Photo Credit: Natalie Shaver/OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett
Pavel Mintyukov is currently sitting atop the OHL in points per game for first-time, draft eligible defensemen (tied with Christian Kyrou) and second in overall points. He’s currently fifth overall in points in the OHL for defensemen and tied for fourth in points per game. The 2022 draft eligible player is playing almost 15 minutes a night at even strength and 6 minutes and 20 seconds on the power play through four games tracked this year.
The Moskva, Russian native played junior hockey in Russia up until last season when the OHL season was canceled. He last played in the MHL for the majority of DY-2 season where he had 3 points in 33 games for MHK Dynamo Moskva.
Mintyukov plays for the currently last place Saginaw Spirit in the OHL where he has been partnered with un-drafted overager Roberto Mancini for all of my viewings of him.
D.O.B – November 25, 2003
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –192 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left
Mintyukov’s Style of Play
Pavel Mintyukov is one of the bigger conundrums for me in the 2022 draft. He started off this year as a firecracker in all facets of the game. He was hyper-aggressive in the offensive zone, showcased fantastic puck skill, and moved into areas of the ice and used activation strategies that aren’t conventional even for offensive-leaning defensemen. However, he was also wreck-less in his activation into zone exits, would misread controlled possessions and be out of position, would end up deep in the offensive zone with no purpose, and was prone to the occasional turnover in the neutral zone that could go the other way in an odd-man rush.
As the year has gone on Mintyukov has become a lot more conservative in his offensive approach to the game at even strength. He started the year heavily involved in exits/entries as he was a part of about 40% of the controlled transitions for his team during the first two games tracked (the only other defensemen as high in North America is Denton Mateychuk). The last two games I tracked though he was involved in only 24% of his team’s transitions. Oftentimes going D-to-D with Roberto Mancini instead of carrying the puck or passing out of/into the zone himself. Instead of controlled transitions of >53% of the time with Mintyukov on the ice; Saginaw was only exiting/entering the zone with control about 43% of the time in the second half of the season.
However, the hallmarks of Mintyukov’s game have remained unchanged throughout the year. He still possesses high-end, four way agility in the offensive zone that allows him to manipulate pressure at the blue line and drive down along the wall or into the dangerous parts of the ice.
His activation from the blue line is where he becomes an absolute menace. There are two main variations of his deployment strategy. As the puck moves towards the center of the ice he will move down the left wing boards to receive a pass. If that pass becomes available and he receives it cleanly: it’s where Mintyukov makes his presence known. He’s able to precision pass high-danger opportunities, stick-handle into the middle of the ice, and his shot is very good from the dangerous parts of the ice as well.
If he doesn’t receive the pass on the half wall then Mintyukov will usually curl into the center of the ice and act like a power forward and plant himself in front of the net hoping for a tip, or to screen a point shot. It’s this part of his game where if the shot comes he is often able to act like a fourth forward on the ice in the puck retrieval or in the scrum out front to try to bang home a loose puck.
While the conservative style of play in transition has limited Mintyukov’s direct impact in the controlled exits/entries part of Saginaw’s offense; it has opened up a part of Mintyukov’s game that wasn’t there at the beginning of the year. He has become very good as of late at resetting a transition and not forcing passes or carry-outs in defensive zone exits and it has greatly diminished the number of egregious mistakes he was making. His ability to use his small-area puck skill to pull a puck back out of pressure and hit a teammate has been an added tool in his arsenal.
Through the four games Mintyukov has completed 82% of his passes at even strength, but only 5% of them being to dangerous parts of the ice. Adding to that, 75% of his dangerous passing attempts happened in the first two games and ~90% of the completed passes happened during that time. His passing is precise, but conservative. With his skill-set and Saginaw’s lack of offensive talent I would expect him to be a lot more aggressive with his passing decisions.
