With the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected Rodion Amirov. He’s a Russian winger who does a bit of everything well, including defense. In that sense he seems to be a perfect fit for what the Leafs need, especially after some better options were off the board at that point.
Amirov plays for his hometown team in Slavat, Russia. He’s grown up in the club and has already played part of one season in the KHL. He had two assists last year in 21 games, playing a very limited role as a designated junior (he wouldn’t count against the roster limits).
This year, he’s already played 10 games, and had three goals and two assists with a nice, healthy 15 minutes per game.
He’s spent some time in the VHL (second division below the KHL) in both last season and the season that has already begun. While last year, his main job was on the junior team, this year, he looks like he might be sticking in the KHL. His VHL games came early in the season, and he’s been on the KHL roster since late September.
In his most recent game (yesterday) he started on the top line and played over 22 minutes in a pretty easy win for the other team. Usual Salavat players Teemu Hartikainen and Nikita Soshnikov were not in the lineup. They, along with a very, very long list of others are listed as injured, but Salavat Yulaev is one of the teams in the KHL that has been hit by a Coronavirus outbreak, and many of those players are not actually injured at all.
The situation in the KHL, as teams continue to play as long as they have callups and juniors to fill the teams is creating resumes not really reflective of how the prospect would normally be used. But so far, Amirov is making the most of it.
You might remember him from Annie’s recent FTB where Amirov discovered that he has the heart of a true leader:
Rodion Amirov is looking for a home for a stray kitten. He's asking @hcsalavat fans to apply to adopt "Yulaeka," and he promises a ticket to the upcoming Red Army game. If you send him photo/video updates every 3 months, you'll get more tix. After 1 year, a stick. #nhldraft2020 pic.twitter.com/6LANb9HkSS— Gillian Kemmerer (@gilliankemmerer) October 3, 2020
I’m pretty happy with this pick. He was pretty clearly the best available pick at the time. He is on the older side as a late 2001 birthday, but he’s just flat better than anyone else on the board. We mercifully avoid the fate of having Schneider taken 15th...
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic:
I had Amirov at No. 20 on my preliminary list, No. 22 at midseason, No. 20 on the first iteration of the final ranking and he’s there again. That should probably tell you a couple of things:
I’m pretty confident this is the range he belongs in.
He didn’t exceed my expectations, nor did he fail to meet them. This has been true, again, as hockey has resumed.
The strength of Amirov’s game is in his ability to protect the puck and change directions with control. This makes him particularly effective within the offensive zone because I wouldn’t say his straightaway speed is all that high end. Amirov is dangerous because he takes what’s given to him (he’s not a pass-first player but he doesn’t tunnel-vision the net as a shooter either), and he can carry the puck into the slot to draw pressure or create for himself.
Amirov is one of the older players in this draft class and already carries a fairly significant track record. After leading Russia in scoring in last year’s U18 tournament while playing on a line with Vasili Podkolzin, we can expect him to be one of his team’s top scorers at this year’s World Juniors (assuming the tournament takes place). He also has 21 KHL games under his belt. Given that he also played at the Hlinka-Gretzky and World Junior A Challenge, every scout in the world is probably familiar with his game by now.
He’s a well-rounded player who can help his team in a variety of different ways. He’s fairly big, carries the puck well, goes to the high-danger area, moves the puck effectively, and offers a fair amount of shooting talent. A good forechecker who can generate takeaways, he’s also an above-average skater. He just always seems to be one of the better players on the ice. The Amirov-Podkolzin duo has been a force to be reckoned with when paired together.
His size and speed combination makes him a relatively safe pick, but his transition skill and scoring ability also give him first-line upside. He dominated in the MHL on a line with Alexander Pashin this year. I think he might only be a year away from being NHL ready. I expect him to be a bit of a steal on draft day, as I think he’s a rather safe bet to be a top-six winger. He’s a standout in transition, offers two-way potential with his speed and size, and he doesn’t have many clear flaws.
For educational purposes, we’ll show you his headshot from the KHL:
Amirov is listed in many places, including the KHL and VHL official sites, as being about 168 lbs, but the NHL Central Scouting list had him 10 lbs heavier. Making him Mitch Marner’s size almost exactly (right down to the questionable 6 feet in height).
Are you happy with the Leafs taking Amirov 15th overall?
|Yes. He was the best player.
|Eh, he’s fine I guess. Hoped for someone better.
|Should have traded down.
|Should have taken someone else.
Leafs draft pick Rodion Amirov is signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa through the end of this season. He's eligible to come to North America as soon as 2021-22 -- although that's a decision not likely to be made until well down the road here.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 7, 2020
KHL/VHL contracts run to April 30, and players on the national team, and we should expect Amirov to be on the Russian WJC team, are expected to report for World Championships etc. if asked. So any idea he could show up for an NHL season that would still be going on, is possible, given we don’t know when the NHL trade deadline is, but not very probable. He may be able to play in the AHL if they have a season.