Surprise emergence of NJ Devils’ forward Yegor Sharangovich


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NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – APRIL 18: Yegor Sharangovich #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates with the puck against the New York Rangers during the first period at Prudential Center on April 18, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) Design by Daniel Amoia

Daniel Amoia, Writer

In June of 2018, a Belarusian teenager by the name of Yegor Sharangovich heard his name called in the fifth round of the NHL draft, 141st overall.

The New Jersey Devils had made that selection, taking a chance on the kid who had scored just four goals in 48 games in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), albeit he was a teenager playing in the second greatest hockey league in the world.

Aside from draft night, Devils fans had not heard about him since. He quickly became forgotten, as is the reality for the large majority of draft picks after the second round.

A poll conducted by blogging site All About the Jersey showed 40% of people claiming they either were “in the middle”, “did not like”, or “hated” the pick. Only thirteen people out of the 163 polled said they loved the pick.

His following two seasons further enabled him to be forgotten about, as his move to America from Belarus was tough on him.

He combined for nineteen goals in 125 games in the American Hockey League (AHL), which is a step below the National Hockey League (NHL). For contrast, the most recent leading goal scorer in the AHL, Gerald Mayhew, scored 39 goals in 49 games. And he was still considered not good enough for the NHL. 

If Mayhew’s 0.795 goals per game was not good enough for the NHL, surely Sharangovich’s 0.152 goals per game would be nowhere near good enough.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an extremely difficult time for virtually everyone on this planet, but Yegor Sharangovich made a positive out of a negative. 

It began with the training. Yegor put in the maximum amount of effort possible to improve every aspect of his game: his shot, his speed, his defense, etc.

With no hockey leagues being conducted anywhere in the world, he spent the dog days of quarantine hoping to put himself in the best chance to succeed once hockey was back.

Shortly after his 22nd birthday, he finally received an opportunity to play. Dinamo Minsk, the only Belarusian team in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), was willing to take in Yegor to play until hockey in North America resumed. As the only Belarus player with even the slightest chance to make the NHL, he was named captain of the team.

Dinamo Minsk was the same team Yegor had played for a few years prior and scored four goals in 48 games. Sharangovich took the ice for the first time with his temporary new team on September 3, 2020.

With the NHL season still nowhere near ready to kick off, diehard hockey fans around the world turned their attention to the KHL for their viewing pleasure. A chance was presented for him to prove himself on one of the biggest stages.

Two days later, on September 5, Yegor scored his first goal with the club. On September 15, he scored his second goal. 

Then the team’s COVID shutdown began, with Sharangovich being one of the very few to not get infected with the virus. He was promoted to play on the team’s top line, having to step up into a monumental role with a bulk of his team sidelined.

Their second game back, he scored his third goal. Two games following that, he found the back of the net again for his fourth. In just ten games, he had accomplished what took him 48 games to do a couple years prior.

Many critics questioned whether it was just a lucky hot streak, or if his success in the second greatest league in the world was actually sustainable. 

It seemed to be the latter, as Yegor Sharangovich exploded for seventeen goals in a span of 34 KHL games. According to Elite Prospects, at the time of him leaving for New Jersey Devils training camp, he was third in the entire KHL in goal scoring. Not only that, but he was the youngest player in the top ten by an entire five years. 

It is so rare that players under the age of 25 accomplish anything substantial in the KHL, let alone be at the tops of the league. For example, the highly-touted New York Rangers’ 2018 first round draft pick, Vitali Kravtsov, scored sixteen goals in 49 KHL games before heading over to the NHL. That is one less goal than Yegor in fifteen more games played.

The fact that Yegor was outscoring some of the highest-ranked prospects, along with a plethora of former NHL players in the KHL, was downright incredible. 

How did Yegor’s turnaround happen? According to The Athletic, Dinamo coach and former NHL player development coach, Craig Woodcroft, outlined it perfectly.

“We really encouraged him to shoot a lot and shoot more and to trust his shot. Because we found, maybe he didn’t believe in it as much as he should have, so it was getting him over that hump. Like, ‘Hey, you know, you do have a bomb and you should use it more.’”

The more Sharangovich decided to shoot, the more his pucks found the back of the net as he took the KHL by storm. 

Woodcroft also added, “He’s very motivated and he’s very coachable. He’s made big gains on his strength and his conditioning, which has been a key factor in him being able to execute at a high level. He’s really taken advantage of the opportunity that he was given. I’m not surprised.”

He left Dinamo for Devils’ development camp towards the end of 2020, ready to hopefully get a spot on the NHL team.

Also of important note: a whole country was watching. “…he’s the future of Belarus hockey…Belarus’ best young player right now, the one with the brightest upside. So, with that comes responsibility,” stated Woodcroft.

Craig Woodcroft claimed he handled that responsibility with class and grace. Yegor has been humble throughout everything, and is always a guy that is smiling and lifting up his teammates. 

Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff was immediately impressed with Sharangovich, as he scored in almost every single team scrimmage. 

So impressed that not only did he make the team, but Ruff trusted him to start off on the team’s top line with 2019 1st overall pick, Jack Hughes, and elite goal scorer, Kyle Palmieri.

A few months back, he was considered a mediocre minor league player. Fast forward about eight months, and he found himself playing on the top line of the New Jersey Devils on opening night.

There were still questions as to how his previous success would carry over to real NHL games, but he halted that quickly.

He became the first and only player (so far) out of all 30 players from the 5th round of the 2018 draft to play in an NHL game. He did not score in the first game of the season, however he created multiple scoring chances and also drew three penalties in the first period alone. His speed was very noticeable and he could not be contained by the Boston Bruins, arguably the best hockey team in the world.

The next game, he scored his first NHL goal in a dramatic overtime winner with just 1.7 seconds left, defeating those same Boston Bruins 2-1.

Things got a bit shaky thereafter, as he did not score in seven games. He did not look great on the ice, and found himself scratched out of the lineup for a few games. Then, a Devils’ COVID outbreak hit, leading to a two week break.

Coaches worked with him over the hiatus to regain his confidence and get back to what made him so successful in the KHL and the first couple games in the NHL.

On February 16, 2021, the very first game back from the break, he scored the game-winning goal against the New York Rangers. 

Coach Lindy Ruff started rewarding him with more ice time as a result of his stellar play, and the results followed.

Including that Rangers game, Sharangovich scored eight goals in his next 28 games, showing he belonged in the NHL.

He also beat his assist total of eight from the KHL, notching ten and proving he could be a playmaker in addition to a goal scorer.

His ice time went from around twelve minutes per game to nearly twenty. He has been playing on the top line with 1st overall pick Jack Hughes and rising playmaker Janne Kuokkanen, becoming a fan favorite in New Jersey.

Following the trading of Kyle Palmieri, many Devils fans expect 22 year old Sharangovich to take the reins as the club’s best goal scorer. 

According to NHL, as of April 20, 2021, he is second in Devils’ goals. He is fifth in the NHL in rookie goal scoring, just past Rangers’ #1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. He is also only two goals behind Pius Suter of the Blackhawks, who is second in that category.

This is just the beginning of Yegor Sharangovich’s run in the NHL. He is still only 22, and continuing to improve every game as he gets acclimated to the fast-paced style of the greatest hockey league in the world. 

His rise in a span of a few months from a minor league nobody to a core piece of the New Jersey franchise has been exhilarating. Head coach Lindy Ruff has made it very clear Sharangovich is here to stay and has been one of the best forwards on the entire team. Belarus’ superstar is not going away anytime soon.