Months after the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was originally scheduled to take place, we now know the Nashville Predators will be picking 11th overall come October. It’s a unique position for the organization to be in, as they have not drafted that high since their 2014 selection of Kevin Fiala in the same spot.
In focusing more on first-round prospects, I’ve profiled Russian forward Rodion Amirov—who should hear his name called around when Nashville picks—below.
Previous profiles of entry draft prospects can be found above, as well as my initial top-31 ranking of eligible prospects.
Rodion Amirov - W
Salavat Yulaev Ufa [KHL] - 18 - Salavat, Russia
Amirov has grown up playing for his hometown organization and made his KHL debut in 2019-20 after a dominant year in the MHL and debuted for the U18 international team the season prior (including six goals and nine points in seven U18 WJC games).
In Amirov’s 21 games in the KHL this year, he collected just two assists in minimal ice time. But instead of slogging through that limited role all season, Amirov was allowed to develop further in the VHL and MHL—he collected 22 points in 17 games in the latter. In the MHL, Amirov totaled 0.765 even-strength primary points per game and 1.177 total primary points per game—0.2 and 0.4 points per game more than the second best draft-eligible skater in the league.
Thanks to hand-tracked data from Will Scouch (you can explore his charts in full here), we can see how effective Amirov was at the KHL level despite his lack of production. The chart above measures possession effectiveness and passing accuracy. Amirov was excellent at directing possession toward the opposing net, as 63.51% of his shot attempts were from high or medium-danger areas, and when passing he was dynamite at helping maintain possession, completing almost 82% of his attempts.
Amirov may not have the tempting Major Junior stats that some other top prospects do, but he has more than proven to be a tier above his age group in Russia and comes with the talent to be effective against professionals as he continues to develop.
Amirov’s Scouting Report
|Is a top-level transition player who moves quickly into the zone with his head up constantly||Can rush play development at times making errant passes or defaulting to an easy play|
|Very impressed with how he forechecks combining an active stick and smart angling/attack||Good positioning as a winger in the defensive zone but can provide better puck support pre-breakout|
|Can give and take open time and space with ease as he thinks several steps ahead of the play||Has a mechanically sound skating stride but lacks elite-level speed or a unique separating gear|
If you paid any attention to summer hockey being played in other parts of the world, you might have noticed Amirov’s impressive lacrosse goal in an exhibition tournament for the Russian U20 team. That’s the level of offensive creativity he can bring to a team while still playing an effective three-zone game.
Off the puck, Amirov’s puck support game is strong in the offensive zone. In the clip above, he (#27, white) maintains good positioning and doesn’t crowd the play upon zone entry. As his two teammates stack up laterally along the boards, I appreciate how Amirov places himself to prevent a takeaway. Ultimately, he helps turn that puck battle into a scoring chance and goal for Ufa.
Above is a more dynamic example of how Amirov pushes play. Notice as he gains possession and enters the zone with rapid, strong crossover steps, his head remains looking up ice at how the play is developing. I’d like to see him attack the slot a little more, but with his wrist shot, it’s a solid play nonetheless.
In transition, it’s the same story. Here Amirov is skating against KHL talent but maintains great pace through the neutral zone, keeps his head up, and easily hunts down his own dump-in to keep offensive possession in Salavat’s favor.
I’ll admit: I only included the clip above to showcase the absurd pass he connects on after zone entry.
Above, we see Amirov with power play ice time in the KHL. As he enters the offensive zone, the defender makes a smart, aggressive play to challenge him. But Amirov is prepared and takes quick action to manufacture time and space. This forces two Jokerit players to crowd him, opening up his teammate below the circle—who delivers a great assist right to the slot. It’s plays like that at a professional level that should cement his top-20 placement.
This clip highlights just how diverse Amirov can be in the offensive zone. At first, he attempts to power through a defender but sticks with the play as it’s broken up. As he moves about the perimeter, Amirov draws defenders towards him, is able to connect on difficult cross-ice passes, and ultimately buries a goal with his deceptive wrist shot.
Here’s another example of a goal where Amirov displays his unique blend of speed, sound skating mechanics, good puck skills, awareness, and shooting ability.
On defense, I appreciate Amirov’s desire to play an aggressive game covering a defender on the blue line. I like how he dips low into the zone to help cover a teammate in a higher-danger area. But, I’d like to see more consistency in how he turns that support into a breakout. This play above is a good example, but that easy giveaway from an opponent won’t always be there.
In this clip, Amirov demonstrates a perfect transition play. He stays close to his man on the point but jumps down to cover the slot as he notices his teammates (center and defender) badly out of position. As Ufa breaks up the play, Amirov is able to turn the puck up ice in five seconds (although he could have easily taken better advantage of the defensive mismatch).
All in all, I think Amirov is a cerebral player who could develop into a high-scoring winger that you could trust with penalty kill minutes or time in end-of-game scenarios.
Expected Pick Range
Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) over at silversevensens.com has done remarkable work compiling draft rankings and establishing an ‘Expected Pick Range’ from a variety of different sources. You can read about his methodology here, track the compiled rankings here, and use his data viz (embedded below) here.
Amirov’s Expected Pick Range: #12 to #21 - 1st Round
Amirov is undoubtedly a top-20 pick in my eyes and the consensus that Colin has compiled seems to agree. I think he may be a reach at 11—especially if someone like Anton Lundell is available—but no team could go wrong given his professional experience and offensive creativity.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and pick224.com.