While Vladimir Bobylev wasn’t the poster boy of Toronto’s overager experiments in 2016, he arguably had the most interesting post-draft pathway in the year that followed. Splitting his time between two very different leagues, the 20-year-old will now come to a different crossroads in the next few weeks.

Age 20 (April 18, 1997) Birthplace Lipetsk, Russia
Pos Forward (LH) Drafted 2016 (Rd 5, Pick 122)
Vitals 6’2, 203lbs Acquired Via Draft

Bobylev is a really interesting prospect in the sense that he’s never really stuck to a clear development path. He’s never really had much involvement with the Russian national team and only had a year of major junior experience in his native country.

After that, he set his sights on North America, hopping over to the WHL and… finishing his draft year as a completely unnoteworthy prospect. Thankfully for him, after falling back into the CHL Import Draft, the Victoria Royals gave him another lease on life, allowing him to deliver the near point-a-game Draft+1 season that caught the eyes of the Leafs.

They also welcomed him back with open arms when his next plan didn’t work out. Looking to play against tougher competition, Bobylev went back home to play for Spartak Moscow, and while the idea seemed great when it happened, a coaching change led to healthy scratches and nights where his ice time would fall to as little as two shifts. When he was made aware that they saw him as a VHL talent, Bobylev decided a return to Victoria made more sense.

 AGE  SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM NHLe +/-
16  2013-14  Atlanty Mytishchi  MHL 35 4 4 8 36 5.8 -1
17  2014-15  Vancouver Giants  WHL 52 3 6 9 39 4.2 -2
18  2015-16  Victoria Royals  WHL 72 28 39 67 60 22.1 45
19  2016-17  Spartak Moskva  KHL 20 1 2 3 10 9 1
19  Victoria Royals  WHL 38 9 27 36 53 22.5 16

He may have been onto something, too. Bobylev returned to top minutes, top teammates, and relatively stiff competition. Typically paired with Matthew Phillips (Calgary) and Tyler Soy (Anaheim), he excelled, producing at a similar rate to the year before while putting up a fantastic 14.7% relative goals-for percentage.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
561 (3/31) 53 (3/31) 9.4% (25/31) 28.8 (19/31) 2.7 (23/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction/full list post.

The projection models aren’t so hot on Bobylev, likely because point-per-game seasons aren’t exactly out of the ordinary for Draft+1 and 2 players in major junior. That’s also why he’s near the most matches; these are the guys who are pretty likely to get a shot at the pros, but aren’t so likely to be bona fide NHLers.

There’s a lot to like about Bobylev from an eye-test perspective. In fact, he was one of my favourites from the rookie tournament and in Marlies training camp this year; he shows fantastic strength with the puck, practically attaching it to himself as players bounce off him. His skating ability isn’t top-end but it’s enough to keep up, and I’m curious to see how he holds up against pros on this side of the pond.

The Upcoming Year

We might have our answer to that question this season, though it’s hard to say for sure just yet. Bobylev looked excellent in the Marlies’ three-day mini-camp this past week, though much of the expected team for this year is still up with the Leafs, so maybe playing against tryout competition made him look a little better than he really was.

Should they not feel him to be ready for the Marlies, Bobylev does have one more year of junior eligibility. But  I wonder if they consider the Solar Bears as an option for him. If getting a decent utility forward out of him is the mission, it’d be wise to re-attempt to play him with pros, though risking another fiasco like last year could completely shatter his development.

Long-Term Outlook

I don’t have much doubt that Bobylev is going to have a solid professional career. My bigger question is, of course, where? I don’t think he’s of the skill tier to make it with Toronto unless they’re still doing the three top lines and a good but still a fourth line thing a few years from now. Is he a player they move down the line? Does he eventually head back home in pursuit of a payday as a middle-six KHLer?

It’s impossible to know, really. That applies to most players on the list, but thanks to the bevy of options he has and his willingness to try new things, I think it applies even more to him. I’m kind of excited to see what the short term looks like for him all the same.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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