By DraftPro Staff

The U18 World Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Frisco, Texas, and was a scouting hotspot in a year that was anything but the norm for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

It is a ‘must see’ event any season holding considerable weight as a last look event, but this year in particular, it might be the only hockey some of these guys would play under the watchful eyes of NHL teams. And it was an opportunity for the players to make an impression with plenty doing just that over the two-week event.

Draft Prospects Hockey was not able to be in attendance for the event due to pandemic/logistic issues but had scheduled multiple evaluators to view each minute of play and give us a breakdown of what transpired via their video viewing.

In this ten-part series we will look at each team entry and provide some review of prospects, how they performed and how their performance might have affected their draft stock.

Russia had a strong tournament from beginning to end and finished with a silver medal. They hung with Canada, often kept their pace throughout the game and used their speed to dictate transition, making the gold medal game close but fell two goals short from gold.

They had a lethal power play and two units that can score in no time. The power play came in clutch in the final game but overall, they struggled to find defensive pairings that worked and really lacked the talent on the back end to help their skilled group of forwards.

Mitchov is a superstar in the making and captain Chibrikov took over games in stretches as well. The line of Yurov, Svechkov and Miroshnichenko were dangerous offensively every time they hit the ice commanding the attention of opponents. They should be dangerous next year with the young guns leading the way.

Here are some player reports from our crew on the Russian U18 players that stood out.

29 G, SERGEI IVANOV, 5’11, 157, LG, DOB 03.04.2004

Ivanov is a smaller stature goalie with electric reflexes. For a small goalie you expect him to be all over the place to make saves, but he is quite the opposite. No doubt he plays aggressive when cutting down angles due to his size but he is direct with his motions and gets from point a to point b efficiently. He brings a steady presence in between the pipes that never sees him out of position. He reads the game extremely well and seems to square up every shot. He has excellent rebound control, either swallows it up or directs it too the corner leaving little garbage in front of the net. When he does have to scramble, he has a high motor and will dive across crease to make saves. He has such fast motions in the net everything he does is quick but efficient. His glove hand is electric and one of his bigger strengths as he almost seems to leave it low on purpose before bringing it high and ripping sure goals away. He doesn’t play the puck as well as you would like and will need to work on that. He did show some ability as he gets out there quick but lacks the ability to make strong passes from there. He thinks the game so well it’s like he reads the shooters before the shot even comes. He stole the net as a younger goalie and performed well the whole tournament. Teams will be hesitant due to his size but if all he does it make big saves how can you not target him. He projects as a starter that can play big games due to his mental strength and quickness. Ivanov was selected the media all-star team’s goaltender.

18 D, NIKOLAI MAKAROV, 6’4, 234, L, DOB 01.12.2003

Makarov is a physical left shot defender that can be hit or miss. He can do some really nice things with the puck and dance his checker under pressure before making a crisp pass. Or he reads the play wrong and either passes into traffic or skate into a dead-end. He is a strong skater and has a ton of power in each stride. Mostly a straight up skater keeping his height, but he creates a ton of speed still. Brutal hips and struggles pivoting at top speed. He was burned against speed a few times in Texas. Without the puck he hunts hits too often and it takes him out of position. He walks that line and can let his emotions get the best of him, take a bad penalty here or there. With the puck he makes some nice plays but but lacks the creativity to create much. Too stationary, does not walk the line at all and is a play killer from the point. He either shoots right away or rims it and caused loss of possession. He does have a big, hard shot but it is not accurate and he blew it wide on multiple occasions. He is also prone to the classic shin pad shot because he doesn’t have his head up when he shoots. He can kill penalties but is just super aggressive with a high motor. The kind of prospect that would just frustrate you to death. Not on our draft list.

4 D, NIKITA NOVIKOV, 6’4, 207, L, DOB 06.25.2003

A left shot defender that is a hulking presence. He stands out because of his size and reach and provides a good rangy stick. He seems a little simple and that is okay. He is a decent skater, but will no doubt need to improve. He actually looks like he could fix a lot to do with his stride. He creates little power and struggles generating the speed that can help him catch opponents, but when he is already moving, he stays with his check. The way he does get around is because of his long legs and he does have fairly quick feet. Not a great passer but can make the simple ones fine. He did stand out because many of the other defenders were struggling to make a first pass and he was on top of that aspect. Has a heavy point shot but was not always on target. Needs to improve his gap control. He kills penalties for the Russians where he is trying to keep anything from the slot. Offensively he has almost no upside as he plays everything very safe. He can shoot the puck from a standstill but does not move at the point to create at all. His vision under pressure is very limited and results in simple plays. If he gets drafted it will be as a later option and as a development project.

