Dmitri Ovchinnikov had some fans last year as a draft eligible prospect out of Russia’s junior league, the MHL. That number obviously grew once he became a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization in early October. Kyle Dubas traded up to take him with a fifth round pick, so there must’ve been something to him, right?

This year, Ovchinnikov got his feet wet in the KHL to start the season but has since gone back to the MHL where he’s lit up the league once again with 32 points in 20 games, averaging three shots per game in 23 minutes per night. That TOI number seemed pretty extraordinary at first, and after looking into where he ranks within the league, he’s first among forwards with 10 or more games.

Ovchinnikov is near the top of the league in the MHL, and at the ago of 18 he’s still playing well within his age group. I’ve often seen 21 or 22-year-olds ripping up the MHL because they’re bigger and older than everyone else. Ovchinnikov is not that.

However, the MHL is a pretty weak league relative to the other mainstream leagues in Europe. It’s a junior league and defense is very often optional there. Ovchinnikov is doing well where he is but he still has a long way to go. I hope we can see him in the KHL next year or the year after — or at least on a better MHL team than his because Sibirskie is pretty bad. His performances in a better league with better players will give us a lot clearer an indication of his ability compared to the AHL and NHL.

He’s a great skater who works hard all over the ice and has some really impressive puck skills in his repertoire; I just think we can all agree he’s not going to be the guy standing next to Mitch Marner in the photo above. However, a long-term project that we can stow away before he jumps over to North America at 23 and shocks us all in a potential middle-six role? I am ready to be excited about that.

Various Hockey Branches

MLSE to move 25% of staff to inactive status amid pandemic — Bloomberg News
25% of MLSE’s full-time staff have been temporarily laid off and put on temporary inactive status. The company has also said they will be reducing the salaries of executives and senior management starting in January 2021. MLSE is partly owned by Rogers Communications, who have also seen their fair share of cuts, notably on the baseball side.

The players said this after getting knocked out of the playoffs. They need to be tougher to play against and more resilient to opposing pressure. Dubas repeated that feeling yesterday on a radio hit on TSN. Anyone else feel like the Leafs are ramping up for training camps, even though one doesn’t look like it’s going to be on the horizon in 2020?

Kyle, you don’t have to act like you didn’t watch the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs and your recent moves to mimic their roster composition came from a plan all the way back in 2016.

Also I wanted to share this from a few days ago because, shocker, coaches sound a lot alike!

Speaking of players who need to do more, Mitch Marner might have an overrated contract, but Patrick Kane is comfortably the most overrated player in my lifetime.

In other news, Morgan Rielly is an invaluable teammate and is doing some amazing work with fellow Leaf Hayley Wickenheiser!

The QMJHL is shutting down until January 3rd.

Similarly, the Liiga is struggling mightily with containing COVID-19 and have had to postpone a staggering number of games.