This is the first in a series of in-depth profiles covering each member of the Colorado Avalanche 2021 draft class. The entire series can be foundHERE.
At just 21 years of age (Happy Birthday!) Andrei Buyalsky has already enjoyed an interesting and varied hockey career which has taken him to multiple teams, leagues and continents. All before eventually getting selected at 92nd overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.
It took going through four drafts for Buyalski to hear his name called, though he had been on the radar back in his original draft year of 2018 when Buyalsky was ranked 120th for European Skaters by NHL Central Scouting. That ranking was updated to 106th for North American Skaters ahead of the 2021 draft. When the selection was finally recorded Buyalsky was the first player born and trained in Kazakhstan to get drafted in 17 years and just the third all-time.
Born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan the 6-foot-3 178 lbs left shot center’s game is based on pure speed and fits the identity of the Avalanche and their 2021 draft class in particular. Buyalsky takes center duties seriously such as in face-offs and playmaking but his game comes alive while carrying the puck and making a beeline for the net along with a surprising wrist and slap shot. The pace will have to get turned up a notch without the puck and especially in the defensive zone but it’s easy to see how scouts took notice of Buyalsky’s game once he was available for viewing outside of Kazakhstan.
Despite playing in a non-traditional hockey country in Kazakhstan Buyalski was afforded the opportunity to get experience playing in the Russian system as his home town’s team Saryarka Karaganda plays in the VHL (Russia’s second tier). There Buyalski was able to get 27 games of experience from 2018-2020 including seven games in the 2019 playoffs where the team won the VHL championship.
Buyalsky was also on the radar long before his move to North America because he was a key fixture at the 2019 and 2020 World Junior Championship events in which Kazakhstan had earned promotion into the top division. Buyalsky scored a goal in each of those tournaments, including one seen below, and helped the team avoid relegation in 2019.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 29, 2019
Buyalsky started his 2020-21 season at home in Kazakhstan as part of the national men’s league with the club HK Almaty where he produced 13 points in 24 games. When his US visa came through, which enabled him to play in North America, he moved to the USHL right after Christmas and started his journey with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. There he posted 32 points including 15 goals in 36 games and caught the eye of not only scouts but NCAA recruiters.
That attention didn’t take long to turn into a scholarship offer and commitment to Vermont by February of 2021 which even earned Buyalsky a mention in 31 Thoughts. He is set to begin his collegiate career in the fall with the Catamounts as one of the older incoming freshman but the experience will further Buyalsky’s comfort with the North American game, culture and English language.
Although college is a great place to refine some of the raw parts of his game the assumption shouldn’t be that Buyalsky is going to slow burn on a conservative four or five year path in college. With extensive professional experience over the course of four years on his resume already it is likely Buyalsky might be interested in a North American pro contract sooner than later.
The Avalanche have not had a lot of success with the older overage drafted players especially forwards and those from a non-traditional paths who may need a little more hands-on assistance from the organization. The hope is there is a plan for this unique player and person to give him the best chance to succeed at an NHL dream.