Assessing Russian prospects has never been the easiest thing to do. Their style of play and massive discrepancies in the qualities of their teams from junior right up to the top pro league made it hard to contextualize the performances of their top players. This was before the invasion of Ukraine accelerated the decline in quality of play, as many of the top non-Russian players in the league left for elsewhere.

As a result, there's been an influx of young prospects in the KHL at ages and numbers never seen before. Where it took a player being at a superstar status to get so much pro experience before being drafted by an NHL team, now it's really dependent on the team and their roster needs.

That makes it tricky to try and rate the top Russian prospects this year. Playing in the KHL at all is not really enough, and you can't compare their production rates to other top Russian prospects 5-10 years prior to get an idea for where they stack up. We don't even have the benefit of comparing them against the top prospects of other countries, since Russia has been (rightfully) excluded from all the usual major international tournaments.

So how does that affect someone like Igor Chernysov? He entered this season as a potential top 10 pick after getting a cup of coffee in the KHL last season when he was still 16 years old. Now he's dropped a bit into the teens, and part of that feels like is people souring on prospects out of Russia in general.

So let's talk about Chernysov, and why the change in perception of prospects in Russia could benefit Toronto.


  • Position: Right-Shot Winger
  • League(s): MHL (Russian junior) and KHL (Russian pro)
  • Height: 6'2"
  • Weight: 192 lbs
  • Birthdate: November 30th, 2005

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 18th
  • Will Scouch: 19th
  • Elite Prospects: 19th
  • Scott Wheeler: 23rd
  • Future Considerations: 17th
  • Dobber Prospects: 13th
  • McKeen's Hockey: 38th

Last year, Chernysov became one of the youngest players in KHL history to score their first goal – he was still 16 years old. But the landscape he scored that in is a lot different than, say, Ovechkin, Kucherov, Panarin, Kaprizov, and other top Russian prospects. That said, we can at least compare his production and usage to other top prospects close to his age.

Last year, he finished second in his age group in the MHL for points – he had 38 points in 38 games – behind only Ivan Demidov who could be a top 5 pick this year. This season, Chernyshov had 28 points in 22 games in the MHL, which by points per game was 3rd best for his age group. While he was with his MHL team, he played a lot of minutes in all situations, including on the top powerplay and penalty kill. He averaged the third most total ice time on the team even though he was only around for 22 games.

From Lassi Alanen's Europe data project — MHL (junior) on the left, KHL (pro) on the right

Chernyshov then added 4 points in 34 KHL games. But while Demidov has the better junior production by far, he's only played in 7 pro games combined the past two seasons. Chernyshov, on the other hand, has played in 49 total counting the playoffs. Even though he only had four points, he played the fourth most KHL games for his age group but averaged the third most ice time per game.

There are good reasons for this, but it doesn't necessarily have to do with how good each of them will wind up as fully mature players. Chernyshov is 6'2" and 192 lbs, and I'll get into this more below but he is already quite good at the little things KHL coaches will like in their bottom six. That gave him the opportunity to play in more games than most his age, even if it was just 8:19 per game. It's not like he was only playing because his team sucked either, he played for the team with the best record in the entire KHL.


The archetype that Chernyshov fits is definitely that of a two-way power forward. As far as regular skills go (skating, shooting, puck handling, passing) I've seen him referred to as a jack of all trades, master of none kind of player. He has a good shot, though it can be inconsistent. I've seen some scouts say he has very good playmaking but others question it. He gets strong reviews for his north-south skating and speed, but not great lateral agility.

Where Chernyshov really stands out is the rest of his game, and this is arguably why he was able to play in so many games at his age on the best team in the KHL. He has size on his size, his skating is at a good enough level, and he plays a reliable game off the puck.

Chernyshov's play without the puck when his team is on offense comes from his positioning and willingness to use teammates with simple passes instead of trying to deke or skate through everyone. Instead, he'll pass it off to a teammate and skate his ass off to get open so he can have it passed back to him. That's one of the reasons why he drives such good transition data, even when he was in the KHL.

