The last time the Edmonton Oilers took a Russian winger in the first round it didn’t quite pan out as expected. In a draft year that now lives in infamy, the Oilers brass were divided on who to take first overall at the 2012 draft in Pittsburgh.
It is believed that the team’s scouting department was sold on taking, Everett Silvertip defender, Ryan Murray at the top pick but ownership was leaning toward, Sarnia Sting sniper, Nail Yakupov. Ownership eventually won the day as the Oilers decided to take Yakupov first overall.
Yakupov’s career with the Oilers was turbulent to say the least. After a fantastic rookie campaign during the shortened 2012/13 season, Yakupov fell off a cliff. His offence dried up and he became a liability in his own zone. Now, nine years after being drafted, Yakupov is three years removed from playing in the NHL and is now playing for Khabarovsk Amur in the KHL.
Given this recent misadventure, the Oilers have avoided taking a Russian forward in the first round since then. However, that could all change this October as a certain Rodion Amirov has surged up the draft rankings and could be available when the Oilers pick at 14.
Who Is Rodion Amirov?:
Rodion Amirov is a dominant two-way left-winger out of the MHL, Russia’s development league, who weighs in at 6’0” 167lbs. He put up 22 points in 17 games with Tolpar Ufa and four points in seven games in the KHL with Ufa Salavat Yulayev.
Despite his small stature, Amirov is a strong player who is hard to knock off the puck. He has a solid center of gravity and isn’t afraid to get physical. He doesn’t shy away from board battles and is usually successful in winning more than he loses due to his balance. He is a very smart player who can influence the pace of play in all three zones of the ice.
Amirov is a great skater and can easily identify the best possible play when he has the puck. He is aware of where all his teammates are in the offensive zone and is equally able to put the puck in the net or to set up a play. He is an all situation type of player as he showed promise as a power-play producer and his defensive awareness could make him a asset on the penalty kill.
He is a well-rounded player who can be trusted in all three zones of the ice. There are not many warts in his game but, if he were to improve, there is still plenty of room to grow physically. His small stature has succeeded in the MHL, we still don’t know how that game would improve in a league against men. Although Amirov is a strong skater he could also work on improving his acceleration.
Lets take a look at what the experts are saying about him:
Mike Morreale (NHL.com): ”A skilled left wing with speed and a high hockey IQ who can play all situations, the 18-year-old models his game after Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.”
Sam Consentino (Sportsnet): ”Everything is in place for him to become a middle-of-the-line-up producer. A player who thinks the game well with defensive awareness as part of the package.”
Cam Robinson (Dobberprospects): “An impressive two-way winger. Competes for every puck and tends to win thanks to his balance and strong core. Makes the subtle plays that add up. Still searching for that separation speed.
Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst): “Amriov is an elite stickhandler and is incredibly reliable when entering the opposing zone. He cleans up a lot of mistakes for his teammates and quickly transitions into attack mode. Amirov owns an excellent shot-release combination and fires pucks off the pass as accurately as any forward within his peer group.”
Does He Make Sense At 14?:
If you asked me if he made sense at Edmonton’s pick a month or two ago I probably would say no, but that tune has changed. Let’s see where he stacks up on a few lists:
Bob Mckenzie (TSN): 19
Craig Button (TSN): 19
Sam Consentino (Sportsnet): 17
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): 14
The most recent of those four lists are Consentino and Pronman’s and it is more indicative of where Amirov will most likely end up. He has risen up the ranks to the point where he will probably go between picks 13-17.
To keep things short and sweet, Amirov is a riser in this year’s draft class and would make plenty of sense at pick 14.
Potential Fit with Oilers?:
Broken record is still broken as the Oilers have to be sure that any forward taken at this position has the potential to play top 6 minutes when they are ready to jump into the NHL. When it comes to Amirov I think his ceiling might be a bit lower than other players around the same range.
He is a well-rounded player that can play all situations and I definitely see some top 6 potential in him. That being said, I think he will end up as a very good third line scoring option down the road. I see a long NHL career for Amirov in a middle of the lineup producer who has the potential to jump into the top 6 in spurts.
This isn’t a knock on the player whatsoever. Finding a player as complete as Amirov at the age of 18 is no small feat. I just get a sense that he might not hit the ceilings of players like Jarvis, Quinn, or Holloway at the NHL level. His small size is concerning but, as we have seen recently, that shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of selection.
I would classify Amirov as a safe pick for the club. There is a high chance he becomes an NHL regular when he is ready but maybe not as the high octane winger the club is looking for.