As stated in the opening part of this report: Mintyukov gets a lot of power play time. On the power play Mintyukov eats up open space so well. He moves into the open ice to force defenders to come to play him where he will either unleash a medium-danger wrist shot or hit one of his forwards on a cross-ice one-timer.
He is at his best when he’s bearing down on a defense from the blue line. He’s able to get his shot through from moving up from the blue line and has a lot of point production from his shot assists.
From a microstat perspective it would seem Pavel Mintyukov is one of the better defenders in the draft class. He allows controlled transitions on only 29% of opportunities, his team is at at a 59.5% Corsi through four games including two 6-3 losses, and they have 60% of the high/medium danger shot attempts in those four games. However, Mintyukov has some glaring issues in his defensive game that need to be addressed.
On the positive end: Mintyukov suffocates space very well. He does not give puck carriers space and puts constant pressure on the puck to force turnovers or to stop rushes from entering the zone. Saginaw deploys an aggressive approach in the neutral zone where their defensemen are high near center ice to deter any stretch passes, and Mintyukov is great at breaking up any pass coming his way off an attempted zone exit. He keeps a tight gap, and while his backward mobility isn’t high end, he’s able to dictate players to spaces where he can separate them from the puck.
However, Mintyukov’s biggest individual weakness is his propensity for putting himself out of position in order to chase a big hit. In basketball we’d call it ‘circling the trap’, and in hockey it’s putting the puck where the defender used to be. Too often Mintyukov is the aggressor along the wall. He makes the first move to try to put an oncoming opponent through the glass and the opponent is able to either chip it past him and avoid the hit, or teams are smart enough to know his tendencies and an oncoming opponent will fill a rush lane exactly where Mintyukov was to receive a pass and generate an odd-man rush.
While his physicality in front of the net can be a positive feature; in the neutral zone and defending the blue line he almost never plays the puck when going for the hit. He often lacks the situational awareness of the importance of his positioning, and in doing so leaves his teammates out to dry.
Saginaw deploys a lot of man-to-man defensive zone strategies. It requires players to be able to adapt to opponents’ weaves and shifts within the zone, and also requires defensemen to be able to switch off opponents so not to be put in dangerous situations. When plays break down: Mintyukov is a fish out of water. When one of his teammates gets beat he won’t recognize the odd-man situation and will instead look to overcompensate by filling his teammates role and leave his man/area completely unattended. He can be caught puck-watching and then realize too late that he has overloaded an area and left a man wide open.
With Pavel Mintyukov’s size, raw tools (including puck skill and passing ability), four-way agility, and deceptive maneuvering around the blue line: it’s hard not to see a lottery selection on that assessment alone. There are not many players in this draft class that have the ability to operate in the offensive zone from the backend like Mintyukov can. Add in his ability to suffocate space and his mobility to keep a tight gap: he’s an attractive asset in the 2022 draft.
As a life-long Buffalo Sabres fan, where I tend to get really hesitant with Mintyukov is his defensive zone awareness and propensity for chasing highlight reel hits rather than mitigating dangerous chances. It is all to reminiscent to watching Rasmus Ristolainen in a Sabres uniform. The tools are there, he’s a physical specimen, but too often I’m watching film of Mintyukov and trying to piece together the thought process behind some of his defensive reads. Some of these issues lie within the structure of Saginaw’s neutral and defensive zone set-up and Mintyukov’s skill set. However, a lot of it is individual reads that require if/then decisions that Mintyukov will too often not make correctly.
If I’m drafting Mintyukov I’m leaning in heavily on his offensive ability and his ability to create space with his edges and skill. I think he can excel in a defensive system that doesn’t lean so heavily on man-to-man defensive zone play. I would also spend a significant time in the film room showing how chasing hits in the neutral zone and at the defensive blue line has allowed teams to use it against him.
If Mintyukov can make those adjustments I think he could end up being one of the better defenders to come out of the 2022 NHL draft.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Austin Garrett. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.
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