Miroshnichenko may just be one of the most complicated players to assess and project this year for a variety of different reasons. The political climate in Russia, due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, has made the selection of Russian players at this year’s draft an extremely hot topic of discussion. In a “normal” year, Russian players can tend to fall at the draft because of fears that the allure of the KHL will be too strong but add in the complications as a result of the war (CHL ban, VISA issues, PR issues), and the expectation is that this will cause NHL teams to hesitate even more.
From a personal perspective, Miroshnichenko had a tough year because of his cancer diagnosis. The good news is that his treatment for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma was successful and that he is already back training for next year. The unfortunate news is that his health prevented him from being at his best for the majority of the year (and prevented him from finishing the year at all).
To complicate things further, we have the mysterious immigration issues that prevented Miroschnichenko from joining the USHL and CHL, in addition to delaying his arrival to last summer’s U18’s in Texas. Still, his combination of size, skill, and scoring ability make him very alluring. He was a man amongst boys at times at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup to start the scouting season (leading Russia to a gold medal), and his 10 goals at the VHL level as a U18 player were the most ever since the creation of the league. There are some concerns, which will be highlighted in this report, but the upside here is significant. Eliminate the health issues and the Russian political influence and is he a top ten or…even top five talent available this year?
|Ivan Miroshnichenko||Date of Birth: 2004-02-04|
|Position: LW, Shoots: R||H/W: 6'1", 185lbs|
|Stats to Date (GP-G-A-PTS):||Omskie Krylia, VHL (31-10-6-16)|
One of the things that makes Miroschnichenko so alluring is his combination of size and quickness on the wing. He is a very powerful linear skater. Moving North/South, he generates significant power in his strides, maximizing his stride length for optimal speed. He can use this to lead the attack to gain the offensive zone. He can use it to drive the net. He can use it to apply pressure on the forecheck or the backcheck. Miroschnichenko is also fairly agile, showing off strong pivoting skills when working the wall to help him evade checks to maintain possession. He can build speed quickly out of pivots, something that makes him dangerous on the powerplay and when leading the counterattack from the defensive zone.
As a transitional attacker, Miroschnichenko will also use linear crossovers to his advantage to disguise his directional intentions, making him difficult to slow down as he builds speed and changes direction simultaneously. However, there is an area where Miroschnichenko could stand to improve. His lack of stability and power when using his edges prevents him from being as strong East/West as he is North/South. When defenders take away his space early and defend him aggressively, an inability to make a sharp change of direction without sacrificing speed and balance can cause him to be separated from the puck and it limits his effectiveness. For power forward types like Miroschnichenko, this is often something that needs work and it is something that often does improve.
This cross-ice pass that gets intercepted is not a good look. However, this clip was chosen to show how Miroschnichenko builds speed as he tries to recover on the backcheck. Very impressive.
As mentioned, his skating ability allows Miroschnichenko to be dangerous on the counterattack. He makes a great defensive play in the neutral zone and then picks up speed quickly out of a pivot. This catches the defense off guard and all three end up focusing their attention on stopping him. He makes a great read and pass to then set up a streaking teammate for a scoring chance.
The result of this play is a goal. But it also shows his limited ability to create power when pushing off of his edges to change direction. At the higher levels (in both Russia and North America), that recovering defender is going to be more aggressive in taking away his space, and more mobile when it comes to dealing with his East/West movement. The move is nice and so is the shot, but in the NHL, that move isn’t likely to create the space he needs to get his shot off.
Another clip that shows Miroschnichenko’s limitations moving laterally. He has to come to a near complete stop to try to push back into the slot and the defender closes quickly, putting him on his behind. To create his own scoring chances consistently at the higher levels, he will need to be more fluid and more explosive on his edges.
At this point, Miroschnichenko’s finishing ability is probably his biggest asset. He can score in so many different ways. He can finish in tight with his skill and creativity; equally on his backhand or forehand, might I add. He can set up shop near the faceoff circle on the powerplay and has a lethal one timer. He can shoot in stride, using a snapshot or wrist shot to beat goaltenders clean from a distance. His release on both is quick and he elevates the puck quickly. His snap shot, in particular, is incredibly deceptive as he alters his release point. There is the occasional time where he can struggle to put pucks on net when given clear looks, his accuracy can be a little erratic. However, generally speaking, Miroschnichenko looks the part of a talented goal scoring power forward and his shot and scoring ability have to be considered among the best in this draft class.
What a ridiculous shot by Miroschnichenko at last summer’s U18’s. The Finnish defender gets frozen trying to decide whether to defend the Russian player down low or take away Miroschnichenko’s space. He capitalizes by stepping up, firing a quick snapshot top shelf.
Here is the one timer. He opens himself up and finishes this pass with authority. A lot of clips could have been used just like this one.
Firstly, Miroschnichenko makes an impressive play to corral this pass at full speed after initially bobbling it. Then he cuts to the middle and fires one back across his body, beating the goaltender clean from the far slot.
Miroschnichenko is a skilled attacker, but his game does have some limitations at this current moment. He is at his best down low and near the crease, where he uses his size to protect the puck and can finish equally well on his backhand and forehand. He has quick hands and is also poised under pressure, allowing him to wait out goaltenders, forcing them to make the first move. On the attack, Miroschnichenko can beat defenders one on one, exploiting their over aggressiveness to turn them inside out. If they are too passive, he can also feast on the space provided to attack and use his shot.
However, he is not the world’s most creative player. He can be stymied by both mobile defenders and defenders with size, who can take away his time and space quickly. As mentioned, he is a fairly predictable straight-line attacker with the puck. When he tries to play through or around these such defenders, he can be easily stripped of the puck and turnovers can result.
