With the knowledge that the Montreal Canadiens are now drafting first overall, and almost assuredly taking Shane Wright, the focus now shifts to what they do later in the first round and beyond with their other 13 picks. Enter talented players like Ivan Miroshnichenko, who lost nearly 10 months of the previous year due to the COVID pandemic.
Originally set to cross the Atlantic and join Muskegon of the USHL, Miroshnichenko remained at home in Russia, signing a new three-year deal with his club and splitting this past year between the MHL and VHL.
With a Hlinka-Gretzky gold medal from this past year, Miroshnichenko will be looking to make the leap towards a KHL spot with Avangard-Omsk, and continue to grow his budding offensive talents.
Birthplace: Ussuriysk, Russia
Date of Birth: February 4, 2004
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6’ 1”
Team: Omskie Krylia (VHL)
There is a very important factoid regarding Miroshnichenko that any club interested in drafting him must be aware of — the young Russian was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma this past year. His treatment will cause him to miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season which hampers his overall draft stock, but what’s more important is that the disease has a high survival rate in younger people, and Miroshnichenko should make a full recovery.
In Russia’s junior league (the MHL), Miroshnichenko put up just under a point per game in just 20 total games, and his strong play saw him earn a promotion to the VHL, the Russian minor league just below the KHL. Even before that, he was playing at over a point per game pass in the Russian under 16, under 17, and under 18 levels. It seemed like a role in the KHL wasn’t far off before the ongoing pandemic and his cancer diagnosis brought everything to a halt.
While he isn’t going to be playing this year, it would be unwise for a team in the same position as the Canadiens to ignore the skills of a player like Miroshnichenko.
To quote the folks at HockeyProspect and their early profile of Miroshnichenko in 2021, when the puck is in the offensive zone, you want him to shoot the puck. He has that almost unteachable knack for scoring goals regardless of where he has the puck. He can create chances around the net, but when he has space and time Miroshnichenko shines as he possesses an incredible shot.
As seen in the above highlights, it’s a testament to Miroshnichenko’s talent that he makes scoring seem so fluid and natural. He’s able to quickly identify lanes for his shot, pulling back on the puck to go around a defender before firing a shot to the back of the net.
His skating allows him to navigate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, weaving around defenders to find open space to utilize his release and terrorize goaltenders. While not a speedster by any means, Miroshnichenko still creates plenty of space with a strong North-South type of skating, akin to the classic power forward archetype. He isn’t one to shy away from the physical parts of the game either, as he will throw his own body around to make plays happen down the ice.
His style would have made his transition to the North American game in the USHL very easy, but even staying in Russia hasn’t slowed him down and has likely forced some evolution to his skillset in the last year.
When it comes to Miroshnichenko, it’s impossible to not talk about his health and that he will not play this season but his agent says he doesn’t want the cancer diagnosis to cloud actual fair analysis of his client. Coming into this past season Miroshnichenko had some questions about his conditioning given his time away from the ice in the previous due to an injury and the aforementioned pandemic.
His compete level had some questions that could very easily be tied to that lack of conditioning at the MHL level. However, his showing after moving up a level erased some of those doubts. Now the question becomes whether or not Miroshnichenko will return to the game as the same player he was before.
Elite Prospects: #30
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #6
NHL Central Scouting: #11 (European Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) N/R
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #11
When it comes to Miroshnichenko, his health is what matters first and foremost. While that is key, there is also the need for a team to understand the caveats that come with drafting him in the upcoming season. When the season kicked off, Miroshnichenko was on the cusp of a consensus top-10 pick, but his unfortunate diagnosis has altered his future for the immediate future.
A team like the Canadiens, who have a total of 14 picks in this draft, are an ideal candidate to select someone like Miroshnichenko. The team is in a full-scale rebuild and can afford to take the extra year that allows a talented player like Miroshnichenko to get back to full health.
Miroshnichenko is an incredibly talented player, one who very easily could have been taken in the top 10 if not for things outside of his control. His rankings vary from top six to the very end of the first round, which makes him arguably one of the most intriguing prospects available outside the top five.
No matter where he ends up going in this year’s NHL Draft, Ivan Miroshnichenko is going to make a team very happy when he returns to the ice. A physical, smooth-skating winger with a lightning-fast release doesn’t pop up every day, and if I were Kent Hughes, he’s exactly the type of prospect the Canadiens could use.