Prospect Report: Rodion Amirov
Rodion Amirov is yet another high skill, high energy winger in this year’s draft. The 6 foot, 168 pound Salavat, Russia native grew up playing for his hometown Salavat Yulaev organization, where he proved himself as a star player at the U17 and U18 levels. When Amirov reached the MHL, he was just as dangerous as he was at the lower levels. In his D-1 season, he scored 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 31 MHL games. However, it was on the international stage where Amirov truly shined.
He played a total of 27(!!) international games at the U18 level in 2018-2019, scoring 13 goals and adding 9 assists for 22 points. Vasili Podkolzin (2019 10th overall pick), was the only player consistently better than Amirov on that U18 team, which also featured the likes of Ilya Nikolaev (2019 88th overall pick), and Yegor Spiridonov (2019 108th overall pick). After a fantastic D-1 campaign, Amirov earned himself a spot on Salavat Yulaev’s KHL team.
This season, in 21 KHL games, he had 2 assists. He only played about 10 minutes per game, and got virtually no opportunity on the power play. Amirov was fine in most every KHL game I watched, but his lack of ice time made it tough to get a full read on him. Luckily, he spent a decent chunk of time playing in the VHL and MHL, where he was given the keys to his team’s offense. In 17 MHL games, he scored 10 goals and assisted on 12 more, finishing with 22 points total. He was absolutely dominant in his MHL games, often taking them over with his skill and smarts. Amirov also had a fantastic showing at the Canada/Russia series, where he consistently drove play on a loaded team Russia.
The first thing that stands out when watching Amirov play is his skating. He has a quick, smooth stride and the ability to change his speed and direction at will. His edgework is also excellent, and he can use the 10-2 style of skating better than most of his peers. He’s got the kind of speed and evasiveness to be a premier puck carrier, and he’s very strong on his skates as well. He showed off a prime example of this in the Canada/Russia series:
Amirov is always looking to carry the puck into high danger areas, and will cut to the middle of the ice every time if he has an opening. If he doesn’t have one, he’ll just make one:
Watch how quick his feet move when he sees the hole in the defense. He’s able to create enough speed to blow past the defense in only four quick strides. Here’s another solid example of his zone entry skills:
He gets the puck at the blue line, and instead of taking it down the wing, he makes a quick cut to the middle of the ice. He made himself a threat, opening up his teammate for a one timer at a yawning cage.
He also keeps his feet moving in all situations, and has one of the highest motors of any player in this draft. Amirov also owns an advanced defensive toolkit for a player his age, and has some great instincts in his own zone. He’s always looking to battle along the boards, and he’s got a really sneaky defensive stick. Amirov is a really effective 200 foot player, and can be depended on in any situation. He’s a great penalty killer, and likely projects as one at the NHL level. Amirov is just so calculated in every aspect of the game, and has shown the type of defensive maturity rarely seen in prospects his age. Here’s a great example of this from the U18 worlds:
He wins the faceoff, and instantly jumps on the loose puck, knocking it down the ice. While his teammate chases it down, Amirov keeps his feet moving through the neutral zone and tracks the puck as it moves below the goal line. He recognizes that there’s going to be an opportunity, and plants himself right out in front of the net, with his feet open to the passer.
The next thing that stands out when watching him is his strength. Amirov’s strength is extremely deceptive, he’s never the biggest guy on the ice, but he’s near impossible to take the puck from. Even though he’s only listed as 168 pounds, guys just seem to bounce off of him when he has the puck. He’s so good at using his body to shield the puck from the defense, and wins the majority of board battles in the offensive zone. To go along with his natural strength, he’s also very strong on his stick, and it’s so tough to take the puck from him with a basic poke check. He can hang onto the puck for entire shifts in the offensive zone, and players like that are hard to find.
Another one of Amirov’s premier tools are his hands. He’s a great stickhandler, with superb patience and a solid element of deception. Amirov can be very dynamic with the puck, and has shown the ability to pull off high end moves with consistency. However, he’s not always trying to be the flashiest player on the ice. The way he handles the puck depends on each and every situation, and he’s excellent at changing speeds. If Amirov recognizes he has time, he’ll slow down the game and make the most out of the time he’s been given, often making the simple, efficient play. Here’s an example of a 2 on 1 in which he’s the puck carrier:
He’s got all the time and space in the world to try to do something fancy, but he chooses to lay a simple saucer pass over the defenseman’s stick, leading to an easy finish.
When he wants to, he can pull off some really impressive moves. The way he handles the puck is so calculated, every move is towards open ice. He’ll analyze a defenseman or goalie’s positioning, then quickly come up with a genius way around them:
With only three quick moves, he froze the goalie and gave himself an easy backhand finish. Calm, calculated, and efficient. Players like him are my absolute favorite, as they aren’t just throwing their whole deke arsenal around hoping something works. He’s not going to go out and do something just for his highlight reel, which is encouraging.
As a playmaker, Amirov is well above average. His patience, puck handling, and decision making skills are all near elite. He makes smart decisions with the puck, and rarely tries to force a play. Amirov can run a power play from the half wall in juniors and at the international level, and he’s shown the ability to make plays at a high level, take this one for example:
Pashin doesn’t convert on the tip, but Amirov was able to identify him in the slot, look away, and still put a perfect redirect pass on the tape. Even though he can make plays at a high level, I don’t think he’ll ever be that guy in the NHL. I don’t think he’s the type of guy to break a play wide open with a cross-ice pass that no one saw coming, I see him more as a guy who can play in front of the net or set up as a shooter on the PP, as his shot is another one of his weapons. He’s got a quick, accurate wrist shot, and a really heavy one timer from both sides:
Overall, Amirov is one of the most complete forwards in this draft. His combination of offensive skills, defensive reliability, and physical strength are a tantalizing package. He’ll likely spend a few years cooking over in Russia after he’s drafted, but his potential at the NHL level cannot be overlooked. Two-way wingers with his level of offensive skill don’t grow on trees.