The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for October 6 and 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames have a first round selection and will pick 19th overall. In advance of the draft, we’ll be looking at some contenders to be selected at 19th.

Rodion Amirov looks like a safe bet to be the first Russian skater off the board in this year’s draft. The Flames have only selected a Russian in the first round once in their history (Oleg Saprykin—of “The Shift” fame—way back in 1999) but Amirov has the star power to be a massive steal at 19th.

Scouting Report

Amirov is a skilled left-handed winger who is useful in all three zones. He’s a potent offensive threat with great hands and a quick release, but he’s also a very strong defensive forward who has been heavily relied upon to kill penalties in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league.

Over his last two seasons with the MHL’s Tolpar Ufa, Amirov has scored at exactly a point-per-game clip. He’s also seen time in both of Russia’s top pro leagues, the KHL and the VHL, and he has two goals and four points in seven games with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa so far in 2020–21.

Amirov has shown extremely well in international competition. He dominated the 2019 U18 World Championships with a six-goal, nine-point performance in seven games, good enough to lead Team Russia in scoring and finish in a tie for seventh in the entire tournament.

There are a couple of factors potentially putting a damper on Amirov’s draft stock. First, he’s one of the oldest prospects in the draft: his Oct. 6, 2001 birthday is just three weeks removed from the Sept. 15 cut-off. Second, he won’t be a UFA from Ufa until the end of the 2020–21 season, with his entry-level deal in the KHL expiring next April.

Still, despite these concerns, Amirov is one of the most tantalizing prospects in the draft. Will Scouch from McKeen’s Hockey described Amirov’s deployment in the Russian leagues in his draft profile, which requires a subscription to read:

The KHL is not a joke of a hockey league, and in many draft-eligible players, you’ll often find them playing well under five minutes a game or less. Anything outside of that kind of ice time over a large sample is worth looking into, especially on a team with as robust a junior program as Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Rodion Amirov often could be found playing 10 minutes or more […] Amirov is a rock-solid, all around offensive player with two-way upside. He gets his shot attempts from dangerous areas, he can facilitate play very well through his passing and puck carrying, he’s dynamic, especially in transition, and while he may have some defensive downsides, he still can keep up with play and engage himself constantly.

The Draft Analyst’s Steve Kournianos further described Amirov’s two-way prowess here:

Amirov excels in both areas of special teams. He wears multiple hats on the power play that includes net-front presence, slot presence, and controlling the possession from either the wall or behind the net. This versatility in conjunction with his sharp instincts and decision-making combine to force opponents into bad choices, as he immediately draws their attention away from trouble spots, only for Amirov to exploit openings with a hard pass or an massive howitzer blast from either circle. He has soft hands to handle tough passes, and his skate-to-stick transition is among the best you’ll see from a pre-draft teenager. This allows him to quickly transition into shooting position and fool pressing opponents with pump fakes or slap passes.

If you want a quick, responsible two-way forward with great hands, Amirov’s your guy.

The numbers

Amirov posted 10 goals and 22 points in 17 games for the MHL’s Tolpar Ufa in 2019–20. He finished 15th on the team in scoring but finished second in points-per-game (most guys on Ufa played 50 games or more; Amirov played in three different leagues last year).

During the season, Amirov received promotions to both the VHL and the KHL. With Ufa in the K, Amirov put up two assists in 21 games. In the second-tier VHL, he joined Toros Neftekamsk and scored a goal and two assists in five games before adding another goal and three more assists in six playoff games.

As mentioned, Amirov dominated the 2019 U18s, leading Russia with six goals and nine points in seven games.

Availability and fit

Currently, adding more left-handed forward prospects probably isn’t a massive priority for the Flames. They’ve spent the last three years drafting as many left-handed prospects as they can get their hands on. But Amirov is a spectacular player who has a good chance to be the best player available when the Flames pick at 19, and his game-breaking potential might be too much to ignore.

In addition, the vast majority of Russian wingers in the NHL play on their off-side. Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikita Gusev, Pavel Buchnevich, Artemi Panarin, Nikita Kucherov, Denis Gurianov, Andrei Svechnikov, Valeri Nichushkin, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alexander Radulov, and Evgeny Dadonov all currently slot into their teams’ lineups on the opposite wing from how they shoot. There is plenty of precedent for Russian-trained wingers coming over to North America and being deployed in extremely versatile fashion. It remains to be seen whether that applies to Amirov, but he already has experience playing on both sides with Ufa.

Amirov looks to be a good bet to go right in the Flames’ wheelhouse at 19. FC Hockey’s list puts him at 14th. He’s 15th over at Dobber Prospects and 17th on Sam Cosentino’s list. Corey Pronman and ISS Hockey have him at 16th, while McKeen’s has him way down at 25th. Finally, Bob McKenzie and Craig Button? Well, they both have him going right to the Flames at #19.

2020 First Round Targets

Braden Schneider | Kaiden Guhle | Seth Jarvis | Connor Zary | Jacob Perreault | Noel Gunler | Lukas Reichel | Dylan Holloway | Hendrix Lapierre | Jan Myšák | Jake Neighbours | Mavrik Bourque | Ozzy Wiesblatt | John-Jason Peterka | Yaroslav Askarov | Tyson Foerster | Helge Grans