Flames Darkhorse Targets 2016: Vitalii Abramov

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…

Scouting reports

Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst:

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.

Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports:

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.

Future Considerations:

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.

The numbers

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.

Previous draft target articles: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel

    • FeyWest

      Isn’t that how this works, every newly talked about, obscure player sounds like he’s gonna be another Gaudereau, Kucherov, etc… I know I’m prone to falling into that habit! But that’s what makes ’em darkhorses.

  • wot96

    Not sure why anyone is thinking about trading with Edmonton or Vancouver, for that matter. Either of those teams trading down, in division, would result in a tarring and feathering. Somewhere. One of BT or Chia or Benning gets disappeared by a fan base and is never heard from again because you can’t do that deal unless it is lopsided.

    Besides, Benning is far more likely to make that mistake than Chia.

    • Juan Valdez

      Both teams are desperate and Chia has mentioned looking for immediate help on defense. If he thinks he’s going to get a player like Brodie, or Hamilton then he’s nuts.

      • wot96

        Lots of players chosen high never make it. But fan bases ascribe far more importance to a high draft pick than maybe they should given a lot of those players don’t make it. I don’t think BT is that desperate, and if he was, then he would be targeting Columbus, not Edmonton.

        I think it is unlikely that Chia gets his solid defender (immediate help) via trade (with anyone, much less Calgary) unless he has a really solid piece going the other way, which almost certainly means a forward. That makes the most sense to me but again, why would he ever do a deal in the division when it might make your worst rival historically, materially better? That’s almost the worst crime there is in both Calgary and Edmonton.

        Whatever you think of our players, how many times have you seen the occasional interloping oiler’s fan telling us they don’t want our garbage? Our mutual inability to see the value in the other team’s players is very telling – unless the deal is lopsided, the fans just don’t want to do it.

        It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong but I just don’t see it happening.

  • everton fc

    The fact he’s an aggressive backchecker is also important. A pure scorer who can backcheck. Who likes to backcheck.

    Imagine him on the RW with Bennett! And if Shinkaruk’s for real, we’d have some interesting depth, on the right-side…

    He’d be a nice little “pluck”, if he falls to #35, 53, 55…

    • piscera.infada

      Is he worth trading back into the first round for?

      I’ll admit, didn’t know anything about him, but damn he sounds like a tantalizing late first-round pick.

      Also, just a simple point of clarity: Shinkaruk is a natural left-winger. He can play the right side, but I’m not sure pencilling him into a right-wing role is the best idea.

      • everton fc

        I know (re: Shinkaruk). So let’s both imagine Shinakruk-Bennett-Abramov. Small on the wings, but man, that’d be fun to see.

        I think watching this video gives us a good look at this kid. Look at the last goal – he mucked int he corner quite aggressively to win that puck and score. Again, he loves to backcheck. I can’t see him going in the first… But at #35? $53?? Maybe he’s around, and you consider a kid like this.

        And look at this goal vs. Finland. Looks to be almost elite-level stickhandling, which is what scouting’s calling out, as well.

        And to think we have this kid as a darkhorse in the same series as Sam Steel! Nothing against Steel, but this kid Abramov is might quick.

  • Kevin R

    Wow, he sure had a glimmer of Johnny on some of those hi-lighht reels. Absolutely would look at that kid at #35, why not. He sure would be fun to follow like when we were watching every breath Gaudreau was making at BC.

    • everton fc


      I like the grit he showed in the last goal of his hat-trick vs. Chicoutimi. To me, this is a Burke/Treliving type player. And I like his confidence, and the fact he seems to really like his teammates, and vice versa. At least on film.

      Incredible speed… Can he make it down to #35? Or better yet, drop to #53??

      Andersson and Kylington somehow did. But they are defenders….

    • everton fc

      He may very well be. Tough call for me, Sergachev vs. Chychrun.

      Imagine having both! 😉

      His English needs a lot of work. But he seems a likeable, decent kid, when interviewed. He’d be a good pick, whoever gets him. Very confident on the ice.

      To me, Chychrun would also provide protection for the likes of Gaudreau, Mangiapane, if the latter makes it to the NHL.

  • DangleSnipeCelly

    Methinks #35 will be used in acquiring a starting goalie making this moot as he won’t be around for our next pick.

    However if we do make a pick at #35 I’d be all for this kid… as long as that terrible music doesn’t play every time he scores.

