The jump from junior to pro hockey is a tough one for many prospects. It really helps to sift through the bulk of players who make the transition so you learn who the true gems are. A prospect struggling in their first year as a pro doesn’t guarantee they won’t be an NHL player in the future, but it’s not a good sign that they can be a star. And when that player already had questions about their future NHL projection, it doesn’t paint a rosy picture.

The Player

Mikhail Abramov has been on the edge of being a genuinely enticing prospect for the past few years. He was drafted after okay stats in the QMJHL. He followed it up with a breakout season — 35 goals and 76 points in 63 games, close to the top of the league for goals and primary points. The next season — the pandemic season — wasn’t as gaudy for points, but he helped lead his team through the playoffs on a surprise run to become the QMJHL champions. There was some excitement to see what he could do going into this season as an AHL rookie.

And he did... okay. He had 7 goals and 28 points in 66 games, playing an estimated 14-15 minutes per game. That was tied for 19th for D+3 players in the AHL, with Nick Robertson who played only 28 games. By even strength primary points, he was 18th. Having only six powerplay points didn’t help, but plenty of players his age had the same amount or lower as AHL rookies. By comparison, Abramov is only six months younger than SDA, who also had his rookie AHL season, and SDA had 6 more goals and 4 more points in 15 fewer games.

Abramov’s offense was just okay, his defense appears to rate out as below average — both from the times I watched him, and according to his underlying numbers. His offense, which will be his bread and butter, was not as good as expected much less as good as hoped. And there is no obvious reason either, no battling through known injuries or illness, and due to other injuries and illnesses he was often playing as the second or even first line center. Not like he was lacking in opportunities.

If you want to hold onto a hope, it’s that Abramov seems to be a bit slower to adjust to his level. He exploded in his second QMJHL season and maintained a similar level in his third year. The Marlies look like they’ll be pretty stacked this season compared to last year, with the likes of Robertson, Anderson, Steeves, Holmberg, and Abruzzese likely starting the year on the Marlies.

That may lead to Abramov playing lower in the lineup, but that may also be good for him. They’ll have a good set of wingers to find who can play best with him, and he can spend more time learning and growing how to be successful in the AHL. But the big question will be if he will show enough improvement this season to change his outlook for the future.

The path to the Leafs’ these days for a non-blue chip prospect like Abramov is not through pure offense. You have to drive transitions, you have to kill penalties, you have to play good defense — you have to fit as useful, reliable NHL depth in other words. That’s not really Abramov’s profile right now. So he’ll need to either become more dominant offensively, and we’re talking as or more dominant than Nick Robertson has been to give you a comparison, or show dramatic improvement in other areas of the game. A balance of the two could also be possible, but either way this will be a pretty important season for Abramov.

The Votes

Last year, Abramov was ranked 11th on the T25U25. The winter before (our weird winter rankings because of the pandemic) Abramov was ranked 10th.

So his rankings have fallen quite a lot down to 20th this year. And I’ll admit that I was one of those ranking him very high the past couple of years, I really thought he would at least show better offense relative to his age in the AHL, but he just didn’t.

Mikhail Abramov Votes

Josh - Smaht Scouting19
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak19
Weighted Average19.00
Highest Rank15
Lowest Rank22
Spread in Votes7

All but one of the voters ranked Abramov in their top 25. Six of them had him in the top 20, two had him as high as 15th. I wound up having him 21st, which may have been too far a drop given how poor players between 15 and 25 are as prospects. But I am struggling to see his path to the NHL now.

Here’s what the other voters had to say:

dhammm: 26th in my rankings. Abramov didn’t blow the doors off his first AHL season and he didn’t score enough in the QMJHL to warrant hype or earn benefit of the doubt. He’s an AHLer but not an especially potent one, so while this might feel harsh for a D+3 forward prospect and while I am intrigued by what his sophomore campaign will look like, players who put up merely adequate numbers like this at every level in their career tend not to turn into anything.

TomK421: Pretty decent AHL season for a rookie I guess? It’d be nice if he could stick at center and be a cheap 4th liner in a few years.

Katya: I ranked Abramov 7th last year and I have him 15th this year. Some of that change is because last year I wasn’t sure about Roni Hirvonen, Matt Knies and Topi Niemelä. I also wanted to rank Abramov’s potential above some of our known quantities like Travis Dermott and Denis Malgin. Now I’ve very sure about Knies, and I have some hopes for all the recent second and third round picks. All of these players shoved Abramov down the list for me, as did some of the older players with clearer NHL potential. I’m not disappointed in his first AHL season. The Marlies had a very weak team with a lot of young projects in a perpetual lineblender at forward, and aside from the injury-plagued Nick Robertson, no one you could even call AHL elite. Abramov didn’t show a lot of growth, but it’s impossible to tell yet if he’s hitting a ceiling or just showing like a guy playing 3C with no one to score on his passing plays.

Will Abramov play 100 games in the NHL for his career?

Yes, I still believe115
Maybe, if he moves on to a bad team who needs bodies in a tank year or two197
Nope, I do not believe227