pastujov does need to work on smoothening out his stride and working on his overall explosiveness. His top speed is quite good already and his lateral skating is elite, but going north-south isn’t a strong suit for him and could use some work.
Fit with the Flames
There would be an immediate fit for the Flames with Pastujov if he shot with his right hand. Being a left shooting left winger, he would really only make sense for the Flames if he somehow fell to them in the second round. He’s an excellent player with sandpaper to his game and would be a fan favourite when he did make it to the NHL.
At 12, I think it’s a bit of a gamble to take Pastujov, but at 45 it’s a no-brainer in my eyes. He’s the full offensive package and that is hard to come by. His player comparables are all guys who are faces of their franchises and backbones of their locker rooms: Blake Wheeler and Matthew Tkachuk.
Pastujov is a left shooting left winger out of the USDP. He’s been a point producing machine his entire junior career and blends a solid playmaking and scoring offensive game with sandpaper and grit.
He’s a boom or bust prospect who could be a top line winger like the Flames’ Tkachuk, or be a middle six checking line winger with offensive upside. If he can translate his game to the next level, he could be one of the steals of this draft.
Projection: Top six winger
Previously: William Eklund, Dylan Guenther, Cole Sillinger, Jesper Wallstedt, Kent Johnson, Simon Robertsson, Fabian Lysell, Aatu Räty, Carson Lambos, Simon Edvinsson, Chaz Lucius, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Corson Ceulemans, Francesco Pinelli, Oskar Olausson, Xavier Bourgault, Zachary L’Heureux, Matthew Coronato, Zachary Bolduc, Logan Stankoven, Sebastian Cossa, Nikita Chibrikov, Fyodor Svechkov, Daniil Chayka, Isak Rosen
Featured image created with Venngage.