Photo Credit: Roman Khakimov
Rodion Amirov will more than likely be the first Russian skater off the board on draft night. While there is a possibility that Amirov could be the first Russian prospect off the board, Yaroslav Askarov, who is the number one goaltending prospect (in the SKA St. Petersburg system) has garnered plenty of attention and teams might be higher on Askarov than Amirov because of positional need.
The Salavat, Russia (in the republic of Bashkortostan, close to the Russia-Kazakhstan border) native played in the MHL (Russian Junior Hockey League), VHL (Russian Minor Hockey League) and the KHL (Russian Professional Hockey League) this season. While the bulk of his offensive production occurred in the MHL and VHL, Amirov was still a valued asset for Ufa Salavat Yulaev at the KHL level.
When Amirov suited up in the MHL, he was lights out. In 17 games for Tolpar Ufa, he tallied 10 goals and 12 assists. His experience in the VHL was a little less fruitful, but he still managed to tally three points in five regular season games for Toros Neftekamsk.
At the beginning of the season, he was battle tested at the KHL level, but he did not get a ton of playing time, which impacted his offensive production (two assists in 21 games). While Amirov was sent down to the MHL, it was not a bad thing. Often times in Europe, we see younger prospects play lower minutes because the coaches are adamant on getting the veterans out on the ice as they more confident in them to produce and help push their clubs forward. We have seen similar situations in Sweden with Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz and Noel Gunler. Yet, the only difference is that Raymond, Holtz and Gunler spent the bulk of their season playing at the highest competitive level while Amirov was up and down.
D.O.B – October 2, 2001
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –168 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Amirov’s Style Of Play
One of my favorite things about Amirov is his ability to read playing surface and identify which teammate is going where. When the Russian prospect is about to make a pass, he seems to identify the desired area where his teammate will be and deliver the pass to that spot. It’s almost like in the National Football League, where you have quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, who know exactly where to throw the ball to even though their wide receiver is still en route to their desired open spot.
While Amirov reads on-ice strategy like a NFL Quarterback would, he brings much more to the table. With his soft hands, his passes seem to always be on target and he always has an extremely light release. In addition, with his hands, he possesses a strong stick-handling skill-set. He is not a flashy stick-handler like some of his fellow Russian draft eligible prospects like Vasili Ponomaryov of the Shawinigan Catarctes (QMJHL), but when he is controlling the puck with his non-dominant hand, he can elevate the puck around danger and create controlled zone entries like the one below.
While Amirov is strong puck-handler, there is an area of his stick-handling that needs improvement. Often times, Amirov is effective at beating the first opponent and even the second or the third, but as soon as he gets to the last man standing, he ends up coughing up the puck and losing the opportunity to capitalize. Even though there are hiccups in Amirov’s ability to beat that last attacker, his stick-handling is still robust and he excels at implementing his stick-handling when running the cycle.
In terms of Amirov’s skating, he has some of the best crossovers in the 2020 NHL Draft class. The young Russian uses his crosses perfectly to help him accelerate up and down the ice. In some of the clips above, you can see how Amirov implements tight crosses to help weave around the perimeter in the offensive zone and to administer speed to drive up the ice with the puck at a quick rate.
When you analyze Amirov’s shot, you will notice that his success solely comes in the slot. Granted Amirov is not known for his shot and is more known for his two-way game, so this should not come as a shock. In the picture below from InStat Hockey, you can check out his shot/goal map.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about Amirov’s two-way game. His defensive and forechecking style is similar to Lucas Raymond of Frölunda and Anton Lundell of HIFK. Amirov is defensively responsible and when he sees his defenseman pinch and jump into the cycle, he drops back to the blue-line to provide support for the other defenseman. In the defensive zone, Amirov is a versatile defender. He is always in gear and is often seen identifying open lanes in the zone and quickly moving to that lane to shut it down. There are moments where Amirov is providing support/insurance along the boards for a fellow teammate who is executing a poke-check or bodycheck. In addition, you can expect Amirov to play the puck and use his poke-checking ability to neutralize the attack. He brings the same poke-checking style to his offensive zone and neutral zone play.
All-in-all, Amirov is a strong winger prospect and is dynamic in all three zones. The only areas where you would like to see some improvement is beating that last attacker with his puck-handling and working on his shooting ability from range.
Mark Stone, Right Wing, Las Vegas Golden Knights
Mark Stone seems like the perfect comparable for Amirov. Just like Amirov, Stone always seems to know where his teammates will be headed when delivering cross ice feeds and his stick-handling is strong (like in the tweet below from Corey Sznajder). In addition, both Stone and Amirov are strong two-way wingers.
stats from InStat Hockey and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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