A fifth round pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Dmitri Ovchinnikov was someone that the Leafs liked enough to make a trade while he was still available specifically to choose him. That’s not something that Kyle Dubas does often — in fact I can’t remember if he’s ever traded up like that before. That may make you think that he is a steal, and... maybe!
There are some good things that Ovchinnikov has going for him. He finished his draft season in the MHL, producing 55 points in 54 games. That was good for 15th in the league, and first among players who were first-year eligible for the NHL draft. He followed that up with 51 points in 40 games in his D+1 season, and got into 16 KHL games for his parent club. That was one of the very best point per game paces in the MHL, and while he only had one point in his 16 KHL games he was slowly getting more playing time. His first several games he played one or two shifts, if he played at all.
The other thing to keep in mind is his age. With an August 19th birthday, Ovchinnikov is actually over 10 months younger than Rodion Amriov — the Leafs’ first round pick in the same draft. The reason why this is important is because in Amirov’s D-1 season, when he was around the same age that Ovchinnikov was this season, they had more comparable stats.
Amirov 18 old season:
- MHL — 22 points in 17 games (1.29 ppg)
- KHL — 2 points in 21 games (0.09 ppg)
Ovchinnikov 18 year old season:
- MHL — 51 points in 40 games (1.28 ppg)
- KHL — 1 point in 16 games (0.06 ppg)
Does this mean that Ovchinnikov is as good a prospect as Amirov, a first round pick? No, and Katya may literally kill me for making such a pointzalytics argument. I do think it’s worth keeping in mind the relative ages of prospects and their development arc, but there are also other very important reasons why Amirov is a much better prospect, and why he was taken in the first round, while Ovchinnikov was a fifth round pick.
How We Voted
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Every single one of the 10 official PPP voters ranked Ovchinnikov somewhere, with 13 (me) being his best ranking and 20 (Omar) being the lowest. The most rankings seemed to be between 15 and 17, so 16 as his final ranking makes sense. Small spoiler that shouldn’t be a spoiler at all: Amirov was ranked in our top 5.
So we all, including me, consider him to be a nice prospect that has some interesting qualities, but we’re skeptical that he is a legit NHL prospect just yet. While it’s pretty clear that he has a good amount offensive skill, as evidenced by his point production in the MHL and plays like these that he can pull off in the KHL...
#LeafsForever prospect Dmitri Ovchinnikov is playing some more in the KHL pre-season, trying to lock down a spot on their roster. He started on the fourth line, and had a goal and an assist in their 8-0 blowout.— AleSTANdro Kirk (@brigstew86) August 10, 2021
Here's his goal, which came off a nice pass and a nifty move. pic.twitter.com/aMSuGt2M9P
And here is Ovchinnikov's assist, which came off a nice bit of forechecking and a nifty pass. pic.twitter.com/wP3mUS7pyH— AleSTANdro Kirk (@brigstew86) August 10, 2021
...Ovchinnikov has his issues. While he has some offensive skill, and he can pull off skilled plays like the above, those were essentially his only two plays of note in that game. Which was a KHL pre-season game, so not exactly as high intensity as a regular season game, or as optimal a lineup by his team or the competition. Both were playing some younger prospects, like him.
And that’s where Amirov stands out over Ovchinnikov. Watching Amirov in the KHL, you notice the differences. His skating is brilliant, and he’s constantly showing you that through his play. He moves all over, he’s active in every zone, and he has a level of consistent effort and intensity that helps him make an impact on the game on almost every shift.
Ovchinnikov is just not there. He will show the odd flash, but otherwise he’s more invisible. He’s not as active until he sees a chance, and then he’s active. He’s also easier to be physically dominated at the KHL level. Just about any opponent that can square up or catch up to him can push him off the puck or off his stride, so his effectiveness is nullified. While his skating and skill can help compensate for some of that, it does limit him in the offensive zone on a cycle. So his offensive impact will come off the rush, or as he floats higher in the zone.
Some of that he can fix as he gets older, bigger, stronger, more experienced, and more confident. But some of that is also just some natural ability that Amirov has, and Ovchinnikov doesn’t. It’s not like Amirov is dramatically bigger than Ovchinnikov either — depending on how much you trust the EP listings.
