The Russian prospect machine is back in full swing as we approach mid-August.
Vasili Podkolzin is looking to crack the Vancouver Canucks roster in training camp in September. Top goaltending prospect Yaroslav Askarov will be plying his trade in the KHL yet again as he readies for his opportunity with Nashville. Ivan Miroshnichenko is looking to put himself as high on draft boards as possible in his draft year.
From the MHL to the KHL, Russian hockey kicking off their preseason action in mid-August is the unofficial start to the year for many in the prospect world. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup gives us the first chance to see many draft-eligible players but fans, writers, and teams alike all want to see how ‘their guy’ looks after summer to work on things and another year of growth and development.
The ‘Russian Factor’ is still very much a thing in the eyes of many teams but the talent coming out of Russia is very strong as it typically is. The question that teams must ask is when is this player coming over and does their talent make the wait worth it.
The aforementioned Podkolzin certainly isn’t making Vancouver wait very long as the 20-year-old power forward is bringing his high-level competitiveness and pro-ready game to the Canucks camp next month. He’s taken steps in nearly all aspects of his game since his draft. From an improved shot to his increasingly stable two-way game, a middle-six gig should be Podkolzin’s to lose.
Making his way back to North America after COVID forced him back to Russia for the season, Yegor Afanasyev is looking to lock down an important role for the Milwaukee Admirals. Afanasyev has a big shot and should be able to find twine with some consistency in the AHL this upcoming season.
Despite spending portions of his summer in Toronto, forward Rodion Amirov will be back with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL this season. Amirov’s goal this season will be to affect the game more consistently at the men’s level before possibly joining the Toronto Marlies of the AHL at the end of his KHL campaign. The shifty and skilled winger has already added to his highlight reel this preseason and he should be just as fun to watch going forward.
The surprise of the 2020 NHL draft, 20th overall pick Yegor Chinakhov, will be joining the Columbus Blue Jackets organization after signing his entry-level deal. His final destination - either Cleveland in the AHL or Columbus in the NHL - is still up for debate but he will likely be given every opportunity to let his offensive game and the scoring ability earn him a spot on the big club. His game has holes defensively and as a play driver but there is little doubt his offensive game is legit.
Prospect Twitter’s cult hero and Minnesota Wild draft pick Marat Khusnutdinov will be looking to put his name back on the map after a season cut short by a shoulder injury. On the flip side of Twitter’s love, New Jersey Devils prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin has one more year on his KHL deal and will be looking to show that he’s a more than capable full-time pro this year and bring his tools altogether. The Winnipeg Jets second-rounder Nikita Chibrikov will be out to prove he shouldn’t have fallen to the second day of the draft. His offensive skill is where he’ll make his money but he needs to round out the rest of his package and the KHL may be the perfect spot for him.
Then there are the draft-eligible players such as Miroshnichenko who leads the way among Russians for the 2022 NHL draft. With his high-end skating and cerebral offensive mindset, Miroshnichekno can be a handful to deal with. He will look to solidify his position as a lottery pick next June.
Winger Danila Yurov will be pushing to get himself in that conversation as well after an impressive World Under 18s this past spring. He is physically mature for his age with KHL experience already under his belt. His anticipation and ability to read the defensive structure in order to exploit its weak points make him a very entertaining player to watch.
Sergei Ivanov may have a shot at claiming the top goaltender spot in the 2022 class after an impressive debut season in the MHL last year before backstopping the Russians to a finals appearance at both the U18s and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, winning the latter. Defenders Kirill Kudryavtsev and Andrei Malyavin are heading to the OHL to help put their best foot forward in their draft season.
Russian hockey continues to pump out high-level talent. As has become tradition, the bulk of the talent is at forward but the country continues to showcase itself well. There is a reason the KHL is often considered the second-best league in the world. There will be plenty of eyes on the Russians as the next wave begins to reach the NHL.