New Jersey Devils: What’s Future For Shakir Mukhamadullin Look Like?

Shakir Mukhamadullin #17 of Russia. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Shakir Mukhamadullin #17 of Russia. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

Shakir Mukhamadullin is on an interesting trajectory right now. Is he still in the New Jersey Devils plans?

The New Jersey Devils made a head-scratching decision when they allowed Shakir Mukhamadullin to go back to Ufa of the KHL on a loan after signing him to an entry-level contract last season. It burns a year off his ELC, pushing him to free agency quicker, and it takes the control of his development out of their hands. This is a former first-round pick they held in high esteem.

If you remember, the pick was universally panned when it was made. People will now pay attention to every great move and every mistake he makes. Did he blow coverage in a World Juniors game? Did he score well in his latest KHL season? He will be judged with a fine-toothed comb for his entire career because he was predicted to go in the second round of the NHL Draft, but he actually went in the first.

It’s not Mukhamadullin’s fault he went that early. In fact, he didn’t expect it. However, this is where he is, and he’s trying to live up to the expectations.

Then, possibly the best thing happened to him in the last two drafts. The Devils took Luke Hughes in 2021 and Simon Nemec in 2022. The Devils now have their future on the blue line. They don’t need a 20th-overall pick to make the NHL right away because they just spent 2nd and 4th-overall selections on the position.

That also brings up an issue. With Mukhamadullin still progressing, he eventually wants to become an NHL player. When he does, will he have a spot? The Devils clearly showed they don’t think he’s going to be ready anytime soon. If they did, they would have let him play in the AHL. Instead, they are letting him develop on a bad Russian team again.

So, let’s say Mukhamadullin is ready to go in two years from now to be an everyday NHL player. It seems a little unrealistic, but it should definitely be possible. At that point, one would expect Hughes and Nemec to already have their rookie seasons out of the way. Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler will still have four years left on their deals. John Marino will be three years away from free agency. That leaves one spot, and that’s assuming all of Reilly Walsh, Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotyuk, Michael Vukojevic, and Ethan Edwards all fail to make the roster full time. That’s not even including this year’s crop of middle-round defensemen like Seamus Casey.

Basically, Mukhamadullin has a long road ahead of him before he can make the NHL. The window is getting smaller and smaller. To be honest, he hasn’t really done much to improve to the point where he should be considered for that spot. He was an undersized, over-tall, skilled-but-flawed defenseman when the Devils selected him. He’s exactly that same player now. He still makes too many mistakes, but he can make fabulous plays to make you forget about them. Mukhamadullin is what P.K. Subban would be if he were incredibly skinny.

Next. Simon Nemec And Luke Hughes Should Never Play Together. dark

There is still so much time before we’re “giving up” on Mukhamadullin. He’s 20 years old. He has all the time in the world to develop, and he always was a project. Mukhamadullin has an interesting skill set, and if he fixes the mistakes he should be a decent NHL player. The issue is simple math. He might run out of spots on the roster. If that’s the case, then the Devils might be better served to let someone else finish out his development.