But I don’t want to dwell on the potential negatives for him, because I do really like him. That big question mark will be at least somewhat answered this season, but as Katya has mentioned before... there’s no such thing as a smooth, linear progression for a prospect to follow. There will be ups and downs. I personally like him a lot, for a later round guy, and he’s been invited to Team Russia’s U20 camp that is usually mostly made up of their “B” team roster, though some of the players can be considered for the World Junior Championship.
Team Russia U20 roster for the 4 Nations Tournament in Czech Republic (26th-28th of August). pic.twitter.com/wcdyBGJJk6— Russian Prospects (@RUSProspects) August 25, 2021
Here’s what some of the other voters had to say:
Scouch: One of my favourite longshots from the 2020 draft. Caught my eye in 2019, and had an absolutely massive D+1 campaign in the MHL with some “ice time” in a few KHL games. Ovchinnikov has the capability to just be absolutely filthy. He was a huge wild card in the 2020 Draft, and was on my shortlist to be a name I’d snag, but I was still surprised to see the Leafs trade up to get him. He’s got great skill, a great sense for attacking the middle of the ice, a wonderful shot paired with great offensive vision. He’s still a work in progress at the pro level, and I’m hopeful that he’s a consistent roleplayer with Novosibirsk this season.
Katya: Points-watchers got worked up over Ovchinnikov last year, and that was, it turned out, largely legitimate even when you account for his massive ice time in Russian junior. There is some level of shading that should be put on MHL results vs other junior leagues. On average, it’s a bit tougher to score in by most analyses. That said, it’s junior hockey, and getting giddy over him is as unwarranted as it is for Miettinen and Steeves. This puts Ovchinnikov in the bottom half of the list by right. I ranked him 16 because his youth makes him capable of greater things than the older players I ranked in that part of the list, but ranking him way over players with proven pro hockey records is not plausible to me.
Hardev: the year he was drafted, Ovchinnikov was alone on a MHL team without any other offensive players. He had to play a lot of minutes and carry a big load. This year he continued that, but got a pretty big taste of the KHL as well. Hopefully that’s a full-time role for him next season and he can build on that before he turns 20. He’s still a few years away from the AHL, but he’s on the right track.
What Should We Look For From Ovchinnikov This Season?
So this is where that big question mark for Ovchinnikov comes in. He’s clearly a star in the MHL, where he was his team’s #1 center. He played tons of minutes, played in all situations, racked up points and had an impact all over the ice. But in the KHL, he has yet to stick in the lineup. In his 16 games last year, he barely played. He may have some skills that could play up in pro, but he physically still looks like a teenager in junior.
In his pre-season games this year, he’s been a winger on the third or fourth line with the occasional time on the second powerplay unit. If he does make it to the NHL, it will likely be as a winger which does cause him to lose some potential value. This season we’re going to want to see him play most of his games for his KHL team — even in their bottom six. He’ll have to look more consistently active in the play than he has. He has to get stronger so he isn’t so easily neutralized by one good check or shove. If he follows the same path as he has before compared to Amirov (similar point production but a bit lower, and less impact elsewhere), we would hope to see him put up around one 0.3 points per game.
A few more examples of that in this one clip.— AleSTANdro Kirk (@brigstew86) July 28, 2021
1) Helps dig the puck out from a scrum. That's good.
2) Defender easily shoves Ovchinnikov off his stide. That's bad.
3) Pursues and pressures defense, causes turnover and scoring chance. That's good. pic.twitter.com/Z9qq0ISVH6
In that sense, Ovchinnikov is in the same place as others in his same “tier” in these rankings. For me, that’s with Abramov, Miettinen, Voit, Abruzzese, and so on. All of them were taken later, all of them are smaller or physically undersized, all of them have stronger offensive profiles than anything else. But they’re not so overwhelmingly good offensively that we can fully trust that they really are later round “steals” and future NHLers. And every year after they’ve been drafted, we want to see them get better and better and be among the best offensive producers on their team, and/or get stronger to develop a better all-around game. Abruzzese did it by being one of the NCAA leaders in points in his freshman year — albeit as an older freshman. Abramov did it by almost having more goals than his next closest teammate had in points. Miettinen did it by leading his NCAA team in points as an actual freshman.
For Ovchinnikov, we’re waiting to see him take his next big step. Until he can show that he can succeed in the KHL, we’re going to remain skeptical — if hopeful — that he can really be a legit NHL prospect.
Do you think 16th is a fair ranking of Ovchinnikov?
This poll is closed
I had him ranked better than that
I didn’t even rank him
Sounds about right