Most people have Vitali Abramov ranked ahead of where the Penguins’ pick is eventually going to sit for the Leafs, but there’s enough doubt that he’s certainly worth writing about. After all, Abramov’s a super-skilled 5″9′ Russian winger who needs to improve his defensive game. That just screams draft slide doesn’t it?
So let’s take a look at Abramov’s game and see whether or not the Leafs should be interested, if Abramov is in fact available when one of their two picks after Auston come around.
When I watch Abramov play I see a real play-driving offensive force. Think of those guys that when they’re on the ice are usually the ones with the puck on their stick – for the Leafs that’s been the likes of Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel, and Nazem Kadri. Abramov is much in the same vein.
And I just really like the way that all of his skills come together. He’s got good top-end speed and acceleration, he can gain entry into the zone, he’s a crafty puck-handler, he’s got some real velocity on his shot, and he can make creative albeit not usually high-end passes.
He reminds me of guys like Travis Konecny and Daniel Sprong last year where I would just watch them and see the sort of dynamic skill-set they have and say to myself, “these guys can just flat-out play”. In turn, that left me wondering why they weren’t ranked higher. Abramov is one of those guys for me – he’s just really skilled and, if you want to boil this down way simpler than it should go, just think of it like this: Abramov can flat-out play.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Here’s Corey Pronman on the skilled Abramov:
landed in North America with a bang, as one of the top-scoring 17-year-olds in
the CHL and the highest scorer on the Olympiques by 20 points. He’s a
well-rounded offensive player with a lot of flair to his game. Abramov is a
skilled, confident puck handler who can make dynamic stick plays with
consistency. He shows a lot of creativity in how he cerates space and tries to
generate scoring chances. And he displays above-average to high-end vision, as
well. Abramov is a slippery and quick skater who can be very difficult to check
in open ice, given his speed and how well he spins off pressure. His size is a
hindrance, as he comes in at about 5-fot-9, but he works hard to try to get
pucks. He could improve his defense, as he can take too many risks trying to
In short, Abramov has a skill-set that makes him a potential top-six forward in the NHL.
Yes, Abramov has great numbers too. On a basic level, his 1.48 points per game and 3.52 shots per game are among the best in the draft class. For example, Pierre-Luc Dubois had a 1.60 points per game and a 3.81 shots per game, while Alex Nylander had a 1.32 points per game and 3.12 shots per game.
Abramov doesn’t figure to be a top ten pick like those guys though.
What’s interesting, however, is that when you look at the list of CHL forwards taken between 11th and 30th overall since 2005 that had a points per game of at least 1.40, you see a pretty good group of players:
The players highlighted in blue are under 6″0′ tall.
Here’s a more in-depth comparison between Abramov and Dubois. As we can see, while Dubois comes out ahead, Abramov isn’t far off:
If we turn out attention to pGPS, Abramov does well, albeit with few comparables:
pGPS n: 6
pGPS s: 2
pGPS %: 33.3
pGPS P/G: 0.72
pGPS R: 0.24
It’s not surprising that Abramov has few comparables given that he’s both very productive and very small. For example, Evgeni Svechnikov had no comparables in PCS last year given that he was very productive and, opposite to Abramov, very tall. It’s something to take note of with Abramov, but I’d be pretty hesitant to punish him for it.
We also see the NHL P/G of his 2 successful comparables (Stephan Labeau and Daniel Briere) was 0.72, which translates to 59 points over an 82 games in the NHL. Pretty good for someone that might not even be drafted in the first round.
SHOULD THE LEAFS BE INTERESTED?
Hell yeah the Leafs should be interested. People can say what they want about the Leafs needing to draft a defenseman with their next pick after Matthews, but for my money the forwards in this range are much better than the defensemen. Couple this with the fact that it’s much harder to get good forwards later in the draft than it is defensemen, plus the general fact that the draft is generally a crapshoot past the top ten, and you’ve got a situation where taking the best player available is the much-preferred route.
And as we can see, there’s a good chance that, if still available, Abramov would be that best player.