By: Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Ivan Demidov is the next big talent tearing it up in Russia.
One of the highlighting stars of the 2024 NHL Draft when it comes to European skaters who unfortunately suffered a terrible injury that may withstand him from playing. Last season in the MHL right before he entered the KHL, Ivan truly showed his worthiness as he was the best player on SKA-St. Petersburg with an outstanding 62 points in 41 games.
Ivan Demidov already was on a positive start in the KHL, however, he unfortunately is a long term injury reserve. Even though the KHL is a very defensive men’s league, Ivan kept up to solid pace as he was a crucial player on the offense while only playing 3rd line.
Here at DraftPro, we have him currently ranked at 3rd overall in our latest ranking and has gained tremendous attention from scouts all over the world due to his electric playstyle. Let’s finally dive into what makes Ivan Demidov so special who could have a potential comparison to many NHL stars, as well as him displaying his most crucial tools that will serve him in the biggest league.
The question is why is Demidov seen as a top prospect for the 2024 NHL Draft in June? Tyler Ballesteros-Willard with Draft Prospects Hockey breaks down Demidov’s game as he tries to answers that question.
As a note, Ivan Demidov would be wearing #11 or #91 in blue or white for SKA St. Petersburg.
One of the true highlighting aspects of Demidov being an electrifying player his that he shows tremendous skating ability when transitioning through each and every zone. Every time he gains possession of the puck, he shows such confidence in his ability to the point where he can beat you by skating alone. The main aspect of his skating he demonstrates very effectively is his tomahawking abilities as he will swipe from side to side to create unease for the defensemen. Due to his tremendous lateral movement, he can easily go from one direction into another in a nick of time which he will even use his quick feet to his advantage.
Speaking of quick feet, including the combination of his world class agility, he displays tremendous speed to the point where he can beat you in a drag race. With his hyperactive extension and drive, it looks like he even displays a second step which gives him a tremendous advantage over his competitors. Here is a clip that displays him beating his opponents just with his skating alone.
Here is a short clip on how he uses his tomahawk skating abilities to confuse the opposition to create space for himself to make the best play available.
Here is a short demonstration on how Ivan with his quick feet can split the defense and put himself in an odd chance against the goaltender. This is key as he understands when to use his speed and agility to his advantage and does not overuse it.
In addition to his Kirill Kaprizov like skating ability, his puck skills are the absolute definition of wizardry. His stick handling and deking ability are so fast to the point where his hands are as quick as his feet. What is so unique about his puck handling abilities to is that he does not telegraph his movements very easily which creates a lot of confusion for the opponents to the point where Ivan will deke out two to three opponents at once to give himself the space that he needs. Even when describing his puck control, he does not give that puck up very easily to the point where it is almost glued. Even with little time and space with the defenseman trying to hit him or poke the puck away from him, his stick handling is the definition of precision as there is a high percentage rate of him passing by his opponents with ease.
His passing ability, just the absolute definition of outstanding. How, very simple, he can dish the biscuit with ease to the point where it is threading the needle through two to three players at once. Each pass that he creates, they look so soft as he just lobs it like it is nothing, but in reality, they also come very crisp and hard which does not come very easily from many NHL players today such as mainly Patrick Kane with the elite puck skills that Ivan has in his toolbox.
Here is a clip below of Ivan just absolutely crippling the defense with his NHL like stick handling and deking abilities. This shows while he is facing two to three opponents at once, Ivan has such confidence to the point where he will take it himself.
Here is another clip of Ivan but this time using his tremendous passing abilities just absolutely threading the needle between the defensive players.
When it comes to picking targets from any location on the ice, there is none better in Europe of the 2024 NHL draft than Ivan Demidov. The fact of the matter is each puck he shoots is off in a heartbeat. When shooting from up close, he is so accurate to the point there may be only a puck size open, and he will thread it through like no tomorrow. The key for him is him in the slot, he knows in advance where he wants to shoot, and he does not even take his time which for him is absolutely key. When discussing the power of his shot, while it may not be Alex Ovechkin level yet, not only he can get it off quick, but they can also be heavy. When discussing the shots from the outside the circles or further out, this is where he displays his power due to his one-timers. His accuracy though, actually comes from his wrist shots. It becomes tremendously satisfying the way he displays his drag release shot as he doesn’t even take a second to create his space and power.
The clip below demonstrates how Ivan uses his tremendously quick release from in tight with high velocity as well as his precise accuracy with this very low inside the slow snapshot with no time to kill.
The following clip below demonstrates his shooting abilities from far out with his power while maintaining the accuracy with his toe-drag release mechanism as it finds its way through a crowd.
