Know The Name: Rodion Amirov


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In the 4th installment of our Know The Name series for the 2020 NHL Draft we will be breaking away from the consensus top 3 at this point (Lafrenière, Raymond, Byfield), and taking a look at some of the more under-the-radar players eligible for this year's draft.


I'm a huge fan of the Russian crop for the 2020 draft and can't wait to dive into some more MHL games this season to get a better look at the group. Leading the way in my opinion is 2001 born Russian winger Rodion Amirov. Amirov made a name for himself at the IIHF U-18 World Championships back in April as he carried Team Russia’s offence to the finals. He was only bested by Cole Caufield and Jack Hughes when it comes to goal-scoring at the U-18s and proved to be one of the better forwards at that tournament.


Amirov's game revolves around his high-skill level and his ability to make plays and get into high-danger areas with the puck in the offensive zone. He isn't very big at around 6'0" and just under 170 so he relies on his skill and smarts to be an effective player. It is still relatively early but I think Rodion Amirov might be the best Russian in the 2020 draft not named Yaroslav Askarov.


Scouting Report:


Let's start off with my personal favourite part about Amirov's game: his hands/creativity. Amirov has a very quick set of hands that he uses all the time to get around defender's for a scoring chance or make a play to a teammate.




I'm not a huge fan of the move where you put the puck through your own legs to try and get around a defenseman but this is something that Amirov does really well as shown in this clip. A lot of the time this move is pointless and results in the puck-carrier skating behind the net but Amirov is able to get inside position on the defenseman and ends up drawing a penalty taking it to the net.




This clip shows a little bit of everything from Amirov: his skating, his hands, and his smarts. Amirov shifts away from a defender behind the net and is immediately trying to get into a high-danger area. The puck is really on a string for him and he's able to make a nice inside move to the middle and get a shot on goal. His puck-control is really something that impresses me and that combined with his slick skating and edge-work make it a nightmare for defenders to take the puck off his stick.





With the speed and set of hands that Rodion Amirov has it isn't hard to believe that he's a breakaway artist. He is able to continuously expose goaltenders 1-on-1 as shown in the clips above. He's great at getting goalies to bite with an easy head-fake and then uses his quick back-hand to beat them. Amirov is a really fun player to watch and his slick hands and creativity will be one of the first things you notice about him.


The next area of Amirov's game we will examine is his shooting and goal-scoring abilities. I think Amirov has a really underrated and deceptive shot that goalies might not expect from a guy with his build. Amirov scored at a 0.42 G/PG clip in the MHL last season which is pretty notable for a guy who isn't seen as a huge goal-scorer.




I like how Amirov knows where he needs to be if he wants to get good scoring-chances. In this clip he finds a sweet spot in the middle of the ice and allows himself to be open for a quick drop-pass from his line-mate Pavel Shen. He makes one quick move to corral the puck and get himself into the best shooting position and picks his spot.




Along with being able to score off the rush, Amirov is also a threat to score in tight because of his quick hands and release. In this clip you will see Amirov draw away from his man and make a quick stop to get open in front of the net for his teammate to pass to him. Amirov is able to kick the puck to his stick and put it over Spencer Knight's shoulder and into the back of the net in an instant.




As I mentioned before, Amirov has a pretty deceptive shot. The puck flies off his stick like a sling-shot and he is able to pick his spot most of the time. Amirov has shown that he can score clutch goals not only in international tournaments but in the MHL as well. This goal was the over-time winner in a playoff series vs Reaktor Nizhnekamsk. Amirov receives the puck at the top of the circle and loads up a wrister on one knee to beat the goalie top left corner. I do think Amirov has the tools to score at the NHL level as well.


One of the knocks on Amirov from some scouts has been his defensive game. I do think that he needs to work on decision-making in his own zone and not leaving his man open. Having said this, I still think his IQ and speed allow him to be a pretty effective fore-checker. Along with this he also has a very quick stick that he uses to break up plays or strip the puck from defenders.




This clip is a prime example of how defense can turn into offense in an instant. Amirov hounds the Slovak defender and forces him to throw the puck off the boards and right onto the tape of his Team Russia teammate Ilya Nikolayev who converts the chance. I don't think Amirov was awarded an assist here but he definitely deserved one.




Amirov is very good at closing in on defenders fast and forcing them to make quick, and often poor decisions. He is a great possession player because when he doesn't have the puck on his stick he is doing everything to get it back. Here he baits the defender by coming at him from a different angle and making a quick turn to close in on him and steal the puck from him.




When Amirov is on his game, he is very committed to the back-check and shows flashes of being a solid two-way player. In this play, Amirov combines his speed and stick-work to break up the play in the neutral zone and allow for his defenseman to gain possession. Amirov needs to be more consistent with his effort getting back and helping out his teammates but overall I don't see him as a defensive liability.


Talking about Amirov's speed and how he uses it leads us to the next area of his game: his skating. As you can probably tell already Amirov is a very strong skater. The problem is that Amirov isn't the strongest guy himself and he sometimes is weak on his skates at high speeds and is prone to getting the puck knocked off him.




