TLN Top Twenty Prospects: #20 – Rinat Valiev

Kicking off our TLN Top Twenty Leafs Prospects is newcomer Rinat Valiev, a Russian defender drafted as an overager by the Leafs in the third round of the this past June’s NHL Entry Draft.

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Valiev’s journey to becoming an NHL prospect has been an unusual one, playing for four different teams in three different countries in the past three years.

In 2011-2012, Valiev jumped between Russian junior leagues as a member of Ak Bars Kazan’s junior affiliates, Bars Kazan and Irbis Kazan. Despite being drafted third overall in the 2012 KHL Junior Draft (ahead of the likes of Nikita Zadorov, Valeri Nichushkin and Tomas Hertl), Valiev chose to cross the Atlantic to continue his development.

Wishing to play in the CHL, but having not yet been drafted by a CHL team, Valiev spent one season in the USHL with the Indiana Ice. In 36 games, Valiev scored a pedestrian six goals and 13 points, returning to Russia following a season-ending injury. His status unclear, Valiev was passed over in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

After being selected by the Kootenay Ice in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, his stock stabilized. Valiev scored 28 points and was +27 in 55 games, establishing himself as a go-to guy on a thin Kootenay blueline and convincing the Leafs scouting department that he was worthy of a third round pick.

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Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison on selecting Valiev…

Valiev is an intelligent two-way defender with advanced skating ability. These skills all add up to a strong transition game, which allows Valiev to effectively collect pucks in his own end and safely advance them up the ice. 

As suggested by his just-decent stat line, Valiev is not a flashy offensive defenceman. There’s too much inconsistency in his point production to suggest this will be a strength going forward, having alternated between near point-per-game months and extended slumps this past year with Kootenay. However, Valiev’s hockey IQ and mobility suggest that he could develop into an effective top four defenceman at the NHL level, even if he won’t produce significant points.

Appearing on five of our nine writers’ lists, Valiev fended off Sam Carrick and Brandon Kozun to grab the last entry in our Top Twenty Leafs Prospects rankings. Ultimately, there’s raw potential here that the others just don’t have. Valiev will return to Kootenay this coming season and should become the team’s top, all-situations blueliner.

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  • STAN

    Almost all the great defensemen have been great thinkers, seers of the ice and the way the play is developing. Orr, Lidstrom, Neidermeyer, Coffee. I put Gardiner and Rielly in that category, although they still have a long way to go.

    Perhaps Valiev will be a sleeper pick.

  • STAN

    Sorry, but I disagree. Carrick simply has more raw tools than Valiev, who seems to lack any particular trait that sets him apart. A lot of people forget that Valiev is an over-ager who still hasn’t proven very much at the CHL level.

  • STAN

    While I really was impressed with June’s draft, I thought the team reached here a bit on a player who’s upside may not be as great as that of a younger player. I was hoping we would have selected Lernout here, a bigger, physical defenseman with alot of upside.

  • ZoneOut

    The impersonators are part of the reason why I rarely post here anymore. I don’t get the point? You’re just making yourself look like an idiot and completely derailing any meaningful conversations.

    Still better than the “Bozak rules, wtf Jeffler” posts, but not by much