Taking a look at three draft-eligible Russian forwards.
With most Nashville prospects done for the year, I’ll be ramping up my draft notebooks and rankings as we approach the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in July. The Predators currently have six picks this year (no second or sixth-round picks).
Today, I’ve taken a look at three Russian forwards who will hear their names called in Montreal this summer. Danila Yurov and Gleb Trikozov are projected first-round talents, and Alexander Perevalov should go somewhere in the first few rounds.
Danila Yurov | W | Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL); Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Danila Yurov is likely the top Russian on many draft boards, and his draft stock was initially boosted by a four-goal, 11-point performance at last year’s U18 World Junior Championship. But if you’re looking for dazzling, game-breaking performances from the Chelyabinsk native, you won’t find many this year.
At the MHL level, Yurov was excellent, scoring 13 goals and 36 points in 23 games, including 22 primary points scored at even-strength; he also led all MHL skaters in their draft year in points per game (1.57). At the KHL level, it was a frustrating year. Yurov went scoreless in 21 regular-season games and was stapled to the bench most nights, averaging just over four minutes of ice time each night.
At 6’1”, Yurov (#22, white) has good size that will be more of an asset as he adds strength. He isn’t a flashy playmaker, per se, but the foundation of his game is his very solid skating mechanics. Watch the clip above and notice how smoothly he moves through the neutral zone, using linear crossovers to maintain speed and keeping his head up in transition. The more of his tape you watch, you’ll realize that stickhandling isn’t a strength, but he makes a zone-entry play regardless and demonstrates good edge work to weave into open ice.
Again, Yurov is a little clunky with his puckhandling as we see when he attacks the defender in the clip above, but I think he’s developed a really good base for his hockey position that will help him protect the puck more the stronger he gets. In the offensive zone, I love how willing he is to constantly chase soft spots where he can be available to his teammates. He uses his edges to peel off opponents, pull up and make his own space, and cut into the slot, forcing defenders to traverse all over the zone in a basketball-like defensive system.
I also think Yurov’s forechecking skills are underrated. He won’t beat many defenders with his speed alone, but he’s cerebral in how he applies pressure and angles defenders to force turnovers. In the clip above, Yurov enters the zone as F3 but makes it to the goal line before the puck carrier ever picks their head up, forcing the latter into a giveaway. Yurov then attacks again, making himself wider with an active stick, and steals the puck before easily depositing it behind the goalie.
Above is Yurov demonstrating the same skill in the KHL playoffs. He can’t make a clean zone entry but beats two opponents to the puck. He then uses his stick and skates to protect possession and buy time for his linemates to crash the net, who finish the shift off with a goal.
I wouldn’t say whoever drafts Yurov is taking a gamble, but teams may naturally worry about his lack of opportunity in the KHL this season. His ceiling may be a tad lower than Gleb Trikozov’s, but the foundation is here for a power-forward style two-way player in the NHL.
Gleb Trikozov | F | Omskie Yastreby (MHL); Omskie Krylia (VHL)
Going into this season, the Omsk forward everyone had their eyes on was Ivan Miroshnichencko. But now, Gleb Trikozov is catching people’s attention too, and he’s done with very few recent international appearances for Russia.
Trikozov made his VHL debut this year, appearing in 11 games for Omskie Krylia, but he made his mark for Omskie Yastreby in the MHL, finishing second on the team in scoring with 23 goals and 45 points in 35 games. Among draft-eligible MHL skaters, he finished second behind Yurov (1.29) and third in primary points per game (0.971). 22 of his 45 points were primary ones scored at even strength. Trikozov also added 10 goals and 18 points in 13 playoff games.
Trikozov (#71, red) can be electrifying in a way that Yurov can’t, but I also think he has more noticeable hiccups to his game too. He’s not afraid to get physical and loves chasing down the puck on the offensive side of center ice as you can see above. I’m also regularly impressed with how well he can peel pucks off the wall or out of corners and navigate tight spaces to get his engine going up the ice. His skating stride comes off as extremely awkward, but I don’t think his mechanics are awful. His stride extension is limited at times, he puts a lot of effort into inefficient accelerating crossover steps, and he has a busy upper body. Still, he moves the puck well, can stickhandle at top speed, and attacks the zone (sometimes too) earnestly.
