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NHL Mock Draft 2020: New Jersey Devils Select Rodion Amirov with No. 18 Pick

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The New Jersey Devils have three first round picks, which also means three picks in the annual SB Nation NHL Mock Draft. With the second one, we selected left winger Rodion Amirov of Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. This post contains our reasoning and why he was picked ahead of others.

Kontinental Hockey League: Spartak Moscow vs Salavat Yulaev Ufa
A Salavat Yulaev Ufa player for New Jersey? I would smile at that too. (P.S. This is the closest I could find in the photostream of a picture of Amirov, which is a picture of the coach and 3 of his teammates.)
Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images

On Thursday, we revealed our internal site mock draft of the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft. On Friday, we revealed our first of three first round picks in the SBNation 2020 NHL Mock Draft: Cole Perfetti. Today, we will reveal who we picked at eighteenth and twentieth overall for the other two first round picks owned by the New Jersey Devils. The third and final selection in the SBN 2020 NHL Mock Draft will be up later today. This post is about the second selection, from Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League, left winger Rodion Amirov.

Just like in an actual NHL Draft, the Devils’ second and third first round picks will be driven by who is taken before them. After Perfetti was taken in the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, the following were taken in order: Lundell, Holtz, Jarvis, Mercer, Quinn, Askarov, Sanderson, Wallinder, Bourque, and Zary. Amirov was passed over by several teams opting to go in a different direction at forward. This helped make the decision to go with Amirov.

Alex wrote this prospect profile on Amirov back in April. Then in the 2019-20 season, Amirov split time between very limited minutes with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL (common for young players), limited appearances with Toros Neftekamsk in the VHL (he did appear for them in their playoff series), and more often and for more minutes with Tolpar Ufa in the MHL. While his production alone does not seem impressive, what is impressive was what he did on the ice. He was a positive factor in both ends of the rink. He has received praise for his intelligence on the ice on and off the puck. It was noted that with Tolpar, he was featured on both their power play and their penalty kill. Amirov is a smart player with a lot to like with his game.

In terms of improvement, Amirov does need to get stronger. Being 6’0” is fine in the NHL. Being just 168 pounds is not so fine. But he is an 18-year old forward; I expect he will make (physical) gains in due time. When he does so, he will have an easier time going in for puck battles. From what I understand, he can definitely forecheck and he does not shy away from dangerous areas or physical parts of the ice. Not getting physically outmatched will help him in those regards and allow him to flourish more in both ends of the rink. If that is the biggest knock on a prospect, then he is likely a very good prospect.

As it stands, the hockey gains appear to be happening for Amirov right now. With the KHL having started their season, Amirov has already played seven games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. He put up two goals (both on the power play), two assists, and - most importantly - an average of 13:25 ice time per game. The latter is an important sign that the staff at Salavat Yulaev Ufa believes he can handle a regular role at the KHL level. Additionally, Amirov has only played in three games with the VHL team. He has not been sent back to the junior MHL league. It is tough for young players to break through and get decent minutes in a pro league in Europe, much less in what is arguably the second best league in the world. Amirov getting these early games with points and other contributions further justifies his talent level. Amirov may benefit in the 2020 NHL Draft in real life by having these early season accomplishments to show to scouts and teams that he is thriving right now.

It may be in Ufa’s best interest to get what they can out of Amirov now. He may not be with them for very long. Not only will it be very likely he is drafted in the first round on October 6, his contract ends after the 2020-21 season per his Elite Prospects profile. Which is this season. Which means that unless Amirov agrees to remain with Ufa or sign a deal with another KHL team, he could come over to North America very soon. This is why I am not really bothered by the potential “Russian factor” with this pick and I do not think other teams should be either.

