The first upset of the 2021 World Juniors came as the Czech Republic shut down the Russian powerhouse and Rodion Amirov to hold on to a 2-0 win and rebound from their loss to Sweden last night. The Toronto Maple Leafs needed another winger who could after they were defeated by the Boston Bruins in seven games. This is exactly the kind of player that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas needed to draft with the 15th overall selection in the 2020 NHL draft.
Amirov is under contract with Salavat Yulaev until the end of their season at which point he can come to North America in 2021-2022. It was a game where none of the Russian forwards really got going and neither did Toronto’s first-round pick of the 2020 NHL draft Amirov, who had been put on the second line with Yegor Chinakhov and Danil Bashkirov.
Amirov Trapped By The Czechs
The nineteen-year-old winger had a quiet night where he never really found his game and was unable to use his normally smooth skating to cut past the Czechs. This was mainly due to how well the Czechs were organized in the neutral zone and defensively, where they with a perfect setup and trap, neutralized the Russian offense. Amirov could do nothing to help it and each time he had the puck it seemed like he lost it moments later to a bodycheck or a poke-check.
In the first period, he was invisible and his physical game looked weak where he lost every battle at the board and was nowhere to be seen in either end of the ice. This continued in the second where he early on took a massive hit as he tried to enter the zone to no avail. He was shaken up on the play but did return to the game without missing a shift but it was clear that Amirov was being shut down by a strong physicality from Czech Republic’s defenders.
He did finish the second period a little bit better where he managed to create a few chances, but it never quite worked out. His best shift was when his line had finally established themselves in the Czech zone and was cycling the puck around well. They had a few shots but all were blocked and as the Czechs gained position, he went for a line change only to see the Czechs score as he was doing so.
His third period didn’t change for the better as he still had no answer to the Czechs physicality and tactical superiority in the match itself. Nothing was working and when he finally had a chance to get some room on the powerplay, he was sent to the penalty box for the most embarrassing of reasons. During a battle at the boards, he was being held by David Vitouch. A penalty was called, but due to the manor Amirov went down he was also marked by the refs for embellishment.
This meant he spent over three minutes in the box, unable to help his team come back into the game. It got so bad that TSNs commentator Ray Ferraro even forgot Amirov had been apart of the game since the hit in the second period, while he was sitting in the penalty box. That was how invisible he had been tonight. Nothing he tried tonight worked and the normally breathtaking winger was made a passenger during tonight’s game against Russia’s main rival. Tonight was a night to forget for the young Russian, as he watches the Czech Republic celebrate.
Toronto should not be concerned by this one game for Amirov. He is only 19-years-old and has plenty of room to grow as a player moving forward.
main image creditEmbed from Getty Images