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Photo Credit: Mike Gould

2021 FlamesNation Prospect Rankings: #20 Ilya Solovyov

Not many players selected in the seventh round of the NHL draft ever sign entry-level contracts.

Only seven months after being drafted, Ilya Solovyov did just that. The 21-year-old Belarusian agreed to terms with the Calgary Flames on a three-year NHL deal on Apr. 6, 2021.

Solovyov was only the third player from the Flames’ 2020 draft class to sign an entry-level deal, following Connor Zary and Yan Kuznetsov.

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Calgary selected both Zary and Kuznetsov in the top 50; Solovyov had to wait until pick No. 205 to join the Flames. Nearly a year later, all three appear primed to play significant roles with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League in 2021–22.

To be fair, Solovyov had a bit of a head start in his development. Born Jul. 20, 2000, Solovyov is the oldest member of Calgary’s 2020 class and had been passed over twice before finally being selected in his final round of draft eligibility. He earned his entry-level deal after an encouraging 2020–21 season in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Here’s the lowdown on what makes Solovyov our 20th-ranked prospect.


Ilya Solovyov
Left-handed defenceman
Born Jul. 20, 2000 (age 21) in Mogilev, BEL
6’3″, 210 pounds
Drafted in seventh round (205th overall) by CGY in 2020

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Solovyov spent his formative years training and playing hockey in Belarus, skating for the country’s U-17, U-18, and U-20 national teams before making the jump to North America for the 2019–20 season.

The Saginaw Spirit selected Solovyov with the 53rd pick of the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Solovyov, then 19, immediately made an impact for a strong Saginaw team, posting 40 points (seven goals, 33 assists) in 53 games.

According to Pick224, Solovyov logged huge minutes for Saginaw and positively influenced the team’s play. He led the Spirit with an estimated 22:11 of average ice-time per game and ranked eighth in scoring among all OHL defencemen in their draft-plus-two seasons.

With Solovyov on the ice at 5-on-5, Saginaw outscored its opposition by an eye-popping 79-41 margin. Without him, the Spirit scored 112 goals and conceded 96.

Solovyov was a dominant OHL defenceman in 2019–20. He was also one of the league’s older players. After being drafted by the Flames, Solovyov returned to Belarus and joined the top-tier Kontinental Hockey League with Dinamo Minsk.

Playing on a blue line also boasting the likes of Brennan Menell, Ryan Murphy, Vladislav Kolyachonok, and former Flames prospect Stepan Falkovsky, Solovyov managed to hold his own. He averaged 16:45 of ice-time in 41 regular season games with Dinamo, tallying two goals and nine points.

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Dinamo scored 17 goals and allowed 20 with Solovyov on the ice at even-strength during the regular season. Overall, Dinamo was outscored 174-167 en route to a seventh-place finish in the KHL’s Western Conference.

Solovyov managed an assist and averaged 19:18 of ice-time in five playoff games with Dinamo; at even-strength, the team outscored its opponents 5-2 with him on the ice.

Only six U-22 KHL defencemen, including New Jersey Devils first-round pick Shakir Mukhamadullin, scored more points than Solovyov in 2020–21. After signing with the Flames in April, he represented Belarus the following month at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Latvia.

Here’s how Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting describes Solovyov’s play at both ends of the ice:

Ilya Solovyov is a defensive defenseman, but he does have some offensive upside. You will see instances in which he jumps into the cycle, sets up a give and go with a forward in the corner. He then skates to the slot and captures possession of the pass from the forward and scores. It’s just not as consistent as you would hope it to be. […]

The defensive zone is where he stands out. He’s got an active stick and looks to extend his stick, pokecheck and grab possession of the puck in the corners. When defending puck carriers, he generally doesn’t assert himself too closely in low danger along the half-wall, but will throw his body around in the corners. You can also expect him to be physical at net-front and push his opponents away. Solovyov will bend down and generate shot blocks. Even if he gets hurt on the shot block, he will get up, grab possession of the puck and complete a zone exit pass while in discomfort. Solovyov is rather quiet in the neutral zone offensively and prefers to instill the rush with a lateral breakout pass from behind his own net. Defensively in the neutral zone, he looks to extend his stick out and aim to keep attackers away from the blue line.

Expectations for 2021–22

Solovyov is one of 14 defencemen currently projected to be in the Flames organization on an NHL contract when the puck drops on the 2021–22 season. With no further additions, here’s how those rearguards would likely be split between the NHL and AHL (handedness in parentheses):

  •  NHL: Noah Hanifin (L), Chris Tanev (R), Rasmus Andersson (R), Nikita Zadorov* (L), Juuso Valimaki* (L), Oliver Kylington (L), Connor Mackey* (L)
  • AHL: Johannes Kinnvall (R), Yan Kuznetsov (L), Kevin Gravel (L), Nick DeSimone (R), Andy Welinski (R), Ilya Solovyov (L), Colton Poolman (L)

* – currently unsigned

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Solovyov will almost certainly start the 2021–22 season with the Stockton Heat. He’s on an entry-level deal and could be assigned to the ECHL but his KHL experience likely renders such a move unnecessary.

Gravel, Welinski, Kuznetsov, and Kinnvall could form Stockton’s top four on defence to start the season. Solovyov will potentially occupy a third-pairing role — potentially opposite the offensive-minded DeSimone — out of the gate in 2021–22 and could be counted upon to kill penalties.

If Solovyov were to crack the NHL during his entry-level contract, he’d cost a pro-rated $828,333 against the salary cap. His deal carries a $750,000 base NHL salary and $70,000 in signing bonus money in all three years; it also pays him $80,000 in the AHL.

Solovyov is hardly a “sure thing” prospect. He was picked in the seventh round of the NHL draft only 10 months ago and is unlikely to receive big minutes as a first-year AHL player.

Nevertheless, Solovyov has all the upside and the high-level experience necessary to be a top-20 prospect — and here he is.

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2021 FlamesNation Prospect Rankings

The no-votes | On the bubble | #20 Ilya Solovyov