As you’ll notice when he crosses the blue line in the clip above, his puck recovery skills are a great tool, but there’s an inconsistency to his transition skills. Sometimes he makes smart audibles and checks down into Plans B or C when moving through the neutral zone; sometimes he skates straight at a defender and flings the puck carelessly in the rough direction of a teammate.
Trikozov generally maintains good positioning up and down the ice, but he’s largely forgettable as a defensive asset. Regardless, his puck skills in tight spaces are tantalizing; watch the clip above to see him making escaping from a great forecheck look easy. After he explodes past #10, Trikozov quickly shifts lanes when challenged, using his stickhandling skills to open up a ton of space, and then demonstrates his lethal wrist shot—one of the best in this year’s draft class.
When in the offensive zone, you can tangibly see how hungry Trikozov is to win puck battles, but he’s really something else once he establishes possession. His timing is usually spot on (even when his decision-making and passing fail him), and he doesn’t just create opportunities with speed but patience too. In the clip above, Trikozov can cross the blue line with speed, and he has a feasible path to the net. Instead, though, he slows down, giving his teammates time to get open. When they don’t, what does he do? That’s right: buries the puck with his own laser wrist shot.
For now, I have Trikozov slightly about Yurov in my rankings, though I think he comes with more outstanding questions. But, if all goes well, Trikozov—one of the youngest players in this class—could be a mid-first-round pick who regularly hits 30 goals in the NHL.
Alexander Perevalov | W | Loko Yaroslavl (MHL); Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Alexander Perevalov doesn’t come with the first-round projects that Yurov and Trikozov do, but he’s a hardworking player that Nashville would love if they find themselves back into the second round.
Perevalov is similar to Trikozov in that he lacks recent international experience other than last year’s Hlinka Gretzky tournament. While he did appear in his first five KHL games this season, he spent the vast majority of his campaign in the MHL, playing in 44 games and scoring 25 goals and 51 points—good for fourth among draft-eligible skaters in the league. Perevalov was also fifth in primary points per game (0.886), and 28 of his 51 points were primary ones scored at even strength.
One concern with Perevalov is how different the two halves of his season were. In his first 24 games, he scored 34 points and went scoreless in just four of those contests. In the second half of the year, Perevalov notched just 17 points and went scoreless in eight games plus six of his nine playoff games.
Perevalov (#76, white) gets a lot of good marks for his defensive play, which is fair compared to some of his draft-eligible peers. He’s not the fastest skater, but he can be tenacious in chasing down puck carriers in his own zone. In the clip above, you can see how much he struggles with his accelerating steps due to a stunted stride extension and a (non-concerning) lack of leg strength. He eventually can get up a good top speed but needs to work on his stick strength and puck-protection skills as he develops. Despite those areas for improvement, he’s an impressive forechecker. As his team regroups in the neutral zone, watch Perevalov attack the defender with an expert angle that results in him driving to the net and, ultimately, a shot on goal.
As mentioned, Perevalov’s defensive positioning is usually quite good, and he times his off-the-puck breakouts well, which is an underrated skill in my eyes. In the clip above, he swoops low into the zone to clean the puck out of the slot and demonstrates decent skating and stickhandling as he sprints up the ice. While he works himself into the corner, he’s able to maintain possession long enough to dish to his teammate for a scoring chance.
It’s clear Perevalov doesn’t quite have the confidence with the puck as some of his peers, but he rarely quits on a play. In this clip above, notice another well-timed off-the-puck breakout that lands him a great stretch pass in the neutral zone. He knows he won’t win his 1-on-1 battle with speed, but he keeps engaging until he buries the puck in the back of the net.
I find there’s an impressive level of responsibility to Perevalov’s game and that should appeal to teams who think they can unlock more offensive skill in him along with some refinements to his skating mechanics. He’ll be a second or maybe early third-round pick come July.