Ultimately, my reaction to the SBN Mock Draft going the way it did was being pleasantly surprised. While Brian did note that he is a possibility to be available for the Devils’ second and third first round picks, I expected Amirov to be gone by 18th overall. Since Amirov was available, the decision was an easier one to make. You can never have too many smart wingers with plenty to offer on and off the puck. The Devils - and most other teams, really - can really benefit by having someone like Amirov in their prospect system. And so this pick was made for Amirov.

Other Options at #18 in the 2020 SBN Mock Draft

I expected the choice for the #18 pick in the 2020 SBN Mock Draft to be much more wide open. The following names were in my mind ahead of learning that Amirov was available. For what it is worth, I personally rate Amirov higher than the following players:

  • Our internal mock draft pick for 18th overall was Noel Gunler. There is a lot to appreciate about Gunler. The Swedish right winger is known for his shot, puck control at speed, and his movement on offense. The concern for him is his consistency, which could be improved upon with more experience. Still, the Devils lack shooting forwards in their system and Gunler would be a fine pick to address that.
  • Jacob Perreault is also another excellent shooter of the puck that could have been chosen in this mock draft. His release is very good, he handles the puck quite well, and he can surprise defenders with his speed at times. Similar to Gunler, the big concern is whether he can play, skate, and produce consistently at the next level. Sarnia was rather bad last season in the OHL, which could have contributed to it. But if he can put in more of a consistent effort, then he will be a massive scoring threat in pro hockey. If you prefer the Devils to take a forward who can be a “finisher,” then Perreault would fit the bill.
  • If a team’s excellent performance can elevate a prospect (looking at you, Jack Quinn), then a team’s surprisingly bad performance can undercut one too. I think that is what happened to Dylan Holloway, who was a freshman on a Wisconsin team that under-performed to expectations given who is on that team (e.g. K’Andre Miller, Alex Turcotte, Cole Caulfield). Still, if you like your forwards to have good size, do everything pretty well, and work hard, then you will like Holloway. You would have liked to have seen more from him, but I think Wisconsin’s squad playing so poorly hurt that cause.
  • Marat Khusnutdinov. No, not for the meme in the online scouting world. The guy has a fantastic set of skills. If only he was larger and performed in a stronger league than the MHL. But whereas plenty of smaller players are still strong (e.g. Rossi), Khusnutdinov’s strength is a more legitimate concern for the next level. It could really hinder his future in pro hockey in North America. And all that potential may not be realized. So I could see him being too big of a swing at 18th overall. But I have this feeling he is going to be one of those players a lot of teams will regret passing on if he hits his perceived potential.
  • The defensemen Braden Schneider and Kaiden Guhle. These two are pretty similar in my mind for being physical defenders who project to be solid, appreciable defenders but not someone who will carry and/or lead a blueline. With the forwards available that could be bigger hits in time, my preference is to go with them. But I did consider these two defenders for 18th overall in the mock. I would have included William Wallinder, who I think highly of among the defensemen prospects that could be here at this point in the draft, but he was already taken at 15th overall.

Your Take

The pick for this one was for Rodion Amirov, who I think fell a little further than he should have in the mock draft. I can totally understand if you disagree and you think the pick should have been someone else. Feel free to explain who and why in the comments. I just think if someone with his talents and on-ice intelligence is available, then you do not over-think it and take the player. To that end, I would be happy if the Devils are able to pick Amirov in a couple of days in real life.

I encourage you to give us your take on our mock draft pick. Who would you have picked at eighteenth overall in the SBN Mock Draft if it was up to you? If you would have picked someone else, then who would you pick and why? Please let us know in the comments and/or vote in our poll. We will find out what the Devils will do with their eighteenth overall pick in the actual 2020 NHL Entry Draft on October 6. The third and final pick in the SBN Mock Draft will be revealed a little later today. Thank you for reading.

Poll

Our second pick in the 2020 SBN NHL Mock Draft is Rodion Amirov. Do you agree with our pick?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes.
    (53 votes)
  • 38%
    No, it should have been someone else (specify in comments).
    (33 votes)
86 votes total Vote Now