You will all be forgiven if you heard the Maple Leafs announcing Plesovskikh as one of their fifth-round draft picks and your reaction was "who?". There was only one scouting outlet that had any mention of him at all, and it was in Elite Prospects' 2024 draft guide that you had to pay for/subscribe to EP Rinkside in order to access. He was not a ranked prospect, but one of a few hundred prospects that at least got a mention.

Honestly I had the same reaction, even after I read the Elite Prospects report on him. Thankfully, the MHL has YouTube videos of all their games that you can still watch after the fact, so I had the chance to watch six of his games and some of his other highlights to try and get an idea of who he is as a player and a prospect.


Position: Right shot winger
League: Russia U18 / MHL / VHL
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 174 lbs
Birth date: Aug 1st, 2006

I'm not going to bother listing Plesovskikh's rank, because he didn't have any outside of being listed as the 95th best European skater by NHL Central Scouting. That would put him right on the edge of being an NHL draft pick, which he basically was as a 5th round pick.

Plesovskikh had a weird start to his season. At some point, and I don't know when because there is no league info I can find with the dates, Plesovskikh played 8 games in Russia's U18 junior league, where he had 6 goals. I am guessing based on the known dates for the other leagues he played in, that this happened at the very start of the year in August.

After that, Plesovskikh started playing in a VHL camp for Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk during the pre-season, and fought for a roster spot to start the season. In August, he played in the Shilov Tournament – one of many pre-season 'tournaments' that Russian teams play leading into the regular season. He then played in two regular season games for his VHL team and dressed for two others, but didn't play at all. He played 4:27 and then 9:19 in the two games he saw the ice, but was sent down to the MHL after as he couldn't hold a regular roster spot.

In the MHL, Plesovskikh played in a total of 33 games for Mamonty Yugry, and an additional 6 playoff games. They had the second best record in the MHL, but were not a great offensive team. In the regular season, he had 8 goals and 9 assists, good for just over 0.5 points per game – not a great scoring rate for a prospect in the MHL. On the other hand, it was the 6th best point per game rate on the team, and a 17 year old getting a shot with a VHL team to start a season is getting that look for a reason.

Plesovskikh played mostly on the third line with the occasional game bumped into the top six. He played on the penalty kill a lot, and sometimes on the second powerplay unit. How much special teams time he got on a game-to-game basis fluctuated, which meant his total ice time did as well. He had a few games around 19+ minutes, but most were in the 12-16 minute range, and he averaged 14:42 on the regular season. In the playoffs, I'm not sure if he was hurt or if the coaches just stopped liking him, as his ice time dropped down the stretch to an average of 10:54 per game.

On the other hand, Plesovskikh also played for Russia in the "Cup of the Future" tournament, which features a team made up of Russia's best U18 players, their best U20 players, and Belarus' best U20 players. The tournament was held in November, and these games are one of the reasons why he only played in 33 MHL games. By all accounts he did quite well, he was playing on the U18 team's top line and had 5 goals and 7 points in 6 games. So he does have some offensive chops.

The only other bit of stats I can share is that Plesovskikh reportedly had a huge impact on shot share and play driving metrics for his team. His 63% CF was among the tops in the league, per a scouting report I read. Toronto does seem to like to find guys that fit a playstyle they like, who have strong underlying numbers that seem to hint at better offense than their point production would indicate. Even if he can't put up a lot of points, being a good two-way forward that can give your team more chances to play on offense is a good thing.


So, what are the good parts of Plesovskikh's game? Well, I said as much on twitter, but watching him I got a bit of a Nikita Grebyonkin vibes for his playing style. It's not a perfect comparison, and I think he's very far away from where Grebyonkin was even when I started watching him in his D+2 season.

Both Plesovskikh and Grebyonkin have some decent size (6'2") while needing to fill in in their draft year (174 lbs on EP). Grebyonkin eventually filled out and that added muscle and weight really helped his game, and that's something Plesovskikh will need to do as well over the next few years. Plesovskikh plays a pretty aggressive and physical game, skating hard north-south to forecheck aggressively, and be a menace on the boards and down low. Plesovskikh has pretty good puck handling on the rush and playmaking ability. But there are a few things I noticed more than anything else as strengths in his game, on a more consistent basis across all the games I watched.