  • KiLLKiND

    So he is one inch shorter than NYlander and scores far more is great on the backcheck and has a great work ethic. These draft rankings really have me questioning how they determine overall rankings. I’m almost hoping we trade our 1st this year to try and leverage 2 1st round picks this year. I would rather have 2 picks in the 20’s than one at 6. We could get Debrincat and Abramov. This would refill our RW prospect base just like how Andersson and Kylington stocked up our D last year.

    Potential trade targets; we know Dallas doesn’t have a 2nd potentially our 2nd and theirs gets it done. I have been trying to come up with trade scenarios including our 1st that result in us coming up with another late 1st yet can’t seem to make any that makes sense for both teams. Potentially a trade in which we give up our 1st and get a mid tier prospect and a late 1st as the most likely scenario. However if we could manage to trade away our 1st while only receiving picks that is how we could get the most value for our pick. Reasons for trading pick Dubois will be gone, we don’t need a D, can address our needs by drafting later.

    Many teams in the NFL, and MLB draft by need, why should hockey be BPA all the time? Our RW has been very weak since IGGY left and only has been filed by FA’s or trades and we all know that you should build a team through drafting then why aren’t we drafting RW’s? Many say wingers are available readily through trade or FA, yet the only top line RW that has been available the past few seasons is finally available this year but is too expensive in OKposo. As far as trading for a top line winger it would have to start with us trading away someone we value really high as well. If we don’t draft a high end RW this year, we better hope Poirier has one hell of a summer.

    • everton fc

      Do you think Dallas would move Nichushkin, to move up? He had a sad season, and a poor playoff, though. Is he another Yakupov?? And do we pass on Tkachuk at #6 (I doubt he’ll be there) when he had 40 points in 18 OHL playoff games

      Abramov interests me more than Debrincat, because I think he’ll be available in the 20’s, and we may be able to trade up. Gauthier is such a raw prospect. Kunin will go to college, so I can’t see us moving up for him. RW isn’t deep this draft. Which makes me wonder if passing on Nylander would be a mistake. And do we consider Jost or Sergachev, at #6?

      So much we can conspire about here! A lot of fun. I’ll leave you w/this, as I’d love to see us poach Abramov:

      “A tiny, fearless high traffic competitor with high end speed, and stick. He is listed as 5’ 9” but is small. Has terrific vision, and handles the puck with it he’s playing the shell game with you. Great hands. Handles the hard pass so well and can touch pass with the best. Piling up both goals and assists in the Q. Very unselfish player who looks for the best option even when he could shoot. Has consistently scored at even strength and on his PP chances. Can undress a defenseman and take him out of the play. Excellent touch passer and even at his diminutive size he has stood up to the rough going. It is easy to argue that part of his success is derived by the linemates he has been gifted. And easy to see how in the past many smaller offensive dynamos end up waiting until later rounds to get drafted. You have to wonder if he is the exception to that rule.”

      —Bill Placzek—

      • KiLLKiND

        If I was Dallas I wouldn’t trade Nichuskin now, his value is very low while he still has all the raw tools. Although considering what they were willing to pay for Russel maybe they will trade Nichuskin.

        Jost, Sergachev, Chychrun, Keller, Nylander and Juolevi should all be considered at 6. I also am assuming Tkachuk and Dubois will be gone 4, 5.

        I see why you like the idea of Abramov more because the cost of acquiring would most likely be cheaper as he will probably go later than Debrincat. I like Debrincat a little more because of his higher ceiling but would really like to add either. Passing on Nylander at 6 could be a mistake yet when comparing him to other RW’s from this draft year he doesn’t blow any of them away. Debrincat and Abramov look to me to be as good as Nylander. That quote about Abramov sounds amazing, yet if read the best quote about any player they will sound good.

        • everton fc

          Perhaps we could somehow come out of the first two rounds with Nylander and Abramov? I’d take that. I still like Gauthier’s potential, as well. And don’t forget Kunin.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      “Many say wingers are available readily through trade or FA, yet the only top line RW that has been available the past few seasons is finally available this year but is too expensive in OKposo”

      Phil Kessel?

      I advocated trading for him before he was dealt to Pittsburgh – I was soundly trashed round these parts for the idea, I think Everton FC was the only one that shared my opinion, now he is a Conn Smythe candidate.

      How would he have looked on the wing with Johnny and Monny vs. the revolving door we had there this past year?

