MHL Report: October Wrap-Up
Ross Martin | @MHLProspects | 10/27/2020 | [hupso]
NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — With another month of MHL hockey nearing its end, it is time to recap the last 30 or so days of competition in one of the world’s premier development leagues.
Not much has changed as it pertains to the Western Conference standings — Dinamo Moskva, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and Russkie Vityazi Chekhov remain the leaders, while Sakhalinskie Akuly, Amurskie Tigry, and SKA-Varyagi continue to struggle. The Eastern Conference has seen a little bit more of a shake-up, with Irbis Kazan, Avto Yekaterinburg, and Omskie Yastreby atop the standings, and Kuznetskie Medvedi, Sarmaty, and Tyumenskiy Legion at the bottom of the board.
There also remains a smattering of COVID-related issues, as games continue to be postponed and rescheduled. However, unlike September, which saw an extreme divergence in terms of games played, October has seen some of those gaps tighten. Although we’re closer to the schedule balancing out, the games-in-hand situation warrants continuous observation.
Speaking of trends, October saw some players “return home” from across the Atlantic — Daniil Chayka (D, Krasnaya Armiya) and Matvei Petrov (W, Krylia Sovetov) each left their OHL teams in order to begin playing meaningful MHL games again. As other players see how their countrymen have begun to move the needle in their draft season, it will be interesting to see if more make the jump across the Atlantic.
First-year draft-eligible players have continued September’s trend of gaining KHL or VHL experience. Some prospects may have even graduated from the MHL on a semi-permanent basis; Nikita Chibrikov (W, SKA-1946), for example, is one such player. After seeing how he has acquitted himself in adult-age leagues like the VHL and KHL, it may not make sense for Chibrikov to return to the junior ranks except in the event of significant schedule breaks. Ladya dual-threat center Fyodor Svechkov and defenseman Dmitri Kostenko are two more prospects who likely will spend the majority of their respective seasons outside the MHL. However, while playing in the VHL or KHL can be considered a promotion, it often has a downside, as several of these players are going from playing 15-20 minutes a night in the MHL to less than five minutes per game at higher levels. Although the time spent can be a benefit for these players, it’s reasonable to believe that young players generally need ice time to develop.
Rising and Falling
A standard warning, guidance — a player being listed below (for either good reasons or bad) does not reflect on if said player is moving rapidly around the rankings. It is merely an indicator that they may or may not be playing up to their abilities, or that, perhaps, their abilities were rated higher than they should have.
Fyodor Svechkov, C, Ladya Togliatti
Svechkov has had an impressive season so far, splitting time between the MHL and VHL. At both levels, he is seeing ample ice time in an array of situations; naturally, at the VHL level, his impact is somewhat lessened, but that is to be expected of a 17 year old. Svechkov has a very interesting skill-set. He possesses a decent frame, above average skating ability, can really wire the puck on a wrister, and shows the willingness to fulfill all of the duties of a center- he is successful in the dot, he comes back and is diligent in the defensive zone, and he acts as the primary puck carrier through the neutral zone. Even more encouraging, he shows no qualms with playing along the boards and working the cycle in the offensive zone. The season is still young, and the draft is many months away, but Svechkov is certainly making his case to be a top 2 round selection.
Edgar Varagyan, LW, Stalnye Lisy
A modern-day power forward who hustles and excels in all three zones either on or off the puck, Varagyan has recently earned a call-up to the KHL, albeit in one of those aforementioned depth roles. This promotion was well deserved, however, as Varagyan has become one of the go-to players for his MHL club. Not only does the rambunctious winger have a leadership role on his club, but he often can be seen communicating with teammates while play is ongoing, and Varagyan celebrates his team’s goals as enthusiastically as anyone. On the puck, Varagyan often is responsible for breakouts, and he does so with deceptive speed and a powerful stride. Varagyan has a strong wrister that he likes to let loose from any range, and is close to unmovable when he plants himself in front of the net. Most impressive, however, are his hands, which allow him to put the perfect touch on shots or passes; all while displaying expert puck protection.
