Players expected to go in the first round of the draft sometimes fall, for whatever reason. We know size can be a factor in a prospect going later than he perhaps should have; xenophobia can be another reason, too.
Vitalii Abramov is expected to be taken in the late first round of the draft. But he’s also a 5’9, 170 lb. Russian right winger, so who knows if that’s where he ends up going?
He’s young, though, having only just turned 18 on May 5. He also put up 38 goals and 93 points over 63 games, leading the Gatineau Olympiques (which should help offset some of the xenophobia) in scoring by a margin of 20 points. He was the highest-scoring rookie in the QMJHL, and fifth in overall league scoring – behind three 20-year-olds and Pierre-Luc Dubois. So, if he falls to the 35th pick…
You can argue that no draft eligible combines escapability and instincts as well as Abramov, who knows how to evade defenses and slip into a scoring area all on the same play. He has an innate feel for plays as they develop, and what we love about him is the way he shows no mercy – Abramov is a quick-strike playmaker with acute decisiveness. More slippery and shifty than blurring and blistering, Abramov is a very good skater with exceptional balance and lower-body strength. He’s an elite stickhandler who can dipsy-doodle the puck through tire spikes without it breaking into a million pieces. This kid may look small and can cherrypick with the best of them, but his enthusiasm, skill and athleticism make him one heck of a workload to defend against.
Abramov marries his skating ability with soft hands and good stick handling ability and this makes him very tough to defend one-on-one, whether it be off the rush, or working the puck down low. He can stick handle in a phone both, making Abramov a nightmare for defenders even when they try to take away his time and space. If he gets that space, look out. Abramov is a pure goal scorer, as he has an excellent wrist shot with a quick release. He also has a very good snap shot, slap shot and one-timer. He can also play the role of play maker with good vision and passing skills. While Abramov has good lower body strength, he must continue to get stronger in his upper body to take the physical pounding he could face at the next level.
Abramov works hard defensively, as he is conscientious on the back check, and tries to help out the defence down low. Unfortunately this is the biggest area where his lack of size is exposed, as he can be outmuscled by bigger, stronger opponents. He must add upper body strength in order to improve his defensive game.
The Russian import is a constant threat offensively and makes some impressive plays due to his high skill level. An explosive, well-timed speed burst or change of pace and shifty agility in his feet as well as creative hands make him a slippery forward to check. A skilled playmaker making seeing-eye passes through the tightest of lanes and in perfect time to his teammates. Will shoot the puck when the opportunity presents itself and usually hits his mark when he does but is a natural playmaker first and foremost. Extremely dynamic top line NHL potential.
Simply put: Abramov scores. He was one of just seven players in the QMJHL to crack 90 points this past season, and he did it as a rookie – but not before coming off some high-powered scoring seasons in Russia. He’s been a top scorer pretty much wherever he’s played.
The second-highest scorer on Abramov’s Olympiques was the undrafted Alex Dostie, another undersized player who had 73 points to his name. Only four players on the Olympiques cracked 50 points, so Abramov scored twice as much as everyone but three of his teammates; he was responsible for 37% of his team’s offence.
Via Prospect Stats, in terms of even strength vs. the powerplay, 63 of Abramov’s points came at even strength, leaving 30 to come with the man advantage (he did not score any shorthanded points). Of those 63 even strength points, 46 were primary – either a goal scored or a first assist – giving him a split of 49% of his point totals for the year coming in more meaningful ways. That means 51% of his totals were more noise, which isn’t particularly pretty, but not as bad as it could be.
Just 11 of his 38 goals came on the powerplay, though; 27 were still scored at even strength, which was eighth in the Q.
Abramov scored .73 ESPP per game, which was ninth in the QMJHL; he was still the highest-ranking Olympique in this stat, with the overage Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau coming in second at .65 (Dostie was third, at .593) – so it’s pretty certain Abramov was the driving force on his team.
Furthermore, we know Abramov will go to the net. Courtesy of Prospect Stats, we have his shot and goal heat maps:
Fit with the Flames
A phrase we’ve sometimes heard out of the Flames organization is “you can’t teach offence.” This is an organization that’s a fan of high-scorers – and that’s exactly what Abramov is. He’s scored at every level he’s played at. He’s led his team in the QMJHL. Simply put, he can put the puck in the net, and that’s a skill every team needs.
His size is an issue, and makes Abramov more of a boom or bust prospect. Either he’s going to make it as an impact player, or he probably isn’t going to make it at all.
The draft is all about risks, though, and the Flames have had success with high scorers throughout their history (and present). Abramov is an offensively-skilled right winger – and that’s something any team can use, the Flames being no exception.
There’s no guarantee Abramov will make it out of the first round. But if he does fall to the Flames’ second pick of the draft, he should be someone worth consideration at that pick. If he’s the real deal, then he could be a valuable asset.
The further you go into the draft, the less likely you are to get a home run. So with your higher picks, would you rather take a boom or bust prospect, or a supposedly “safe” option that should make it, but may not be an impact player?
No, he’s not particularly big – but speed and skill will win games. Abramov has that.