      Looking at what Pitt paid and the salary Toronto retained, I think it would have been worth it.

      Now who knows if we could have worked out a deal, or if Kessel fits in the age category/plan management is working towards, but having him now going into next year would look like a pretty solid top line.

      • KiLLKiND

        Ah yes I forgot about Kessel, I think he is too old for our group though. He fits in well with Pittburgh and will age with Crosby, Malkin, and Letnag. We need a younger RW. Him on the top line would be really solid however would you really want to pay the ransom that Pittsburgh paid?

        They paid Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, defenceman Scott Harrington, plus first- and third-round picks from 2016. Toronto will retain $1.2 million of Kessel’s salary in each of the next seven seasons. That is a lot for Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a 2016 second-round pick to Pittsburgh.

        For Calgary to have roughly matched Pittburgh’s price but today we would have to trade
        2017 1st, 2017 3rd, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington. To me that is too much to pay.

        That is why we need to draft an RW Tkchuk is a LW, not an RW yes he can play on the right for powerplay on London but who couldn’t? stocking up on D is always great, yet it will cost at least one them to get the RW we need. So either way we need an RW, Okposo would be the best fit if we could afford him.

        Looking at UFA RW options next year looks exciting though. Iginla, Oshie, Williams, Sharp, and Michalek are among the top options next year. I would love Oshie on Calgary if Washington can’t afford him, Iginla would be nice to retire here on the 3rd line.

    • SmellOfVictory

      He’s three inches shorter than Nylander, not one. That’s a pretty decent difference, all things considered.

      As far as trades go, if it makes sense for management, the Flames might be able to trade back with Arizona or Buffalo, and perhaps get a 2nd round pick out of it, then package a couple of 2nd round picks to move up into the late 1st.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I have this feeling that Calgary will pass on Nylander for whatever reason….dad meddles, dad was soft, dad disappeared in the playoffs, brother is soft, brother is a Prima Dona, brother can also disappear in playoffs, Alex is too soft, too small, has a sense of entitlement….well haters gonna hate.

    If you just looked at Nylander on his floor based on his body of work…he is very impressive. When you get rid of all the noise you have a kid who will likely play any 6’1 and 190lbs with very good speed, hands, vision and an elite IQ and shot to top it all off. Forget the last name this guy is going to be great.

    The reason I think he is going to be great is simply his ceiling. He was not going to be a first round selection because of his size and skating if we were to believe the reports last year. He has now brought his skating up to a very good level with great explosion over the summer. He can dominate in a league at 5’11” and 170 lbs what can he do at 6’1 190lbs while enhancing his skill set.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I kind of have a feeling that Nylander is not on Calgary’s top 6 players list as well. And it has more to do with me thinking there is a defensemen they see as the “best of the draft”

      Look at the 1st D-man taken in the last number of years:

      2015 – Noah Hannifin

      2014 – Aaron Ekblad

      2013 – Seth Jones

      2012 – Ryan Murray

      2011 – Adam Larsson

      2010 – Erik Gudbranson

      2009 – Victor Hedman

      2008 – Drew Doughty

      2007- Thomas Hickey

      Now not every one is knocked out of the park, but for the most part, chances are you will get a good to great player. Not every D-man picked first was the best of their draft year, but the Flames could very well be in a position to have their pick of the best defenseman of the draft, which is an enticing idea.

      Considering this and doing the same exercise as above, IMO the best D-man drafted in past years looks like this:

      2015 – Too early to tell, but Hannifin, Provorov and Werenski all could be really good

      2014 – Aaron Ekblad

      2013 – Seth Jones or Ristolinen?

      2012 – Morgan Rielly, Trouba or Gostisbehere?

      2011 – Dougie Hamilton or Jonas Brodin?

      2010 – Cam Fowler or Justin Faulk?

      2009 – Victor Hedman

      2008 – Drew Doughty

      2007 – Subban, McDonagh or Shattenkirk?

      My point is if the Flames trust their scouting staff, history suggests having your pick of the litter of the best D-man of the draft could very well yield huge dividends and that player is worth substantially more than a 2nd line winger with 1st line potential

        • freethe flames

          Interesting point is Sergachev had both more points and PIM’s than Chychrun. He is even a bit bigger. Looking at the draft it seems like a top three ledge, then two forwards(Dubious and Tkachuk) and then the three defenders. Nylander I think drops to 9 or lower.