20 D, VLADIMIR GRUDININ, 5’9, 150, L, DOB 12.9.2003

Grudinin is a flashy skater with high end agility. He is extremely smooth on the ice and will take every opportunity he can to flash his 10-2 style. He passes the puck well, and does a solid job controlling the puck at the point. He is able to walk the line while scanning for options, evading pressure from his opponents. Ability to snipe with a deceptive wrister that he uses from in close and at the point. Plucky and will stick his nose in there physically despite being very small and lacking strength. Defensively, he is growing and learning. He uses his skating, edge, and a quick stick. Able to pick pocket opponents along the wall and quickly transition back on the attack. His skating allows him to keep up, but he is prone to making risky pinches and stepping up when unnecessary. Very promising stuff from the creative-mobile defender. He will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on for 2022.

17 RW, MATVEI MICHKOV, 5’10, 159, L, DOB 12.9.2004

It was only a matter of time before Michkov vs Bedard started getting all the headlines. He flat out dominated this tournament. He is a pure goal scorer, potting twelve of them in all different fashion, including a lacrosse goal and a through-the-legs goal from about 12 feet out. His finishing IQ is unparalleled, as he quickly exposes the tiniest of breakdowns in a defensive scheme. His hands are elite, as is his shot accuracy. His release is not elite, but his accuracy is unreal. Despite being arguably the most skilled player in the tournament, he forechecks and backchecks with intensity on every shift. He’s got a sneaky defensive stick and is always looking to pick pockets. He is a future NHL star, a game breaking, top line, better than a point per game type of player. Michkov was named the MVP of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship and was also named Best Forward and made the media all-star team. Not bad for a sixteen-year-old.

25 RW, DANILA YUROV, 6’1, 172, LW, DOB 12.23.2003

Highly skilled, strong winger who makes his presence felt on every shift. Yurov is a long lanky winger with tremendous offensive skillset. He is constantly attempting highlight reel plays and pulling them off at high rates. He is a monster in transition, able to weave his way through nearly anything in his path, and has some excellent passing vision. He does everything well offensively and doesn’t have many holes in his game. He had been dynamite this tournament, close to the top of the scoring race the whole way. He plays with such a high skill set it really stands out especially with the puck. The reason he can play on the top line with so many talented players is because he thinks the game so well. He is a long stride skater with quick feet. He can get going in transition and has some giddy up in his first few steps. He gains speed with the puck and can score on single rushes. Great at creating chances for others using his vision. He has beautiful touch to his passes, timing them perfectly. He played on the top power play unit on the half wall where he can be equal parts shooter or passer. He has a heavy shot and can pick corners from distance. Defensively he stands out as a super responsible player despite bringing the offensive talent. He looks after his own zone and turns back up ice once it is safe. He can play man on man or zone because of his IQ and physical ability. He is quite light still and will need to get stronger, but his effort is there. He may be a few years away still as he will need time to put on weight but is going to be a very high pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

10 LW, IVAN MIROSHNICHENKO, 6’1, 185, R, DOB 4.4.2004

Miroshnichenko was integral part of the Russian attack in Texas. He is showing more and more that he is not just a one-dimensional goal scorer. He was instrumental in creating offense for sure but also used his skating and physical strength away from the scoresheet. A quick stick helped him strip pucks and quickly transition play back up ice. He still has some positioning to learn in both the defensive and offensive zone. For a young player, he is extremely strong, and plays a hard, physical game. Sometimes crossing the line of dirty. But with the combination of his elite shot, solid skating, two-way and physical games, he is growing into a true top end prospect for 2022.

8 C DANIIL LAZUTIN, 6’2, 174, L, DOB 07.25.2003

Lazutin is a skilled left shot center that plays a poised game. Cerebral and thinks the game really well. He centered the third and fourth lines with the grittier players flanking his wing. He plays from below the puck so he is never caught on the wrong side of things. He is a bit lean and will need to get stronger as he is a bit easy to outmuscle in battles. He is a decent skater with strong edgework but not the fastest feet. He just seems a bit sluggish in the first step department. Once he gets going he carries speed well, stick handles really close to the body in transition. He played on the second power play unit net front where he is mostly a screen option. He does have a bit of skill and will provide a bit of offense with an accurate shot. Just takes him a lot of time to get a release off. Soft hands allow him to throw saucer passes and really get creative. Whether he ends up getting to the NHL is a bit of a risk and project as he is a few years away at the very least.