Semyon Vyazovoy, G, Tolpar Ufa
This year’s MHL class lacks a clear number 1 goaltender this year; Vyazovoy has seemingly decided to throw his hat in the ring for the title. He possesses good size, and looks comfortable playing the puck, but what stands out most of all is his aggression. Vyazovoy plays farther out from his net than most goalies would feel comfortable with. While this leaves him vulnerable to one-timers, it makes it hard for opposing teams to score on their initial shots. And when Vyazovoy is on his game, he does a good job with rebound control, which only serves to complicate things for the opposition even more.
Dmitri Kostenko, D, Ladya Togliatti
Kostenko can be a maddening player to watch- there is a lot of offensive skill and ability there, but there are real concerns pertaining to defensive play. He possesses one of the best sets of hands in this year’s MHL class, his passes are crisp and accurate, and his slap shot has some power behind it. However, all too often, he seems lost or unwilling to compete without the puck, especially in the defensive zone. This is only exacerbated by playing in the VHL. Additionally, while his skating looks fine when on the attack, the mechanics seem to break down a bit when reacting to an attacking player.
Matvei Petrov, W, Krylia Sovetov
As previously mentioned, while he was planning on playing in North America this year after being selected first overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft, Petrov decided to begin his draft eligible season by jumping back over the Atlantic. Unfortunately- and it may just be rust- his game doesn’t look to have grown much since last year. Petrov has a phenomenal skill set, but he seems to struggle in translating that skill set to tangible results for his team. Much of this is likely due to his propensity for staying on the periphery of the ice surface. If he can flip that switch and go into the dirty parts of the ice, Petrov will be a very dangerous player.
Prokhor Poltapov, W, Krasnaya Armiya
Like Petrov, Poltapov has not had the start that he would have preferred. That’s not to say he is playing poorly- he just isn’t playing as well as he was expected to. He seems to be trying too hard this year, and, as a result, is guilty of prematurely terminating offensive chances for his team, whether it is by means of a poor-angled shot, an ill-advised pass attempt, or, most frequently, the simple matter of losing the puck. Now, all the skills are there in abundance- he is an explosive skater with a top tier shot and has shown the ability to be a top-tier puck carrier. Once he relaxes and lets the game come to him as opposed to trying to manifest opportunities that simply aren’t there, Poltapov will undoubtedly show that he is a potential first round pick.
Nov. 2, Chaika Nizhny Novgorod vs Stalnye Lisy
Two clubs looking to join the upper level tier of teams atop the Eastern Conference, this game promises to be filled with talent and physicality. From Chaika, keep an eye on #10 Ilya Fedotov (W, 2021), a versatile player with a high IQ, and #79 Andrei Nikonov (W, 2021), a mountain of a winger with several KHL games under his belt already. For Stalnye Lisy, make sure to watch #10 Edgar Varagayn — if he is not still in the KHL –, #17 Nikita Grebyonkin (W, 2021), and #22 Danila Yurov (W, 2022).
Nov. 12, Dinamo Moskva vs Loko Yaroslavl
Not only is Dinamo Moskva is one of the top teams in the league this year thus far, but they are loaded with 2021 prospects; #30 Maxim Motorygin (G, 2021) is one of the top eligible goaltenders from the MHL, #48 Gleb Ivanov (D, 2021), #74 Nikita Novikov (D, 2021), #52 Aleksander Kisakov (W, 2021), and #66 Matvei Nadvorniy (W, 2021) are all potential draft picks. Loko Yaroslavl, meanwhile, not only has first-round candidate and the top-ranked MHL defender in #11 Vladislav Lukashevich (D, 2021), but also a trio of notable forwards in #81 Yeremei Shumilin (C, 2021), #69 Ilya Nazarov (W, 2021), and #47 Dmitri Nazarov (W, 2021).
Nov. 29, Russkie Vityazi vs SKA-1946
Another clash of two of the better teams in the league this year, it is a little harder to discern just who will be suiting up for SKA-1946, as they have so many players playing in the VHL or KHL at the moment. At the very least, this game is an opportunity to see future star #29 Matvei Michkov (W, 2023) in action.
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