Sure, he’s been a member of the greater Devils organization since 2018 – when he was drafted in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft (141st overall) – and played 125 games in Binghampton from 2018-20, but that’s neither here nor there. Before Lindy Ruff came to town, the majority of fans at most expected to see the 22-year-old competing for more than a bottom-six role alongside fellow two-way forwards like Nicholas Merkley, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Nolan Foote, and Janne Kuokkanen.
Heck, even NHL 21 – who totally knows how to judge player talent correctly and give them definitive scores – have Sharangovich graded out as a below-average skater and a player with a comically lower grade (69) than Brett Seney (77) – who actually is a member of the Binghamton Devils in 2020-21 after failing to make either the NHL Devils’ active roster or their taxi squad.
Well, if the last two contests are of any indication, something tells me NHL 21 – and the rest of the NHL – are going to have to change their perspectives on Sharangovich quick, because he’s playing like a certified top-sixer, maybe even more.
Who needs Taylor Hall when the New Jersey Devils have Yegor Sharangovich?
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When news broke that the 2020-21 NHL season would not open up on time, Sharangovich opted to return to the KHL on loan from the Devils to continue to progress his career forward while actually playing hockey on-ice over sitting on his couch waiting for the league to formulate a plan.
Since returning back stateside, Sharangovich has played like a different, well, player – showing newfound confidence on the ice alongside his speedy skates and improved shot.
While Sharangovich’s return may not have inspired a ton of fervor among a fanbase still reeling with the loss of Taylor Hall, he noticeably found a fan in new head coach Lindy Ruff who spoke glowingly about his new 6-foot-2, 196-pound Belarusian winger, telling Jim Biringer of Full Press Coverage, “There is a reason he scored the number of goals he scored in the KHL. He gets himself in situations that he’s going to get opportunities. And I think when you get the opportunities, it’s what you do with them, and he has been a good player for us.”
Factor in a few strong performances in the Devils’ scrimmages playing against his future teammates, and it became rather obvious that Sharangovich would not only make the Devils’ opening day roster straight up but potentially even earn a top-six role with Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier out for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
As it turns out, “potentially even earn a top-six role” might have been a pretty severe understatement.
Fast forward to opening night, and it was Sharangovich, not Andreas Johnsson or Miles Wood, who earned the nod atop Ruff’s top line. He played the most time of any forward not named Jack Hughes, Kyle Palmieri, or Pavel Zacha and looked lightning fast going up and down the ice – even if he only attempted two shots and failed to log a point.
That performance clearly was enough to earn a second look from Ruff, as he kept his lines unchanged going into the team’s second contest of the season versus the Boston Bruins, and that confidence was rewarded more than anyone could have hoped.
Facing off against a Bruce Cassidy squad who had presumably had time to make adjustments going into Game 2, Sharangovich once again showed out well on the top line alongside Hughes and Palmieri. Though Sharangovich spent 20 fewer seconds on the ice than in the game prior – due in no small part to Wood having another strong game – he once again played a pivotal role in keeping the offense running smoothly, especially during the first and third periods, all the while leading the team in faceoff wins at 4-1.
Oh yeah, and Sharangovich scored the game-clinching goal on a breakaway pass from fellow KHL standout Nikita Gusev with two seconds left to play in overtime to secure the Devils their first win of the year. How could I forget?
*Kisses fingers* beautiful, put that one on replay indefinitely.
Now granted, a big reason why Sharangovich received such an expansive role is because Bratt and Hischier are out of action. When they return, it’s entirely possible Sharangovich could kick down a line to play alongside Travis Zajac, play on the second line next to Hughes, or even remain on the top line newly paired up with Hischier.
But regardless of how Lindy Ruff decides to reorganize his lineups moving forward, it’s abundantly clear that Yegor Sharangovich will be featured prominently on the New Jersey Devils’ line – a thought near unimaginable by many a fan who probably couldn’t pronounce his name a month prior. If he can continue to progress with each passing game and avoid getting cross-checked into the rookie wall, fans may finally be able to put the Taylor Hall trade behind them and know definitively that the Devils have another sharpshooting big wing to build around moving forward.