Maple Leafs prospects representing Russia
It goes without saying that Rodion Amirov will be getting the most attention from Leafs fans heading into this year’s tournament. After being selected by Toronto 15th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, the hype around Amirov skyrocketed in Leaf land as the small skilled winger has built a reputation as one of the top prospects within the Leafs system.
Even though he’s only totalled five goals and eight points so far this season in the KHL, expect Amirov to be a force for Russia in the upcoming tournament. His speed, hockey IQ, and shooting ability will most definitely earn him some big minutes on a skilled Russian team alongside some other promising NHL prospects in Vasili Podkolzin (VAN), Marat Khusnutdinov (MIN), Yegor Chinakhov (CBJ) and fellow Leafs prospect Mikhail Abramov. His ability to make difficult passes and his quick release will allow him to work seamlessly on Russia’s top powerplay unit.
Amirov’s elite offensive skills and playmaking ability will be relied on heavily, as he will likely play on the first line with Podkolzin and Khusnutdinov.
The player I am most eager to watch through this tournament is Mikhail Abramov. Wearing the “C” for the Victoriaville Tigres this year, Abramov has started to gain momentum within the Leafs organization.
After a 35 goal and 76 point outing in 2019, the playmaking forward has picked up right where he left off, potting four goals and a total of 14 points for the Tigres in the QMJHL this season. Signing his first NHL contract with the Maple Leafs in March of 2020, the 19-year-old will see his first bit of World Junior hockey for team Russia this December.
The 6’0” 185lb left-shot forward is often praised for his playmaking abilities and his vision. One area of his game I don’t think Abramov gets enough credit for is his ability to shoot the puck. His shot is not the most impressive part of his skill set, but he is able to find the net most often from within the circles. Even though I believe his shot is an underrated aspect of his game, I’d look for Abramov’s puck control and playmaking skills to carry him to heavy minutes for Russia this year and possibly some top power play time.
He has the ability to put a team on his back as he has shown he is capable of doing so with Victoriaville. I’m excited to see how much he is able contribute to an offensively driven Russian team.
Goaltender Artur Akhtyamov is the Leafs prospect I would expect to see the least of this year at the World Juniors, if we get to see him in action at all. Russia has their number one goaltender position filled already by the exciting Yaroslav Askarov, who will likely play every game this winter for Russia.
Drafted in the fourth round in the 2020 NHL draft, Akhtyamov has posted a .925 save percentage through 103 games over the course of three seasons in the MHL while holding a 2.05 GAA. One hope, if there is one, for Leafs fans to see Akhtyamov play in this year’s tournament would most likely come on Tuesday, December 29th as Russia takes on Austria. Other than that, I wouldn’t expect to see Akhtyamov getting any starts this year, barring an injury or a surprise change in goal.