With the No. 14 pick, the Oilers select… Rodion Amirov?

Leading up to the NHL draft, I’ll be profiling 10 players who the Oilers could consider taking with the No. 14 pick. Today, we have Rodion Amirov. 

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Goaltender Yaroslav Askarov is the most hyped Russian in this year’s draft class, so Rodion Amirov has flown a little under the radar.

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Amirov is the top-rated Russian skater in this year’s draft, ranked as the No. 5 European skater by NHL Central Scouting and as high as No. 14 on both Corey Pronman and Future Considerations’ pre-draft lists.

We haven’t seen the Oilers use a top pick on a Russian skater in quite some time. The last time that happened was when the team selected Nail Yakupov with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. But Yakupov was a pick out of the OHL so you have to go all the way back to 2000 to find the last time the Oilers used a first-round pick on a skater developed in Russia. That was Alexei Mikhnov, who played for Yaroslavl Torpedo.

Ken Holland is no stranger to Russian players. While the Red Wings haven’t used a high pick on a Russian in recent years, Holland was a key part in bringing the Russian Five (Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov, and Igor Larionov) to Detroit back in the 1990s.

That was obviously a very, very long time ago, but I don’t think Holland would shy away from drafting a Russian player at No. 14 even if his draft record in recent years in Detroit would suggest otherwise.

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Rodion Amirov

Date of Birth: October 2, 2001

Country: Russia 

Position: Left Wing

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 168 lbs / 76 kg

Ranked #19 by TSN/McKenzie

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“He strikes with strong habits, deploying crossovers through arced attacks on the rush, made all the more potent with a nice variety of rush patterns through the neutral zone preceding these forays. His anticipation, the ability to see plays before they develop, is one of his high-level tools.” EliteProspects 2020 NHL Draft Guide

“Amirov bounced around between the pro and junior level all season. He was excellent versus his peers at the junior level, and versus men he showed flashes, including in a brief appearance late with Russia’s national team. He was also dominant at Russia’s U20 camp during the summer. Amirov is easy to spot on the ice when he has the puck because he’s very quick and skilled. He has quick-twitch hands and can inside-out defenders while skating at full speed. He has the ability to pull off a highlight reel play. He can set up and finish plays well. He flashes high-end playmaking and shooting ability, but neither consistently. His game is more about his pure skill and driving play forward with a ton of clean entries. His speed isn’t amazing, more just good; but his edges and cutbacks are excellent. Amirov has a slight frame, which led to struggles versus men who could knock him off pucks, but he does work hard and when he puts on muscle I could see him get inside easier.

Vancouver draft pick Vasili Podkolzin on Amirov: ‘Amirov is a smart player with soft hands and good speed. He’s a non-standard player in terms of his decision making, he’s a very creative guy.'” – Corey Pronman’s 2020 Draft Board, The Athletic

The 2020-21 campaign in Russia has already gotten underway, so we have a small sample size to draw for Amirov as he plays his 19-year-old season.

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Through 10 KHL games with Salavat Ufa, Amirov has produced three goals and five points, which dwarfs the two points he produced in 21 KHL games last season. While Amirov didn’t produce much during his stint last season as a KHL teenager, he was excellent when playing his peers at the junior level. Amirov scored 10 goals and 22 points over 17 MHL games.

The fact that he saw as much time in the KHL as he did is a testament to his maturity as a player and ability overall. For the sake of comparison, Vasily Podkolzin, the No. 10 pick in last year’s draft who’s eight months older than Amirov, produced eight points in 30 KHL games last season.

Amirov’s game is built around pure skill. He’s flashy, quick, and creative, and has strong playmaking and shooting ability. Though you’ll notice him more on offence because of those flashy skills, Amirov also isn’t a slouch defensively and has been described as one of the better two-way forwards in the draft.

When you see an undersized, tremendously skilled and creative, 200-foot Russian player, you dream about another Nikita Kucherov. Expecting any prospect to become a Hart Trophy winner like Kucherov is obviously a massive ask, but Amirov certainly does have some major upside.

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