12. Vitaly Abramov (Reader Rank: 13, Previous Rank: 14)
At the time Matt Duchene that the trade talks were in full heat, many were readying themselves for a disappointing return; Duchene was a pending UFA, after all. However, there was a lot of excitement when Vitaly Abramov was announced in the return package for Matt Duchene and rightfully so: The 65th overall pick from 2016 was seen as a prized prospect who had amazed at the QMJHL level, done well with the national Russian team and was slowly finding his form in the AHL. But has he developed to expectations so far?
To be honest, at this point I thought we would have seen more than just 3 NHL games from Abramov and that could also be a major reason why he has only moved up two spots from last year and continues to be in the middle of the pack from the readers’ perspective. Nonetheless, his AHL performance has been excellent and everything he has done so far points to a clear indication of a future NHLer — a very near future perhaps.
Abramov’s biggest struggle throughout his pro career has been the transition from junior to the defensive level of pro hockey. He was a dominant star in the QMJHL who made up for his smaller stature with his dazzling offensive skills. While he wasn’t absolutely disappointing in his first AHL season, his 22 points in 52 games hardly matched the potential of the kid who took over the QMJHL at one point. That being said, he was fairly young and new to the pro leagues when the Senators acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets and an opportunity to play with such a deep and talented prospect pool was a better test of his capabilities.
In his first AHL season with the Sens, Abramov scored a meagre 7 points in 18 games but the impact of joining a new team midseason and the after effects of a trade make it hard to judge a player too harshly. His first NHL camp with the Senators was promising and we could have possibly seen more of him in Ottawa if he hadn’t suffered a concussion that derailed his fight for a permanent spot in Ottawa. In a near full season with the Belleville Senators, Abramov had 41 point in 51 games.
Is there work left to be done? Absolutely, but Abramov has shown that he has the talent to be a top-6 NHL offensive player. That said, he does need some work to compensate for his smaller size which can get in the way of his contribution in other areas of the game. He still struggles at times to make space for himself on the ice to be able to make the plays that make him most effective. Abramov has also yet to demonstrate that he can stand up to the physical rigours of a full NHL season. Although, when this kid is having a night, he makes scoring look like it was his purpose in life.
Hat Trick, Vitaly Abramov!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) December 29, 2019
Abramov notched 4 points on Saturday night, giving him 28 points (15 goals) in 24GP. He's put up 14 points during his 7 game point streak. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/tKTRUbpQXs
Abramov’s other biggest obstacle may be the internal competition he is up against. The Senators are now a stacked team with young talent, many of whom will be a threat to outplay Abramov at camp. It does help that he can be played on both wings, however with players like Evgenii Dadonov, Connor Brown and Drake Batherson ahead of him, it may be a wiser choice to keep Abramov down in Belleville to get more meaningful minutes while continuing to work on his strength and defensive game.
Another promising point for Abramov is his current play in the Finnish league where he currently has 7 points in 8 games played with Jukurit ,including this incredible debut performance with the team.
Abramov has a high level of skill that the Sens sorely need at the NHL level, and he can provide a spark that can elevate the entire team’s offense. He has the potential to be a reliable cog for a power play that has struggled for years. While he has needed time to develop, he has been trending up every since he has arrived to the organization and has shown he has great potential to be an impactful NHLer. In a bubble, Vitaly Abramov is probably ready for more NHL time but the overcrowded spot he wants will have to be earned .
Will we see Abramov in the NHL this season? I expect to see him in at least 10 games but perhaps not more barring a major injury or trade; on a team mainly built on prospects and young talents, anything can happen. That said, it might not hurt Abramov to have one more transition season before assuming a full-time NHL role. The future could be bright.