As we continue our coverage of 2022 NHL Draft prospects, we turn our attention to Russia and the rest of Europe. It’s been interesting to watch the rise of what would have been considered second tier professional leagues over the last few years, as countries like Czechia, Slovakia and Germany have started producing more and more intriguing draft prospects for the NHL.
Today, we’re going to visit Russia’s junior leagues while spending a bit of time in Czechia and Slovakia, as well. Unlike the others in this series, we’ll cover off some names ranked throughout the draft — including in the first-round — given that these leagues are rarely talked about in these parts.
Russia + Rest of Europe
|Name||Position||Team||League||Height||Weight||Date of Birth|
|Danila Yurov||RW||Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk||MHL||6'1"||179 lbs||12/22/2003|
|Ivan Miroshnichenko||LW||Omskie Krylia||VHL||6'1"||185 lbs||02/04/2004|
|Gleb Trikozov||RW||Omskie Yastreby||MHL||6'1"||185 lbs||08/12/2004|
|Jiri Kulich||C||HC Energie Karlovy Vary||Czechia||6'0"||181 lbs||04/14/2004|
|Filip Mesar||C/RW||HK Poprad||Slovakia||5'10"||174 lbs||01/03/2004|
|Adam Sykora||LW/RW||HK Nitra||Czechia U20||5'11"||174 lbs||05/30/2004|
- The first name on our list is Danila Yurov. The only way we’re going to see him pull on a Sens sweater is if Ottawa makes a reach for him at 7th or if they move back a few spots in a separate deal as Yurov is likely to go in the teens next week — although Bob McKenzie and EliteProspects have Yurov listed 8th and 9th respectively. Sens fans, however, have learned that anything can happen so let’s jump into Yurov’s game for a moment anyways. Yurov is this year’s top ranked Russian heading into the draft, as the 18 year old right winger’s strong skating and hockey sense has enabled him to produce 36 points in 23 games in Russia’s MHL. What pops out about Yurov on paper is the zero points he secured through 21 (!) games in the KHL but it’s important to note that Yurov played incredibly sparingly during his time in Russia’s top league, recording fewer than 3 minutes of ice time in multiple games. For draft eligible players in the MHL who have played at least 20 games in a season, Yurov’s 1.57 points per game is eighth all-time. When you start to absorb scouting reports on Yurov, the same themes come up over and over: strong skater, combination of size and skill, excellent at reading the play and anticipating where to move the puck to next. There comes some risk with Yurov — and any other Russian prospect at the moment — but it’s very possible that Yurov could be the next prolific Russian scorer. According to Byron Bader’s HockeyProspecting work, Yurov is one of the players with the highest probability of becoming a star in this entire draft; some close comparables according his model include Alex DeBrincat, Nail Yakupov and Matthew Tkachuk.
- Next we have left winger Ivan Miroshnichenko, also spending most of his time in a lower tier in Russia during his draft year. While Miroshnichenko is listed as a left winger, he is one of those forwards who plays his offside, which adds a level of intrigue for me if you’ve got a player who can play either wing easily. Miroshnichenko is a player who’s rankings heading into the draft vary greatly. At TSN, Craig Button has him in the middle of the first (15th) while his colleague McKenzie has him all the way up at 6th. In consolidated rankings, Miroshnichenko nets out somewhere late in the teens of the first round, so another prospect who may not be available when the Sens are up, unless they surprise us with him at 7th. Much of what we hear and see about Miroshnichenko talks about him being a ruthless competitor on the ice. While he’s a relatively average 6’1”, he uses his size and speed well to protect the puck when he has it and win battles when he doesn’t. From Baeder’s model, Miroshnichenko has the makings of an NHL player, but more likely in the middle six category with comprables like Brett Ritchie and Clarke MacArthur listed. Blake Wheeler’s name also pops up, which is intriguing, but appears to be the exception, not the rule, for comparables according to this model. In March, it was made public that Miroshnichenko was diagnosed with a common, curable form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While all signs point to this being a temporary situation for the Russian winger, we know NHL front offices tend to be risk averse, so we’re likely to see Miroshnichenko slip next week.
