The Second City Hockey staff will profile 10 players leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft, which will start Oct. 6, the Blackhawks could have the opportunity to select at No. 17 overall.
Seven of the 11 Russian players taken in the first round since 2015 have played their draft year in Russia. Rodion Amirov, the third-highest rated left wing in the 2020 NHL Draft behind Alexis Lafreniere and Lucas Raymond, will be the next to do so and he could fall to the Blackhawks at No. 17.
Amirov spent this past season floating around Russia’s three major leagues. His numbers during his rookie KHL season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa don’t grab your attention (two assists in 21 games, 9:53 average ice time), but he’s an 18-year-old playing against men. In the MHL with Tolpar UFA, he finished with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 17 games and ranked second among forwards in ATOI (20:38).
This chart measures possession effectiveness and passing accuracy, which are both areas Amirov is strong in. He had 63.51 percent of his shot attempts from high or medium-danger areas, and 82 percent of his passing attempts were successful.
Most experts project him as a second-line player because of his hands, playmaking ability and puck protection. The downside in his game is he doesn’t have high-end breakaway speed. He’ll turn 19 years old on Oct. 2, just four days before the first round of the draft so he has plenty of time to work on adding some size to his frame and work on his game.
The Blackhawks are familiar with him not only from his play in Russia, but also at last year’s under 18 World Championship in Sweden. He scored a team-high nine points and six goals in seven games during Russia’s silver-medal run.
The Blackhawks have selected six defensemen in the first two rounds in the past four years, including three in the first round. Since 2016, the Blackhawks have taken 13 defensemen giving them a heavy defensive prospect pool. It’s unlikely they add another defenseman to their log jam, so selecting a forward like Amirov makes sense.
Chicago general manager Stan Bowman has selected four Russian players during his tenure: forward Max Shalunov (2011 fourth), goaltender Ivan Nalimov (2014 sixth) and wingers Artur Kayumov (2016 second) and Andrei Altybarmakyan (2017 third). Bowman has only signed one of those players, Altybarmakyan, to an NHL deal but hopes to sign Kayumov in two years when his KHL deal expires.
The downside in selecting Russian players, as everyone knows, is being able to sign them. It should be noted Amirov has a much higher ceiling than the other Russian players Bowman has drafted so that may not be an issue this time. But it’s hard to see the Blackhawks willing to be patient enough to let him develop for at least two to three years before his NHL arrival.
Position: Left wing
Age: 18 (Oct. 2, 2001)
Hometown: Salavat, Russia
Height: 6 foot
Weight: 168 pounds
Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 5 European skater
Elite Prospects: No. 17
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 20
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 16
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 15
Craig Button (TSN): No. 19