Kirill Maksimov, a 6’3’’, 194-pound 21-year old right-handed winger from Moscow, Russia, checks in at #15 in this year’s Top 25 Under 25. Maksimov was selected by the Oilers in the fifth round, 146th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft after a solid — if unspectacular — 21-17-38 in 66 OHL games. In the time since, he’s spent two more years in the OHL — earning an entry-level contract from the Oilers in the first of those two seasons in 2018 — before turning pro in 2019-20 and joining the Bakersfield Condors.
A modest rookie year (5-8-13 in 53GP) in the AHL might have tempered some expectations about Maksimov in the long-term but it’s not uncommon for 20 year olds to struggle as rookies in pro hockey. This year, he’s plying his trade with CSKA Moscow in the KHL, collecting 1-1-2 in 11 GP while averaging just over 12 minutes per contest. Unfortunately, his 11 GP indicate that he’s on the fringes of that roster, and has drawn into less than half of CSKA’s games so far this season.
Of course, playing and practicing at all is better than nothing at the moment, and this period in Russia should still serve Maksimov well when the AHL eventually resumes play in North America.
On draft day, Maksimov was touted as a big, skilled forward with good speed — and otherwise unconvincing skating — and a strong forecheck, while also possessing the ability to make some plays with the puck. His shot and release are NHL-caliber, he’s able to think the game at speed, and he’s considered an exceptionally hard worker. In the AHL, those traits began to peek through, even if his boxcars didn’t necessarily jump off the page. His boxcars suffered in part due to Jay Woodcroft’s reliance on his veteran pros, with Maksimov spending time lower down the lineup than he was surely used to, and the only special teams work he received was on the PK. That Woodcroft trusted him on the PK surely speaks to his improved skating and, of course, his work ethic, but his being relegated to the PP2 behind a guy like career ECHL forward Beau Starrett does pose a few questions:
- Was he not good enough? Surely his elite shot can find a home on the Condors’ top unit.
- Was Woodcroft committed to developing the non-offensive parts of his game?
- Was Woodcroft’s plan — whatever it was — beneficial for this player?
To answer these thoroughly is to watch more AHL games than I have, so if anyone else has greater insight into his work last season please feel free to supplement this article in the comments. Off the top, however, I can say that his release surely screams good enough for an AHL PP1. Of course, being good enough for the PP means more than being able to shoot at a high level. With Woodcroft giving Maksimov PK time, it does speak to a grand vision of “introducing” Maksimov to the rigors of penalty killing, but it should be noted that Maksimov actually moved to the PK in his last junior season in an effort to help his OHL club so he’s no stranger to the role. As far as whether that vision was helpful for Maksimov? On balance, I’d have to say no. No matter how you slice it, underwhelming at the pro level and some reports have suggested that it impacted his confidence on the attack.
Regardless, this year will be a pivotal one for Maksimov, and it will be imperative for him to establish some genuine offense at the AHL level if he hopes to make an impact with the Oilers in the coming years.