Each day over the next 10 days leading up to the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, held on Oct. 6–7, The Rink will be taking a look at draft prospects who could be available when the Chicago Blackhawks announce their selection with the 17th overall pick. We will group the players by position, starting with forwards.
First in the series of prospect profiles is Russian winger Rodion Amirov.
2019–20 Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia)
Date of Birth: Oct. 2, 2001
Place of Birth: Salavat, Russia
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 177 pounds
NHL Central Scouting Final Ranking: 5 (European Skaters)
NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking: 5 (European Skaters)
NHL Comparable: Nikita Kucherov
Rodion Amirov is an intriguing prospect in this year’s draft class because of how complete of a player he is. Amirov naturally excels offensively, but has made strides on the defensive side of the puck in recent years, establishing himself as a trustworthy winger capable of playing in numerous situations.
Amirov’s biggest strength is clearly his skating. While his top-end speed warrants respect, his agility and elusiveness is what truly sets him apart. Amirov uses his edges extremely well to maneuver around defenders and pivots well to protect the puck. His agility allows him to quickly dart in and out of high-danger spots on the ice, giving him prime scoring opportunities. Amirov’s skating ability helps him dictate the pace of play, as he enjoys carrying the puck to both break out of the defensive zone and enter the offensive zone. Though he is a powerful skater, he could be an even larger threat if he attacked the goal directly with more frequency.
The Russian also excels in his puck distribution skills. While many would assume this means Amirov could be classified as a playmaker, he really is more of a distributor than anything, as he simply gets the puck to his teammates in the right places to give them an opportunity to do damage. Amirov frequently makes the safe play in his passing and is highly effective doing so with a remarkable pass completion rate.
Though more of a passer than a shooter, Amirov does not mind firing the puck on the net, which he willingly does when he finds himself in those higher-danger spots on the ice. His release and accuracy stand out despite not possessing an overly powerful shot.
Hockey smarts is another strength for Amirov, as he is able to anticipate plays and react accordingly with ease in all situations of the game. His understanding of the game allows him to find open space in the offensive zone, turning him into a scoring threat in the blink of an eye. Amirov’s strong hockey IQ helps him in the defensive end as well, as he is very much a competent defender willing and able to do what it takes to stop the opposition.
Amirov is not an overly physical player, but does what it takes to be successful in the hard areas, largely thanks to his elite agility. Amirov uses his feet to shield defenders and gain separation in contested areas, giving him an efficient style of play in terms of physicality. He will never be confused for a bruiser, but his willingness to get to where he needs to be and his ability to best opponents with his skating and body positioning makes up for his lack of stereotypical physicality.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Amirov will likely go somewhere around when the Blackhawks pick 17th. The likelihood of Amirov being selected within the top 12 picks is slim, so from there it simply becomes a matter of what teams are looking for. While it would not be a huge surprise for Amirov to be gone when Chicago makes its selection, the Russian very well could be there for the taking for General Manager Stan Bowman.
According to Elite Prospects, Amirov’s current contract in Russia will end following the 2020–21 season. The biggest area of improvement for Amirov is his physical strength, as adding strength will help him both with the physicality in the NHL as well as being more difficult to knock off the puck. Amirov could also grow in his confidence, as he has not quite clicked offensively in the KHL like he has in lower levels. However, both of these areas for growth should come with more development time. Though Amirov could make the jump to North America for the 2021–22 season, he likely would not see regular NHL ice time until at least 2022–23.
Amirov’s well-rounded game should allow him to be an effective NHL player down the road. Though he does possess strong offensive skills, Amirov will likely not become an elite-level point producer. Instead, Amirov can be expected to become a solid middle-six winger with the ability to contribute well at both ends of the ice with upside to be a good two-way threat on the second line.
What others are saying
“Shifty, aggressive and incredibly smart, Amirov impacts the game in all three zones with or without the puck. … More of an east-west skater with a wide stride who uses excellent agility and edgework to weave or curl his way past coverage, Amirov’s straight-line speed is very good, but it’s his anticipation coupled with the power of his stride that helps him create a sizable gap from back pressure. He has an acute sense of identifying and evading oncoming opponents, and he’s not shy from stopping on a dime and recalculating his next move. Amirov has a quick first step, but his directional changes in open ice are incredibly rapid and perfectly timed.”
“Amirov is touted as one of the best two-way players in the draft, and he lives up to the hype. He isn’t a physical presence on the ice; in fact, his physicality and strength are two of his biggest downsides. But, he does have excellent positioning in the defensive zone. Amirov covers passing and shooting lanes effectively and is great at creating turnovers that lead to breakouts for his team. In the MHL, he displayed his ability to quickly switch gears from defense to offense as soon as his team gained control of the puck. He shies away from board battles, but puts himself in open space for his teammates to use him as an outlet pass. At the KHL level, his defensive impact was slightly more subdued due to his lack of physical play, but the KHL is a difficult league to play in for young players.”