This clip showcases Amirov's quick acceleration and puck-carrying abilities into the offensive zone but he has trouble getting around his defender. If Amirov can get stronger and be able to use his body to protect the puck more he can really become quite the player. One good thing about Amirov's slight stature is that he draws a lot of interference and holding penalties with defenders having trouble stopping him.




As soon as Amirov gets the puck he is pushing the play up the ice. His puck-handling ability is one of his strongest attributes and he is very patient with the puck, looking for plays to open up. He is effective on the power-play because of his zone-entry abilities and work on the half-wall.




Amirov is a pretty shifty skater as well which makes him unpredictable and allows him to be effective with the puck in the corner. Amirov uses his skating to navigate out of traffic with multiple defenders on him in this clip. You can see how he picks up speed coming out of the corner to ensure the defenders aren't able to close in on him. Overall I think Amirov skates really well and understands how to use it in multiple parts of his game.


Having covered Amirov's skating, defense, shooting, and hands, the final area we will examine is his passing and play-making abilities. I think Amirov is a very fine play-maker. With the set of hands he has and his high IQ, Amirov is able to find his teammates in dangerous areas. I think his passing accuracy could use some work but he is putting the puck in all the right places.





Off the break-out, Amirov typically makes clean passes and pushes the play up the ice when the puck is on his stick. In the first clip he notices that his teammate has gotten past the defenseman on the blue-line and he wastes no time putting the puck on his stick.


Amirov is very good at luring defenseman in and opening up space for his teammates. The second clip shows Amirov skating into the zone and waiting for the defenseman to converge on him before using his quick hands to backhand saucer a pass to his teammate who passes over to another teammate for an easy tap in.




Amirov doesn't just get secondary assists though, he can be relied on as the set up man on the power-play and collects a fair amount of primary assists that way. In this play, Amirov passes to his d-man on the point for a one-timer which is blocked and comes right back to Amirov. He gets the goalie and defenders to bite with the fake-shot and hits his teammate wide open in the slot.



Statistical Analysis:



Amirov spent most of his season playing with Tolpar Ufa in the MHL; a team that had a very good goaltender (Dmitri Braginsky) and not a whole lot of offence. In the 31 regular season games Amirov played with Tolpar, he was relied on to be the teams main offensive force up front, leading the team in P/GP with 0.84. His 13 goals ranked 3rd on the team despite playing 20-30 games less than everyone in front of him. Another stat worth noting is that 10/13 of his assists were primary (77%). In total 23/26 points were primary points (88%).


In the playoffs with Tolpar it seemed like Amirov was the only guy who could create some sort of offence for them. He led the team in goals and points with 4 and 6 respectively over 8 games played. Second in points was 2020 eligible Alexander Pashin with 3. I watched at least half of these playoff games and most of the time it looked like Amirov had to do everything himself.


Comparing Amirov's D-1 season in the MHL to some other 2020 draft eligible players, we can see that he ranks 1st in P/GP and 3rd in goals despite, once again, playing a lot less games than most of these guys. His 0.84 P/GP puts him ahead of some other notable Russian draft eligibles like Vasili Ponomaryov and Maxim Groshev. While the comparisons aren't the greatest and the sample size isn't large, it is clear that Amirov had the best U-17 season in the MHL last year.


I decided to see how Amirov's D-1 season in the MHL ranked all-time and this is how he compares to some pretty good players:






Taking a look at this table, we can see Amirov stacks up pretty well against some other really notable Russian prospects and he isn't even too far behind 2018-19 NHL Hart Memorial Trophy Winner Nikita Kucherov. Everyone on this list except for Kucherov was selected in the 1st round and I expect Amirov too follow suit.


It was at the U-18 World Junior Championship back in April that Rodion Amirov really stood out from his peers, proving to be a top player at that tournament and one of the main reasons Russia made it to the finals. As I mentioned earlier, only Cole Caufield and Jack Hughes scored more goals at that tournament than Amirov. In total he put up 6 goals and 3 assists in 7 games, finishing just out of the top 5 in scoring. Only USA and Canadian players finished ahead of him because they steamrolled their opponents in the preliminary games.


Conclusion:


I'm not sure what exactly Rodion Amirov's ceiling is or what kind of player he becomes at the next level but I do think he has the tools to become a top 6 contributor if things go right for him. He is already playing in the top 2 lines and contributing well for Salavat Yulaev during KHL preseason and that may be where we get to see him play out his draft year. Both during league play and internationally this year, Amirov has been asked to handle the load offensively and I'm interested to see how he performs with better players around him and playing at a higher level this season. Every year there seems to be a Russian that surprises us and finds their way into the top 10 and I'm curious to see if Amirov is that guy. I know Askarov is the clear-cut best Russian prospect of this class but I think Amirov could come out as the best player in this crop. I still don't think enough people are talking about Rodion Amirov and I believe he will emerge as a top 15-20 prospect in this very deep draft class.


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