9 C, FYODOR SVECHKOV, 6’0, 179, L, DOB 4.5.2003

Svechkov is a skilled left shot center that can play in all-situations. He centers the top line and plays big minutes down the middle of the ice. If there is an important face-off he will be hopping over the boards. He is a strong skater and it allows him to keep up with most top line players offensively and defensively. He will need to improve his foot speed, but he creates a ton of power in each stride and that is how he generates his speed despite skating with a very straight up stance. Excellent shot release quickly gets the puck on net. He has some tremendous lower body strength and shields the puck well. Skilled but straight forward playmaker. Plays in the slot on the top power play and is a threat to tip pucks while he generates traffic net front. His quick hands help him finish in tight. He also kills penalties and does a good job keeping things basic there. Defensively he is sound and plays beneath the puck and is rarely caught cheating for offense. He has the potential to be a first round pick due to his skill and offensive IQ. He may only be a year or two away from being able to compete in the NHL due to his strength and skillset.

13 LW, PROHKOR POLTAPOV, 5’10, 161, L, 01.01.2003

Poltapov is a spark plug player that creates a ton of energy for Russia. He was a winger on the third line and fit that role to a tee. Right from the jump he was throwing his body around and in on the fore check heavy. He is a quick skater and almost skates around like he is hunting for prey. Plays far heavier than he physically is. Once the puck is turned over, he jumps on it and can attack from anywhere. Consider his offense very straight line as he is directing everything to the net once he is in the zone whether he takes it there or shoots it. Love his game below the dots as he generates a ton of battles for pucks and usually comes out with it himself. His motor is high, shift to shift. Loves running around causing havoc. He plays on the penalty kill and does a good job moving his feet to intercept passes. Needs to remember to maintain defensive position as he can be too aggressive and run around a bit. A solid complimentary offensive player. Love the energy and explosiveness, his heart and battle level. Skilled players with his grit are hard to come by.

19 LW, NIKITA CHIBRIKOV, 5’10, 172, L, DOB 2.16.2003

Chibrikov, the Russian captain, had an excellent tournament, producing offense when needed. He was buzzing all over the ice, creating plays nearly every time he touched the puck. He’s so smooth with the puck and is able to thread passes through extremely tight seams. He is also elite when it comes to drawing defensemen towards him and opening up lanes for teammates. When he gets the puck on an odd man rush, you can expect something special to happen. His skating is excellent too, he is quick, agile, and strong on his skates, allowing him to keep possession for extended periods in the offensive zone. Every once in a while, he’ll pull off a move that’ll bring you out of your seat, and he’s a constant threat in the offensive zone. He’s a first round prospect and has the potential to be a top six scoring forward in the NHL.

22 RW, MATVEI PETROV, 6’1, 163, R, DOB 03.12.2003

Petrov is a skilled winger that loves to play the off wing due to his shooting ability. Excellent shot, including his release as he can get it off from anywhere. Great flex into his stick. Strong on the forecheck, he has grown a lot in effort. He seems to be more engaged shift to shift and has added a physical presence as well. He will no doubt need to add some strength as he is quite lean, but he isn’t afraid to hit. More of his problems come towards not wanting to get hit and throwing the puck away. If he is feeling confident, he holds onto it and makes a play with it even under pressure. He is not the prettiest skater either as he struggles to generate power through his footwork. Once at top speed he carries it fine but is still quite light on the puck in transition. Not sure how well he creates for others, more so camps out in open ice waiting for his shot. Defensively he is quite aware but needs to focus on his assignment as looks lost at times. The effort shown here in Texas is much improved from some past viewings. He has a high IQ but does make some glaring errors. A mid-round pick as a skilled winger that can play in your top six as a finisher. Needs some time as he is still needing to add strength and round out his game. Was injured and missed the final couple games for Russia.

6 C, ILYA IVANTSOV, 5’10, 154, L, DOB 01.27.2003

Ivanstov is a skilled but small left shot center that can play up and down the line up in any position. Strong foot speed and shiftiness with the puck in the neutral zone. Generates solid speed with quick steps and strong crossovers. Needs to attack he middle more. He is kind of a swiss army knife type of player. He was centering the third line in Texas and was solid in that role. He has got a high motor that is constantly running and managed to generate multiple turnovers on the forecheck. He plays a strong two-way game and the coach clearly trusted him to take big faceoffs. Not sure how much offense is there but he seems to get it into the zone efficiently, but we question his offensive creativity. He is able to run an offense from the half-wall and has some fantastic escapability skills thanks to his edge work and stick handling abilities. His laser-like passing is another weapon. He anchors the penalty kill and usually starts it by winning the draw in the faceoff circle. Is willing to put his body on the line and block shots. He is a few years away and are not sure if his offense will translate.

Michkov was fantastic as he chased the Ovechkin/Caufield record of 14 goals in a U18 tournament. He finished with twelve and led the Russians with sixteen points in seven games. Chibrikov finished second with thirteen points in seven contests.

Contributors to this report included Dan Stewart, Matt Morrison, Alex Taxman, Kai Farenholtz and Jared Brown.
Photo credit IIHF.com

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