- Our final Russian skater is Gleb Trikozov. This forward is one of the younger members of this draft class, as he will still be 17 when his name is called at some point in the 2022 NHL Draft. Playing in the same league as Yurov, Trikozov’s numbers are nothing to scoff at either. He managed to produce 1.29 points per game with Omskie Yastreby, good enough for 21st all-time. For comparables, that’s ahead of Yegor Chinakhov (2020, 21st overall, CBJ), Artemi Panarin and Andrei Kuzmenko — but, of course, far behind the likes of Nikita Kucherov (1.87 pts/gp). Listed as both a centre and right winger, Trikozov is another player that’s likely to go somewhere late in the first, possibly early in the second round. If the Sens are looking for a fast scorer oozing with skill with the 39th selection, and Trikozov is available, I’d highly suggest it after what I’ve seen. /
- An interesting player out of Czechia is Jiri Kulich, one of only a few draft eligibles who skated in Czechia’s top league. The 17 year old centre is another player who varies amongst rankings, sitting 14th with Craig Button, 29th with Elite Prospects and 40th with Bob McKenzie, making him someone who could absolutely end up in Ottawa’s lap early in the second round. Kulich managed to produce 14 points in 49 games for HC Energie Karlovy Vary; he was also Czechia’s captain at the U18 tournament, registering nine goals and 11 points in just 6 games in the tournament. Kulich is so physically mature for his age that he even spent some time in Czechia’s top league last season, as well, setting some high expectations for him in his draft year. Through scouting reports, some professionals have compared Kulich to other prominent Czech forwards like Tomas Hertl, Jiri Tlusty and Tomas Plekanec. Scouting reports from the U18 tournament specifically raved about Kulich’s motor and describe a player for which the Czechia team built their powerplay. At this point, he doesn’t appear to be on track to become a top flight NHL star, but there’s a good chance he can contribute at the NHL level thanks to his play away from the puck and his work work ethic./
- Finally, we wrap things up with Slovakia. First, we have Filip Mesar. Likely available to the Sens in the early second, Mesar’s abilities are greatly supported by his feet. His speed, agility and ability to attack at full speed set him apart from most in Slovakia’s professional circuit. That being said, there are questions surrounding Mesar’s ceiling and how his game will translate to the NHL level. A number of reports label him as a high risk, high reward type of selection — if it goes well, you’ve hit the jackpot. If not, you might have a player that never sticks in the NHL. Mesar’s production in Slovakia isn’t exactly eye popping, even for a player of his age. His 0.39 points per game rank him 16th all-time for U17 players. The likes of Marian Hossa (1.02) and Marian Gaborik (0.92) lead this list. Simon Nemec, expected to go in the top five next week, posted better offensive numbers than Mesar not only in his age 17 season (0.67), but as a 16 year old (0.51) in Slovakia’s top league, as well. Interestingly, although taken with a grain of salt, one of the comparables for Mesar through Bader’s model is Kirill Kaprizov. The other, more likely, comparables are Vaclav Varada and Magnus Paajarvi.
- Another forward who managed to crack the men’s league is Adam Sykora. Playing for HK Nitra, the winger produced very similarly to Mesar, posting 17 points in 46 games for 0.37 points per game - right behind Mesar for all-time U18 scoring in this league. Sykora’s international resume is not nearly as impressive as Mesar, which is likely why you see Sykora’s name coming up in the 40s and 50s of many draft rankings. At the U18 level this year, Sykora only played one game, while joining the Slovakian Men’s National Team at the World Championships, where he posted three points in six games. Similar to Mesar, there’s a lot of praise around the scouting world for Sykora’s skating. He’s aggressive on the forecheck and plays a competitive game in the corners. Certainly a player who could land in Ottawa sometime in the second or maybe third round, Sykora would be more of a project but his speed and work ethic make him an intriguing project, at that./