Master Offensive Awareness
Of course, the aspect that ties everything into what makes Ivan Demidov one of the more special players of the 2024 NHL Draft, that is his wizardry of a mind. Every time he is in the offensive zone, he is in his own league when it comes to playing chess as not only, he looks like he is a couple of steps ahead in front of the opposition, but he is not a cookie cutter type player. When trapped in a situation, he loves trying to figure out ways to get out of trouble creatively and very beneficial to him. He becomes similar to having the intelligence of “Mega Mind” in the offensive zone because of the fact he is always hyperactively thinking in advance. Not to mention about his hyperactive thinking, he has the vision and the intelligence of a jumping spider as not only he anticipates and telegraphs the opponents, but he also anticipates and reads his teammates at a very sufficient level.
One aspect that is key for Demidov is that he shows tremendous motivation in his game when trying to play defensive in the offensive zone when trying to retrieve the puck back. When discussing about his awareness of his surroundings such as the opponents and his players, he looks like he has eyes in the back of his head considering he can read his own teammates at first class. An underrated portion of his offensive awareness too is his positional awareness. What is unique about this is that even though he primarily plays on the wing, he will give the support as much like he were playing as a centerman which is not seen very often. A spot too he loves playing around is just near the trapezoid area which is also known as “Gretzky’s Office”. That being said, even though behind the net his favourite spot to use his incredible mind, he is versatile with his mind anywhere in the offensive zone as well as transitioning up the rush when lugging the puck.
In this following clip, Ivan demonstrates why he is incredible at anticipating his teammates when they are not even at their preferable spot yet which leaves the opposition into disbelief and unorganized off the draw.
The clip below demonstrates Ivan’s unique abilities of supporting his teammates around the boards in the offensive zone as well as creating his tremendous vision as he made this play very subtle but very transitioning which translated to a goal.
As much of a special player Ivan Demidov is, there are still some inconsistencies in his game. The aspects will be divided as follows: Minor improvements, and the major improvements. The minor improvements are detailed in mainly in his defensive game as even though he is considered average defensively for his playstyle, there are some minor inconsistencies that can be improved in a short period of time. The major improvements will be focused on his physicality aspect because not only it highlights his inactivity in throwing hits which does not correlate well with the NHL level. Another aspect that does not help Demidov’s case is that he does not handle hits well as he can get very effected by it which unfortunately led to his injury.
When discussing the minor changes needed to Ivan’s game is that yes, he is crucial when shot blocking whenever he is in position as he has good technique when blocking. The key word however as a winger, he sometimes plays too low which leaves the defense wide open due to his habits of also playing center part time. When transitioning through the neutral zone on the defense, yes he may try to stick lift a lot to try to help his defensive pair when retrieving the puck back, the problem is for Ivan is that sometimes there is a lack of motivation when playing in the defensive end similar to William Nylander. This then translates into the following risks, a penalty like hooking or slashing, or a lost odd man rush which translates into a crucial scoring chance. Another small consistency that he has to work on is him having the puck in the defensive end. Even though Ivan has a high confidence level at making plays happen from nothing, he has to play a little simpler in the defensive end to create a lower risk percentage of making a turnover. Other than those small consistencies, we absolutely believe he can overcome it in a short period of time due to his active problem-solving mind.
When discussing the major improvements needed to grow Ivan’s game is that he does not have a physical side to his game, and it mainly involves him being a finesse player. Even though Ivan has not fully matured yet, for his age, he is 170 when he should be aiming for 180 in order for him to become more durable on the ice. When discussing the physicality aspect itself, he has very little interest in throwing hits but most importantly, sacrificing his own body to weaken the opposing team. Each time he throws a hit, not only that there is lack of follow through in his checks, but what is important is that there is lack of intent to weaken the opponent. Once in a while too, he can get reversed. When taking a hit, he does not try to brace the hit as he just tries to slip away which could then place him in very vulnerable positions. The game of hockey in North America can become very rough and if Ivan does not want having to deal with anything physically, then he will have to learn the difficult way. At the end of the day, not only he needs to build the muscle in order to build his longevity, but most importantly, his confidence and intent to cause trouble and harm to the opposition.
At the end of the day, what you get in a player like Ivan Demidov is a generational offensive dynamo with the mind of a master chess player. Each time he gains possession of the biscuit, his ability to think many steps ahead of the opponent, find creative solutions involving his puck handling abilities, as well as creating tremendous execution at creating space with his skating or precisely hitting the net is considered to be up to par at the NHL level. It is so translatable as when he has the puck, he can almost have the level of “Speedy Gonzalez” by quickly transferring from one direction to the other with his incredible edgework in a short period of time. Once he develops and fixes his inconsistencies of lack of physicality as well as him having minor inconsistencies in the defensive end, due to his incredible “East-West” style of player, he will no doubt about it be a 1st line winger of the future and could be compared to a lighter end version of Alex Kovalev.