Additionally, Miroschnichenko can sometimes struggle to cleanly corral stretch passes when in full stride. Quite often, the pass has to be perfect for him. This can limit his reliability as an outlet option. He is most effective in transition when he is the one who circles back to the offensive zone and leads the charge as the primary option, rather than being the secondary one. I would expect that as he gets stronger and improves his four way mobility, some of these weaknesses will improve. Regardless, he still projects as someone with above average puck skill and finishing ability.
A heck of a play here by Miroschnichenko at last year’s U18’s. He gets tripped up, maintains possession and control while getting back to his feet, continues his drive, and freezes the Finnish netminder on the backhand.
This play shows Miroschnichenko’s speed and his finishing ability in tight. He tracks down the lob, gets behind the defense, and quickly cuts to the net to finish on the forehand.
Another strong finish in tight. He corrals the rebound, maneuvers around the netminder and tucks it in. A soft touch near the crease is required of all big wingers who consider themselves to be elite level goal scorers.
This is a great example of Miroschnichenko’s quick strike ability. When he plays with pace and urgency, he is at his most effective, blending his quickness with skill. He makes a move around one defender and then manages to stick with the play through a stick check to help set up a scoring chance in the slot.
This type of turnover seems to happen to Miroschnichenko a lot at the VHL level. Maybe not as much internationally against his peers, but playing against men, his North/South attacks become quite predictable. He picks up speed, gains the zone, and tries to force his way through traffic, resulting in a turnover. I could have used a lot of different clips just like this.
A similar kind of turnover just inside the blueline. This time as a result of a failed one on one move. Miroschnichenko needs to do a better job of protecting the puck. Not every single rush attempt needs to involve him beating a defender one on one to the outside. He needs to identify some of the limitations in his game at the pro level to simplify things. He could have chipped and chased there. He could have simply dumped it in. He could have tried to peel off and hold position along the wall. There is often an unwillingness to do this. Is this a false perception of his creativity being better than it is? A false sense of confidence?
This is the toughest category to assess in regards to Miroschnichenko. The application of his skill set is inconsistent, at best. The issue is, those inconsistencies seem to be tied to the age and experience of his competition. Against his peers, at international tournaments, Miroschnichenko looks a step ahead of the competition. He makes great plays in transition, shows good poise with the puck in the offensive zone, and even shows a strong playmaking side to his game, using his speed and skill to set up as many plays as he finishes off. At the VHL level, against men, the playmaking side of his game lacks refinement as he tries to force plays, resulting in turnovers.
The one area of his game that does seem to be consistent is his ability to read and react to the play in the offensive end without the puck. He consistently earns open looks by timing his cuts well or by anticipating where pucks might end up near the crease or in the slot. Defensively, the effort is consistent, but his awareness and positioning needs work. He backchecks hard, using his speed and size to break up plays. And he works hard along the wall to win 50/50 battles in any zone. However, he routinely finds himself turned around in the defensive end and can be caught puck watching. Additionally, he can be over-aggressive with his check attempts (both with his stick and body), leading him to be caught out of position. There is great potential for him to develop into a strong two-way player, but it may take time.
Love the patience here by Miroschnichenko. Puck rolls on him a bit as he tries to tuck it in on his backhand. Instead, he stays with the play, outwaits the defender and makes a great pass to a streaking teammate for the goal. He seems to make a lot of plays like this when he plays for Russia against age equivalent peers.
How about the vision and precision necessary to make this play? Miroschnichenko sells the cross ice pass and then makes the no-look feed to the far side of the net for the easy tap in.
This play from the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup against Czechia is impressive for a bunch of reasons. First, Miroschnichenko slips behind coverage and gets himself open in the slot, but then shows terrific poise with the puck to freeze the goaltender and defender before swinging it back to the net front for the easy put away by his teammate.
As mentioned, Miroschnichenko’s defensive engagement level is generally pretty high and he will work physically to be disruptive in all three zones. However, his awareness and positioning in the defensive end needs a lot of work. Lots of examples of plays like this, where he gets caught puck watching, ends up turned around, and the result is a goal from the slot.
Another example of a defensive miscue. Lots of examples of these types of plays too, where Miroschnichenko gets walked around trying to defend the point. His over-aggressiveness often gets used against him as defenders side step his checks.
How about a strong defensive read then? This is a great play by Miroschnichenko to jump the passing lane and lunge to chip it out to a waiting teammate to help seal the victory with an empty netter. Again, the effort is generally there, it’s the application that is not.
Miroschnichenko’s a pretty consistent physical presence on the ice. He uses his size and strength to help him win board battles. He is an aggressive body checker in pursuit of the puck, be it on the forecheck or the backcheck. He drives the net and is willing to take punishment to play near the crease. This is a power forward. There is some room for improvement though. At the VHL level, he can be too easily pushed off the puck and seems hesitant to pin the puck along the wall to prolong possession. As he gets stronger, I would expect that this becomes a non-issue. The same could be said for his effectiveness near the crease at the VHL level. He can struggle to shake free, and he can bungle good chances under pressure, only because he doesn’t have the strength to consistently win battles against men. Against his peers at international events, he can dominate physically, and defenders have a tough time separating him from the puck or moving him from the net front.
Great defensive play by Miroschnichenko from last summer’s U18’s. He provides great support to his defender who gets turned inside out by Sasha Pastujov and finishes his check to separate him from the puck, denying the scoring chance.
Miroschnichenko is a consistent physical presence through every phase of play. Here we see him finish a check on a Finnish player as he tries to cut through the middle in Russia’s end.
And here we see him using his physicality to apply pressure on the forecheck. He can be a scary presence for opposing defenders with his speed and tenacity.
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity