A skilled two-way winger, Rodion Amirov surely will be sought after in the upcoming draft. With a combination of goal-scoring, skating, puck-control, elusiveness, and defensive acumen, Amirov is a player who can take on any given role on any given day. His versatility and willingness to adapt will be appreciated by NHL GMs, but is this enough to make him a late riser in the draft process?
Birthplace: Salavat, RUS
Date of birth: October 2, 2001
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Born and raised 160 kilometres south of Ufa, Amirov has gone through the youth ranks of a team named after Bashkortostan hero Salawat Yulaev; a singing, lyric poetry-writing warrior from the 18th century. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re writing prospect reports. Up until this day, I didn’t even know there was a region called Bashkortostan.
During the last two years, Amirov has registered an average of exactly one point per game — 48 in 48 — with junior team Tolpar Ufa in the MHL. Naturally, stats like that spark interest higher up in the hierarchy. This year he found himself chipping in when needed in the KHL while otherwise dominating the minors. Naturally, he hasn’t reached the same heights yet in the major league or else he would be talked about as a true difference maker. He is actually still waiting on that very first KHL goal. Playing wise though, Amirov has not looked out of place. With one year left on his entry-level deal, he could be in for a breakout season provided that the KHL starts up as normal this fall.
This off-season, Ufa parted ways with their star left winger, former Oiler Linus Omark, leaving an empty space on one of the top lines for the taking. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Ufa imagines Amirov moving up permanently and playing in a role more suited to his skill set. This way, he could — at least partially — replace Omark this upcoming year.
Amirov rose to international fame after a breakout performance in the U18 World Junior Championship last May. Through seven games he scored seven times, including the decisive shootout winner in the semifinal against USA. He also managed to score a regulation-time goal in each of the three playoff games and was crucial during Russia’s route to the silver medal.
His impressive 2019 ended on a lower note, as he didn’t make the final cut to represent his country at the U20 World Junior Championship. I was surprised by that decision and still think that he was more deserving of a roster spot than fellow 2020 prospect Maxim Groshev, who eventually went scoreless through the tournament. Valeri Bragin’s squad was limited in terms of underclassmen. Apart from Groshev, only Vasili Podkolzin and Yaroslav Askarov are eligible for next year’s tournament.
In regards to his playing style, Amirov has a quick release and can provide true scoring ability with his wrist shot. He is a good forechecker and a great skater, but needs to gain muscle weight to be able to use his frame against bigger opponents. Amirov is a smart player who uses his intelligence to get in the right position at the right time, which provides him with plenty of opportunities to score both on one-timers and on rebounds.
As is normal with young players with defensive intuition, his scoring ability has gotten lost in the shuffle when he has played major league hockey. Even if he would never become a true number-one scoring threat, I could see him slotting into a middle-six role in the NHL, while also having the versatility needed to assist on both special teams.
As the years progress and Amirov makes his transition from boy to man, he can hopefully find a role where he can combine his skills as a point producer with his ability to start shifts in every zone.
Elite Prospects: #13
Future Considerations: #14
Hockey Prospect: #25
McKeen’s Hockey: #25
NHL Central Scouting: #5 (European skaters)
For his performances in the U18 WJC 2019, Amirov was awarded with a spot on the tournament’s All Star-team. The other players on that team? Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Cam York, Philip Broberg and Yaroslav Askarov. Four top-15 picks from a year ago, and what is said to be the best goalie prospect in a decade.
One thing to take note of is that Amirov’s late birthday means that he only has one year left on his current KHL contract. This should be seen in comparison to players like Vasili Podkolzin or Alexander Romanov, who had two years left on their deals when they were drafted. While two years of waiting time can mean that some teams shy away from picking a prospect too early, one year is nothing in the NHL community. It’s not like you would expect a pick in the teens to come in and make the NHL roster from the get-go anyway. Amirov will get valuable minutes in the second-best league in the world before a decision can be made in 2021 as to whether he is ready to make the leap across the Pacific.
Amirov certainly has an intriguing set of skills. I would not be surprised if he hears his name called earlier than analysts expect on draft day, like Vitaly Kravtsov.