The best thing I would say is Plesovskikh's ability with deflecting the puck. I don't even necessarily mean only deflecting shots from the point to score goals or create quality scoring chances off of low-danger plays. The truth is, he is very creative with the puck coming at him, using little chips and deflections when the puck is passed to him at the other team's blueline. It will get the puck by the defender that challenges him, and he'll then either spin off the defender to chase the puck down himself, or he'll chip it that way to spring a streaking teammate who has an easy loose puck with the defenseman tied up on Plesovskikh. Here are some highlights of him deflecting shots for goals and passes for assists or dump ins:


Plesovskikh is #19 in the Dark Blue/White jerseys.

The other good element of Plesovskikh's game is his playmaking. Now, I would not characterize him as a great or dynamic passer, especially since he has some problems with consistency and accuracy. But there are times he can pull off some pretty difficult passes that involve threading the needle across the ice. Other times, he 'makes plays' by creating chaos.

I think Plesovskikh's passing and playmaking is at its best when he has and creates time for himself to survey the ice, see where everyone is, and plan out where and to whom he can sling the puck. If he has to make quick passes at the spur of a moment to react to sudden pressure, that's where he can miss his man. But look at some of the examples below to get an idea of what I'm talking about.


Plesovskikh is #19 in the Dark Blue/White jerseys.

The final element of Plesovskikh's game that stands out more than anything else is how he creates offense off the rush. He has the same kind of ability to Grebyonkin to create turnovers in his own end, or the neutral zone, and immediately turn up the ice to create chances off the rush. He's pretty adept at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and entering the offensive zone with control. He's also strong at doing the dump and chase, and forechecking hard and with physical aggression to create turnovers and create chaos.

This is also where Plesovskikh's skating is at its best. When he gets moving through the neutral zone and builds up speed, he can be quite elusive and speedy. Here are some examples:


Plesovskikh is #19 in the Dark Blue/White jerseys.


Alright, I was nice and honest about his strengths as I could be, but I have to talk about the big red flags – and there are a few.

There are some smaller issues that should be easier to fix. His shot is pretty weak, as is his shot selection. He will need to be like Grebyonkin and rely on his shot working in close where it can be quick and remove the ability of the goalie to react. That, and dekes. He can't get away with lobbing weak shots from the perimeter with no teammates in front providing a screen or trying for a deflection, not even in the MHL.

Another smaller issue is his skating is not very clean. He can look fast and agile at times, but he can also look awkward and choppy, where he sure looks like he's skating hard but he's not exactly blitzing by opponents for it. It's like he's skating in mud. As I mentioned above, there also are issues with the consistency and accuracy of his passing. And lastly, I would say there is a general issue where his offensive strengths as a whole are somewhat minimal – his puck handling is not that great, his shot is pretty bad, his passing can be good but inconsistent, his skating can be fast and elusive but also choppy and awkward. Add all of that together, and there are a lot of things he needs to improve on to a not insignificant degree. That combination of little things across the board is the first red flag.

The second red flag is what I'll refer to as a lack of situational awareness at times, which can lead to real sloppy plays and failed execution. There are two examples that stood out to me – by far the worst one that came up in every game I watched is that he can be very bad at receiving passes at times. The impression I got is that sometimes passes surprise him, and he isn't ready to receive them. He reacts too late or not at all, and the pass just goes by him or he bobbles it badly enough to just turn it over.

Another example is that he sometimes forgets to use his stick while defending in his own end. This is more rare, but he'll be skating around with his stick in the air, because his hands are up like he's looking for someone to physically shove rather than keeping his stick along the ice to take up passing lanes or be ready to poke the puck away from his man. He does this when he's getting boxed up against an opponent in the middle of the ice or along the boards. Again, he doesn't do this all the time or necessarily that frequently, but it's a bizarre issue to see come up for a guy at his age and level even once.

