2020 NHL Entry Draft Prospect Profile: Rodion Amirov

With some of the best hands in the draft, the Russian winger can be a lot of fun to watch

Name: Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

Position: Right wing

Stats: 17 games played, 10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points, 31 PIMs, +13 plus/minus rating

NHL Central Scouting ranking: 5th (European Skaters)

Comparable NHL players: Tomas Tatar / Kasperi Kapanen

Link to Amirov’s Elite Prospects page

Every time Rodion Amirov steps on the ice, there’s a very real possibility that something exciting is going to happen off of his stick, and players like that aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in the NHL.

As far as pure offensive players go, there aren’t many in the 2020 draft who have the raw skill that Amirov has.

There are a few different strong suits of his game that one could start discussing first in a profile like this, but I’m going to kick things off with his skating, because that’s usually what gets noticed first. The Russian winger has some explosive acceleration at his disposal, allowing him to go from a standstill to almost full speed in the blink of an eye. One second he’ll be lying in the weeds a bit, waiting for an opportunity to strike, and the next thing you know he has the puck and he’s off to the races in another direction. He’s also an incredibly smooth and agile player, able to dart and dodge through traffic.

Speaking of waiting for an opportunity to strike, that’s another area where Amirov rates well — his anticipation. He’s able to frequently read and react to the play one step ahead of the competition, putting himself in places where he can receive passes or retrieve loose pucks that pop out. He can apply this defensively as well, whether it’s by gaining the puck and carrying it out of the zone, or accurately reading when he needs to fall back to cover for a defenseman teammate who got caught pinching.

But it’s when Amirov gets the puck on his stick that he’s at his very best. Simply put, he can be electrifying at times. His hands are fast and controlled, letting him toy with opponents as they struggle to strip him of the puck. His hands and his feet do a great job of working in conjunction, which lets him pull off fancy moves while at speed or escaping man-to-man pressure. He’s equally adept at cutting through a defender or two on the rush to generate a scoring chance, as well as twisting and spinning in the cycle to shake off pressure and maintain possession. He’s one of those guys that opposing penalty killers stay a little further away from and defend a little more cautiously, because one wrong move and he’s going to be behind you and you’re going to look foolish. When it comes to controlled zone exits and entries, the number of players his age who are better is pretty slim.

He has a real shooter’s mentality in the offensive zone, which is actually a bit of a shame, because he’s just as good as a playmaker — if not better — than a shooter but sometimes is a little too fixated on taking the shot. He has a natural touch on the puck that allows him to thread accurate passes through traffic, however, as a shooter he has some trouble freezing goalies because he lacks power behind his shots. He’ll dance his way to the dangerous areas for shots and can get them away while off balance or while his hands are away from his body at difficult angles after making a deke, but he might have a hard time beating NHL goaltenders with what he currently has in his arsenal. We saw a bit of this problem during the 21 games he played in the KHL this season, where he fired off 29 shots but failed to score a single goal. Maybe this weakness can be improved with enough time in the gym building upper-body muscle as he develops.

For how much quick-strike, momentum-swinging potential Amirov has, he doesn’t always apply it as much as you’d like to see. It’s one thing to have the anticipation to be the first one to loose pucks that pop out after a board battle, but sometimes the situation calls for the same player to enter the battle himself, and Amirov isn’t consistent with that. It’s not just a physical thing, either, as a player can hound and pressure opponents without applying their body. There were a few games of Amirov’s that I watched this season where I absolutely loved what he did when he had the puck on his stick — but those times in these games were few and far between, as he wasn’t doing enough to get the puck back when he didn’t have it.

It’s not that Amirov doesn’t put in this kind of work at all — he’s far from a lazy player, and I’ve seen times where he would doggedly back check defensively to break up scoring chances, which not all forwards his age do — but rather, it just doesn’t happen on a consistent basis, and it’s an area where some of his draft peers (prospects such as Seth Jarvis and Jan Mysak) have an advantage.

Despite these issues, Amirov is still the type of player that teams will want to draft high. He just has too much natural skill to pass up on, and additionally, his weaknesses are things that could conceivably be ironed out over time through development. There aren’t any red flags here that look unfixable.

Like QMJHL center Dawson Mercer, Amirov will likely be long gone by the time the Dallas Stars get to pick in the opening round, but if by some luck he’s still available, his particular talents would be an excellent addition to the organization’s prospect pool.