In his draft year, Mikhail Abramov was an uninspiring player on a bad QMJHL team. Coming from Russia, where Abramov excelled with CSKA Moscow’s development program at multiple junior levels, Abramov didn’t have a great rookie season in the Q. One year on, it definitely feels like his transition year to North America was just a blip and Abramov is an up-and-coming prospect with the Leafs.
Like Timothy Liljegren, it appears as though Abramov was drafted for his pre-draft seasons, with Kyle Dubas buying low on talent his organization has been able to see multiple years in the past. This same thing happened to Liljegren when he was at the top of his year at age-17, but caught mono and essentially lost his entire age-18 season.
Abramov is under contract with the Maple Leafs after earning an ELC in March following a big season from him offensively. Abramov finished 15th in QMJHL scoring, a fair bit behind budding first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, but successful with 35 goals and 76 points in 63 games nonetheless.
Playing at centre, Abramov was a one-man wrecking ball on the struggling Victoriaville Tigres. To put his season in context, the player second in team scoring was age-20 defenseman Jérôme Gravel who had only 41 points in 62 games. There wasn’t anyone on the team other than Abramov who scored 20 goals and he had 35. In terms of league scoring, Abramov was 15th in points and 12th in goals.
Looking a little deeper, Abramov finished third on the team in GF% relative to his teammates, 54.3% in total. The two players above him in the category was the rookie fourth line centre (Nicholas Daigle, who might be of interest next draft) and a D+2 defenseman. On the power play, Victoriaville scored 53 goals in 63 games. Their leading power play scorer was Gravel with 10 goals, Abramov had eight from the right wing (his off side).
Most of Abramov’s production came at even strength. Within his draft year, he was fourth in the QMJHL in the percentage of his primary points that came at even strength behind three prospects drafted in the top-40. He was again fourth among his draft class in the Q in terms of even strength shots with 177.
Abramov clearly made the most of very little support on the season, doing the bulk of the heavy lifting on his team. I wonder how much more he could score with a running mate of some kind either at his centre or on his wing. It feels like he played an SDA season without a Nick Robertson to his left. He pretty much only had a defenseman to pass to.
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Last year, Abramov actually had a fair number of votes in the teens, but with the strong class in the Marlies, he was pushed out of the Top 25. This year he was also voted in the teens, but with a lot of players off the eligibility list or fallen off the radar, Abramov is ranked in a fairly prominent place. Last year, Abramov got strong votes of confidence from Seldo, Arvind, Katya, Omar, Brigstew, Rahef, and Kevin, but was left off the list by everyone else.
We have made a change in the way we tabulate the votes in the Top 25 Under 25 proposed by myself. The old system punished players harshly when they went unranked. My new method eliminates that “bug” in the system. One big change it would have made last year was it would’ve put Abramov in the Top 25. Last year he sat 26th between Joseph Duszak and Dmytro Timashov. Under the new system, he would’ve sat 23rd, between Korshkov and SDA. This year he’s 14th between SDA and [redacted].
T25U25: How the voting tabulation changed the list
He’s a great playmaker (speed, skill, smarts)
Abramov is a really good playmaker with a really good idea of where the puck needs to go on the ice. Abramov’s got a really good first pass. He’s shifty against defenders, which both puts them off and pulls attention on him so other lanes open up. He plays from his off wing so he’s always poised to shoot but can also give off quick passes to teammates coming into the area.
“In my updated viewings, it quickly became clear that some of Abramov’s already refined skills help him as a shooter, too. His standout puck handling skill, in particular, helps him disguise his shot and change angles. This way, even without a shot that really pops off his stick, he can surprise defenders and goalies with his release.” - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Looking at Mikhail Abramov’s remarkable transformation this season
Abramov got more credit for his shot this season compared to last, but it’s still not great. There’s a reason he’s primarily a playmaker. He really just needs a shooter next to him in order to realize what kind of production he can create. Obviously, unless you’re Mitch Marner, you need some sort of shooting ability, so this is something Abramov can hopefully develop in the QMJHL or with the Marlies, where they’ve excelled in developing puck skills.
Like every junior player, Abramov is small and not fully developed into his body. There was a really heartwarming quote in Brigstew’s mid-season article on Abramov about how he wanted to get bigger and keep the puck longer. Which is exactly what you want to hear from a prospect. He made big strides this year, and might actually be six feet tall (an arbitrary milestone), so he’s getting into the form where he can start improving along the boards and in physical puck battles. He’ll grow into his size no problem.
I actually think he could play centre at the AHL level to start. You don’t need to be big and tough to play centre anymore. What works for smaller players is the ability to have a low centre of gravity, massive legs, and the impetus to work their asses off all over the ice. If Abramov can show this, he can play centre for me any day of the week. His playmaking style suits him for the role so why force him to the wing so quickly? I bet I’d love Mitch Marner at centre, and I know I like William Nylander there. Sure, they’re more valuable as wingers, but you might as well try it to see what happens.
What the Experts Think
I’ve talked a lot about how much I love Abramov. On twitter, in the comments at PPP, and in various articles I wrote about him. He was at a historic pace at one point, he almost became the first ever player in the CHL’s history (that I could find, I looked as far back as 15 years season by season) to have more goals than the second best teammate had in total points. I think he still has more room to grow as well. Adding strength and fine tuning his skating and shot will only help him become a better all-round player.
As is fairly common with any picks outside the first two rounds, Abramov wasn’t ranked last year post-draft by enough people to make the cut. I did rank him, and in doing that I was absolutely saying I thought he was an above-average 4th round selection. Russians are nearly always a little underrated by draft position, and I figured anyone getting points on a bad team at 18 had to have some skill. This year, we saw a very unusual change in a prospect, as detailed by Brigstew in a few articles: Abramov suddenly started scoring goals. One reason betting a little higher on the totally unknown young prospects is a good move is that their development in the first two or three years post-draft is the most volatile as well as where steep improvements can happen. The difference between a 22 and 23 year old player is negligible on average, but it’s guys like Abramov who are just discovering their true game. I bumped him up into the tier just below the NHLers, and I’ll entertain arguments I didn’t put him high enough.
I put Abramov in my top 10, and I didn’t have to think twice. I viewed him as a late second-round talent ahead of last year’s draft, thanks largely to his playmaking and transition skill, and he went and developed into a strong goal scorer this season. He completely carried his team, leading them in scoring by 35 points, and he has a real chance to be a top 5 player in the QMJHL next year. While SDA did not make Russia’s World Junior team, I expect Abramov to be one of their better forwards (assuming the tournament happens), and I expect him to climb a few spots on this ranking next year as a result. He still needs to get a bit stronger and work on his two-way game, but he’s got a real chance to be a NHL player.
And here’s a nice 15-minute compilation to enjoy.
Where should Abramov be ranked?
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