When you played youth sports, did you ever liked being overshadowed by someone else?
For the 2022 draft, Ivan Miroshnichenko has seen the hype around Canadian phenom Shane Wright. In his own country, Miroshnichenko plays second fiddle to Matvei Michkov anytime they play for Russia.
That doesn't stop Miroshnichenko from being a certified renegade himself.
The spotlight was fully on Michkov anytime Russia took the ice in Texas over the past month for the U-18 World Championship and rightfully so. Michkov spent the tournament chasing Alex Ovechkin's record of 14 goals in a single tournament by a U-17 player – and, everyone, really. But Miroshnichenko was solid in his own right, scoring six goals and eight points for Russia en route to a silver medal.
Miroshnichenko scored twice against Russia, becoming the difference-maker to avoid losing on a comeback effort by the Finns.
Miroshnichenko was getting hyped up back when he was just 12 years old. At 17, the excitement about his game remains and he continues to shine as one of the most promising young prospects out of Russia in some time.
"If Michkov wasn't around, all the attention would be on Miroschnichenko," a Russian scout said. "He's almost underrated in a sense because of the star he plays with.
Miroshnichenko didn't bring home the desired hardware, but as one of the top names in a stacked 2022 draft class, Miroschnichenko showed he can hang with the big boys. He wasn't just one of the best 2004-born players in Texas, either: he was one of the best players, period.
But it almost didn't happen, either. Miroshnichenko was originally barred entry by the United States by having his visa denied, with the forward only getting cleared a full week before the games were set to begin. The same thing happened when he signed a USHL tender with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in 2020, with Avangard Omsk eventually acquiring his rights from Vityaz Podolsk to keep him in Russia. A contract extension will keep the potential top five pick in 2022 in Russia until at least 2024 when Miroshnichenko is 20. Whether or not that concerns a team or not could vary, but he's got the skill worth waiting for.
And that shouldn't have come as a surprise. As a 14-year-old in 2018-19, Miroshnichenko had 13 points in 12 games with the Russian U-16 team. He followed it up with a whopping 17 goals and 27 points in 15 games at the same age level the year after and even got a bit of time with the U-17 team.
His real coming-out party internationally was at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut hockey down around the world. Miroshnichenko finished second in team scoring (12 points) behind Michkov (14), with the pair finishing 1-2.
Miroshnichenko's performance has lived up to par in the MHL, Russia's top junior league. Again, only Michkov had a better points-per-game (1.00) record than Miroshnichenko (0.75) among 2004-born players and had he spent the whole year with Omskie Yasterby and not waiting out a trip to North America, who knows what type of output he could have had?
"It's too bad we didn't get to see more of him this year because whenever he hit the ice, his mix of elite skating and skill with the puck was enough for everyone in a building to take notice," a scout said. "One of the most dominant goal-scorers in a draft with quite a few impressive names."
The arrival of Russian prospects can always be tricky. KHL teams want to protect their top stars and if they can't, they'll often underplay them prior to their trip over to North America. But when there's a kid with the talent of Miroshnichenko, the worry dips a bit - it should all even out, right?
Right now, it's hard to say otherwise. Miroshnichenko is looking like the real deal.