The Russian forwards available for the 2020 NHL draft are certainly intriguing, with many that are short in stature but big-time talents. The cancellation of the U18 World Championships deprived those of us that like to follow hockey prospects of one last chance to evaluate the draft-eligible players. However, through live streaming, I enjoyed quite a number of their MHL games and other national team events. Here are my thoughts on some of the top available talents playing in Russia.
The best of the available Russian forwards is winger Rodion Amirov. The 6’0″ 168-pound Amirov split last season mostly between Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League and Tolpar in the MHL. While in the KHL, he produced only two assists in 21 games, whereas, in the junior circuit, he managed 22 points in 17 games.
Amirov first grabbed my attention at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament. However, at the U18-WJC later that season is when he impressed the most. He skated alongside Vasili Podkolzin and led Russia in scoring in that event with six goals and three assists in seven games. Amirov displays a terrific work ethic and responsible two-way game. Other characteristics of his game that stand out are his excellent shot, his puck possession skills and an extremely high hockey IQ.
Amirov is likely to hear his name called in the 12-15 range at the 2020 NHL draft.
One of the most electrifying draft-eligible talents available is Marat Khusnutdinov. The diminutive playmaking center creates excitement every shift. Khusnutdinov captained the Russian team at the U17 World Hockey Challenge in 2018, where he recorded two goals and three assists in six games. I featured Khusnutdinov as one of my three stars of the week articles in January.
This past season Khusnutdinov played in the MHL with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg recording 13 goals and 25 assists in 44 games. His skating is exceptional and is his best attribute. His quick first step and excellent agility are top-notch. He is an extremely smart two-way centerman.
In my opinion, he is one of the top playmakers in this draft class, and his skills are worthy of a first-round selection. However, due to lack of size ( 5’9″ 165 lbs ), he is likely to slip into the early to mid-second round.
Another undersized (5’7″ 154 lbs) Russian forward with an abundance of offensive talent is Alexander Pashin. He led Russian in scoring at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with an impressive seven goals and one assist in five games. Pashin also registered 39 points in 37 MHL games this past season with Tolpar Ufa.
Pashin is a terrific skater and keeps his feet continually moving in the offensive zone. His release is exceptional, and he displays soft hands, particularly close to the net.
Pashin, however, lacks the complete game that Amirov and Khusnutdinov show. His questionable work ethic in the defensive zone is likely going to cause him to fall to where he is a mid-round selection.
Strong along the boards and a force in all three zones are characteristics that stand out when watching Pavel Tyutnev play. He is also a skillful playmaker with a hard, accurate shot. The versatile forward plays center and wing and was a stand out in international competition.
Tyutnev didn’t produce in the MHL at the level that I anticipated producing 13 goals and nine assists in 36 games for Loko Yaroslavl. I expect him to have his name called in the 100-120 range.
Big-bodied winger (6’2″ 194-lbs) Maxim Groshev spent most of last season playing in the KHL, where he managed one goal and six assists in 36 games. He lacks the creativity of the others on this list but fits in nicely in a complementary role. Groshev is a decent skater but needs to work on his acceleration. He uses his size well to protect the puck and possesses a hard wrist shot.
Teams looking for a power forward with middle-six upside may find him available in the later rounds of the 2020 NHL draft.
These are just some of the exceptional talents from the Russian hockey leagues.
Rick Warman is a Vancouver Canucks and prospects contributor for Overtime Heroics. Follow him @statman1956 on Twitter
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