The way I would characterize all these issues is that Plesovskikh feels extremely raw as a prospect. There is a pure lack of refinement to his game that I don't think I've ever really seen in any prospect I've watched before, not for the NHL draft or when following one of Toronto's own prospects.


Wes Clarke in his post-draft press conference referred to many of their later picks as "long term projects", and that is definitely the case with Plesovskikh. Toronto seems to like guys that are on a later development curve, and without really knowing much of his history in hockey before this season that might be the case here. Because he has this weird mix of looking good in specific ways, but none of it is consistent and there are plenty of mechanical issues for him to fix and refine.

So the bad news is there are a lot of things for Plesovskikh to improve, and the foundation of skills he has shown are not at that high of a level. The big question is how much can he fix all of that, and how much further can he improve in his development when he's already 17 years old – even if he is a later birthday for this draft? Because there just aren't many 17 year olds who have the breadth or depth of issues to work on that he does.

The good news is that Toronto does have a history of identifying guys who have an interesting foundation of skills and strengths, and seeing opportunities to improve them enough to become interesting prospects. What Plesovskikh does have is the right mindset in many situations – he will work hard, forecheck hard, hit hard, and what little scouting there is out there all seem to think he is or can be a capable defensive forward.

The interesting thing to think about when talking about Plesovskikh is that comparison to Grebyonkin. When Toronto drafted Greb, he was a re-entry. He was better than a point per game player in the MHL as a D+1, but he was only a 0.63 point per game guy in his draft year. That was one of the reasons why he went undrafted originally. What I don't really know is how Grebyonkin looked in his draft year, or before that. Did he also have a slew of issues that needed improving? Did he make those improvements to catch Toronto's eye as a D+1? I think it is telling that, back then, Toronto either chose to wait a year on Grebyonkin before taking him as a re-entry to see if he made those improvements, or he came out of nowhere to their Russian scouts after not being on their radar at all the year before. But with Plesovskikh, they were willing to bet on him in his draft year straight up.

Because Grebyonkin he also had a much stronger track record of being a top offensive producer at the lower junior levels before he made the MHL. Meanwhile, Plesovskikh had basically an identical season (15 points in 36 games) in his previous season in the MHL. There was no major statistical improvement, and while I can say that he'd get more points if he played more in the top six and had more consistent top powerplay time, the fact is in the MHL, in his draft year, he was not considered good enough to earn those spots.

And yet...

Plesovskikh was considered for a VHL team, despite these issues. He was used on Russia's top U18 prospect team on their top line, and was better than a point per game. There's something there, and it wasn't just Toronto who saw it. The Russian U18 team managers saw it, and the VHL team eventually saw it before deciding he wasn't ready. Toronto saw it too, and snapped him up. And he also got the attention of Spartak Moscow. They are one of the bigger organizations in Russia's hockey system, and next season he will be joining them in a move that could be a boon for him and his development.

So I'll put it like this: if Plesovskikh has the potential to be an NHL player, it will be as a bottom six guy. He can be an average to above average skater if he cleans up the mechanics and adds more power by building more muscle on his frame. He can play good defense as a winger. He can use his size and body to protect the puck well, and he has the frame and willingness to be a physical menace on the forecheck and around the net, which will also get better as he bulks up.

Mix in the good playmaking, transitions/rush offense, and deft deflections in front of the net, and you have the foundations of a bottom six, physical checking line guy who brings a lot of energy, and can contribute on the penalty kill and maybe a second PP unit as a net front guy. If Plesovskikh can do what Grebyonkin learned, to use his playmaking around the net and down low on the cycle to make short but dangerous passes to teammates also in the slot or around the net as a bumper player, he can add real offensive value without really needing high end skill. Or rather, it will be more specialized skill that is still quite valuable, since not many can or want to do that when it means taking a lot of punishment.

It's a long shot, but he has a big fellow Russian in the same organization that can help show him the path to follow.


Plesovskikh is #19 in the Dark Blue/White jerseys.

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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