From Lassi Alanen at Elite Prospects:

At the core of his adaptability are Chernyshov's off-puck routes and his adeptness at gaining an advantageous position ahead of defenders.
In a typical sequence, he initiates an attack with a swift pass, swiftly accelerating up the center to establish superior body positioning against the opposition. This strategic move places him in a favorable scenario to regain possession of the puck after crossing the blue line.
Throughout the season, Chernyshov consistently employed give-and-go maneuvers and executed short-range passing plays. His rapid movement without the puck and his knack for identifying potential openings frequently overwhelmed MHL defenders. This effect was magnified by his physical strength, enabling him to overpower opponents and secure the inner lane whenever required.

It also comes through with Chernyshov's forechecking and net front positioning. He is not necessarily a physical terror that constantly throws his body around or hunts for big checks, but he does leverage his size to his advantage to overpower defenders on the boards. His straight line speed helps him get onto loose pucks that were dumped into the corner quickly.

Defensively, I've seen both scouts and tracking data rate Chernyshov very strongly as well. From what I've seen, the same speed/size combination along with a stronger commitment and work ethic on the defensive side than most players his age is what explains this.

From Tony Ferrari at The Hockey News:

In this game, Chernyshov was like a dog on a bone at times, constantly looking to get pucks back, forechecking with his speed and physicality. He played a strong two-way game in this one, looking engaged defensively, pushing the puck to the outside whenever it came to his side of the ice and working hard along the boards to win the puck back or at least dislodge it off the stick of his opponent.
Chernyshov was constantly a thorn in the opposing defender’s side as he consistently pushed and shoved around the net to screen the goaltender. His persistence and annoyance of the opposing team were notable throughout.

What's most impressive to me about his defensive and physical skills is that he is already capable at a pretty high level in those areas, but he does it without taking a lot of penalties. In the past two seasons combined, between the MHL and KHL, he only has 40 penalty minutes in 104 total games. He had only one single minor penalty in his 44 KHL games!


If there's an issue with Chernyshov, it's that he doesn't really show much in the way of dynamic skill. I love that he uses give and go plays to transport the puck and get himself open, but it would be great if he also had the ability to break defenses down while holding onto the puck. This is especially useful for a shooter, so he can create openings to shoot it on net and avoid it being blocked or deflected away. Being able to get open for a pass is great, but being able to create your own openings as well is how you become a higher volume shooter and scorer.

The same thing applies to Chernyshov's skating and play making. While it's great he can make simple and effective passes on transitions, being able to thread passes – or, again, break down a defender in front of him to create passing lanes – would help his offensive game a lot. And having better lateral agility goes a long way towards improving at both.

Now, for me the question is how much of this is because of how Chernyshov was used in the KHL. Did he look like he was only able to play a simple game driven by work ethic and off puck ability? Or is that just what he was asked to do by a KHL coach that needed him to play a role? Because while he was in the MHL, he definitely seemed to show more dynamic elements to his game. Still not exactly at an elite level, but better.

Of course, then my question is how much of that is due to simply being bigger and stronger against much poorer competition? And how much of that is something he can improve to the point that he can still add a bit of dynamic offense at an NHL level? That's harder to assess when it comes to the MHL level in Russia.


It's usually difficult to pick weaknesses out from a "jack of all trades" kind of player, because they're usually at least capable in every area. It can also make it difficult to sing their praises with rabid enthusiasm, however, without a really high end ability to hang your hat on.

Work ethic, off puck play, physicality and defensive awareness is all well and good, but that isn't necessarily something that screams "first rounder". It's the kind of thing Toronto finds in free agency to fill out their bottom six for a league minimum cap hit (or close to it) every off season.

Now, if that was as good as scouts – both public and NHL employed – thought Chernyshov would be, they wouldn't be ranking him in the middle of the first round. My read on his play from what I've watched and what I've read from other scouts, is that he would be a Matthew Knies, Zach Hyman, or Bobby McMann sort of player. He may not ever be the main offensive or possession driver on his line, but he can do a lot of the important dirty work that makes a good line even better.

And if he does have more dynamic skill, or if it can be developed in the future? Well then he could be a higher level version of that kind of player, and those players can be very valuable to an NHL team.

So while the relatively limited offensive skill may be a legitimate concern, and why Chernyshov's rankings have slipped slightly through the season from being borderline top 10 to barely inside the top 20, it's also why he hasn't slipped more than that. I admit I like the kind of player that he is, to the point that I'd be very interested in him if he does slip on draft day down to where Toronto has their first round pick.

And it's less far fetched for this to happen with Chernyshov than the others I've profiled so far.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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