Dmitri Ovchinnikov and Nicholas Moldenhauer share the 15th spot in our Top 25 Under 25 prospect ranking of the Toronto Maple Leafs system after tying with exactly 81 points given to them by our panel of voters. The number doesn’t matter, but the profiles do, so let’s jump right into them.

The Player

Ovchinnikov was a fifth round pick of the Leafs all the way back in 2020. He just turned 20 years old as a classic “Dubas Player” does with a late draft birthday. He spent most of last season with Sibirskie, the MHL team for parent club Sibir, totalling 13 goals and 29 points in 22 games. He also spent 17 games with the big club in the KHL, getting a goal and three points while averaging about six minutes a night. Tis the life of a junior-aged prospect playing on the fourth line.

Young Ovi is expected to go back to Sibir this season. In a coordinated move, he was released from his Sibir contract, signed a three-year ELC with the Leafs and finished the year with the Marlies (two goals in seven games), and was loaned back to Sibir for this upcoming season. Marlies fans will see him again sometime in March or April, hopefully permanently.

Ovchinnikov is seen as a brilliantly fast, dynamic winger, with a great shot but without much in the way of heft. He’s still listed under 170 lbs and definitely will have to fill out his body if he wants to even see real KHL competition. The 20 year old has some consistency issues when it comes to working for offense, we’ll see if that gets ironed out as he transitions away from junior hockey. Remember, we let CHL and USHL players get away with that sort of stuff until they turn pro, too.

And for the Leafs, it’s always easier to make the lineup when you can hound the puck and be disruptive with speed. There’s an easy fourth line role there that has been filled by the likes of Adam Brooks, Nick Abruzzese, Nick Robertson, Joey Anderson, and Alex Steeves. Steeves is actually the prototypical version of this on the current roster as someone who got the call for his hard work. Brooks and Abruzzese are both more geared towards executing the system and transitioning the puck up as centres.

And in case I didn’t mention it enough, he’s got a great shot:

The Votes

Ovchinnikov’s lack of top-six skill and lack of consistency at even this level probably disqualify him from a top-six position in the NHL. At best, I think his ceiling is that of Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson. Speed with the puck, and scoring that could be top-six calibre if he could do it all the time.

I’m hoping for a season from Ovchinnikov like the one SDA had in the KHL in 2020 at age 19. Play a real role, be dependable, and produce. SDA has transitioned from a top-six KHL centre to a top-six AHL centre, I think he’s a real prospect. That’s somewhere Ovchinnikov can find himself with a big year coming up.

We always want to see forward momentum in a prospect. Complaining about stagnation is only allowed in the AHL (I joke, but not really).

Ovchinnikov was ranked in pretty much the exact same position last year. KHL games were a plus, but I don’t think he progressed in a significant way. I put him just behind Abramov, and after hearing some arguments, I think I should’ve put SDA above both of them. That said, this ranking is totally fine. The bottom half of the list is pretty much interchangeable. We were just given the opportunity to talk about him now instead of earlier.

2021 Top 25 Under 25: Dmitri Ovchinnikov is #16

Dmitri Ovchinnikov Votes

Josh - Smaht Scouting14
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak23
Weighted Average17.00
Highest Rank11
Lowest Rank24
Spread in Votes13

dhammm: A fun player to dream on, a skillset the Leafs prospect pool is thin on. If we’re taking bets on which prospect could have the kind of breakout season that jumps them like 10+ spots in these rankings, my money would be on Ovchinnikov. I’m sad he’s going back to Siberia for the 2022-23 season (I voted assuming he would be sticking with the Marlies next season), but I can only hope he gets his shifts in the KHL. He has nothing left to prove in the MHL.

Brigstew: He’ll be returning to the KHL against this coming year, and man… I hope he has improved enough and/or his team has more of an obvious spot for him to get regular playing time, because I really don’t see how having a repeat of last year will help him.

TomK421: Aw, I was hoping he’d stick around this year. Hopefully his KHL team actually plays him this season.

Katya: A very gentle taste of the AHL seems to have been the point of last season’s stint for Ovchinnikov. He was played with Abramov to help with the language, and he didn’t wow anyone. A kid from a WHL team in the most obscure small town in Alberta can come in with swagger, obnoxious confidence, talk his way into the centre of the young players in the locker room, and it will go differently. I noticed that Axel Rindell, older, English-speaking and with a lot of pro experience had a very difficult time adjusting to the AHL – by his own reports. So, my take on Ovchinnikov is that next spring’s play is what I’m interested in seeing. He’s still just a raw unformed bit of potential.

Is Ovchinnikov the first “real” long shot we’ve profiled so far?

Yes, the list gets interesting now126
Nope, I’m still waiting to care110
SDA and Abramov were fun to talk about, too156