It’s a bit funny that when I asked right winger Rodion Amirov what part of his game he wanted to improve on, he said “speed,” because he looks pretty quick out there already. But it was also clear that the youngster takes his craft seriously.
Amirov, who was in Canada for the CHL-Russia series, played five games for the Russians and notched three points. It was a nice showing for a prospect who has already displayed a clutch gene in his fledgling career, which he pairs with a great set of hands and an overall elusiveness with the puck.
Through a translator, Amirov talked about how important the summer Hlinka-Gretzky tournament (where Russia won bronze) was for his development.
“It was my first big tournament for Team Russia,” he said. “Of course I was nervous, but it was a huge experience and after that it was easier to get to the international stage.”
Though the Russians tend to go with older players for the actual world junior team, it was good to see Amirov get a chance to show off his game in the CHL-Russia series and he was very focused when I caught up with him half-way through the tournament in Kitchener.
“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I have to show that I’m able to play at this level. Most of the boys are bigger, so I have to get the trust of the coaching staff.”
Back home, Amirov has already made his KHL debut, getting into 12 games with his hometown team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
“Obviously it’s a great honor to play for your home team and I am very grateful management allowed me to,” he said. “You have to work hard so that you’re not just the guy from Ufa on the Ufa team, but to be an important part of the squad. I look forward to earning my spot.”
Amirov has also played at the junior and farm team level this season and had success. But since I’ve been to Salavat’s arena during the 2013 world juniors, I had to ask him about my concession stand favorite, the meat pies known as Vak Balish.
“Yes, that’s part of our identity,” Amirov said. “It is very tasty.”
A big fan of NHLers such as Nikita Kucherov and Patrick Kane, Amirov definitely has the talent to be a first-rounder in the draft this summer. Right now he’s skinny, but the frame is decent and he certainly has room to put weight and muscle on it. Most importantly, the kid has a really good attitude in his approach to the game.
“You have to play good defensively to play offensively, so that is what I try to do,” he said. “I always try to play to help my team.”
Here are 10 other 2020 draft prospects making noise right now:
- Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Blessed with a great shot, Bourque has been one of the more dangerous players in the ‘Q’ with 33 points in 21 games, including nine in his past three.
- Jan Bednar, G, Banik Sokolov (Cze.): On loan from Karlovy Vary in the top Czech League, Bednar is getting good experience against men. Internationally, he stood out recently with a .954 save percentage and 1.46 goals-against average in two games at the Five Nations in Sweden.
- Emil Andrae, D, HV71 (Swe.): Led the Five Nations in blueline scoring with four points in four games. The talented D-man has 17 in 18 for HV71 junior team and can make guys look silly with his puckhandling skills.
- Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago Steel (USHL): Very smart, very skilled. The son of agent Pat Brisson is a Michigan commit, who has posted 18 points in 16 games, tying him for fourth in the league. He was just named USHL forward of the week, too.
- Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Can’t do much better than Wiesblatt’s recent effort against Calgary, where he had the game-tying goal and the OT winner. The kid can really dart through traffic and Wiesblatt is up to 26 points in 22 games.
- Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): A point per gamer with tremendous athleticism and skating ability, Quinn has lots of skill and great hand-eye co-ordination as well.
- Primo Self, RW, Cowichan Valley Capitals (BCHL): A nifty player with great quickness, Self is a Miami commit who has put up 18 points in 21 games with the Capitals.
- Mason Langenbrunner, D, Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS): The Minnesota high school season begins this week and I’m intrigued by Jamie Langenbrunner’s kid. Mason has a great frame to build on and very good mobility. He’s a Harvard commit.
- Thomas Bordeleau, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL): The top-scoring player on the NTDP, Bordeleau is a Michigan commit who has put up 22 points in 20 games and been very consistent for the Americans.
- Juuso Maenpaa, C, Jokerit (Fin.): Small but very quick, Maenpaa had seven points in four games at the Five Nations, second only to Kasper Simontaival. Averaging an assist per game back home.
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