The Maple Leafs organization is currently experiencing the results of some poor drafting under the guidance of Mark Hunter, with a lack of young NHL-ready talent capable of stepping into the lineup and contributing on the cheap. Though Kyle Dubas has addressed that deficiency to some extent by signing value free agents and undrafted players out of Europe, he has also begun to rebuild the Leafs prospect system by hitting on some draft picks outside of the first round.
Landing Nick Robertson in the second round of the 2019 draft is the pick that stands out more than most, but it appears as though the Leafs may have secured another potential NHL weapon with their selection of Russian forward Mikhail Abramov in the fourth round of that same draft. Robertson’s breakout season grabbed most of the headlines in Leafs land last year but Abramov had a breakout of his own after being drafted, and established his place among the organization’s best prospects.
Weight: 185 lbs
Drafted: 2019 fourth round, 115th overall
What kind of player is he?
Abramov’s draft year was his first season in North America, and he made his mark with Victoriaville as a playmaking center with the ability to dictate play with the puck on his stick. He showed the vision to make quick decisions and difficult passes, but also an ability and willingness to hold onto the puck to create space for his teammates before completing a pass through traffic. Though he was dangerous as a shooter, Abramov didn’t rely on his shot as a weapon much in his first QMJHL season, and more often than not would work around the perimeter before setting up a teammate rather than using his quick feet and puck skills to get to scoring areas himself.
Mikhail Abramov is one of the QMJHL's most creative playmakers. He's so patient and crafty, cutting back and handling to open up the perfect lane. Can dish off the backhand. Completes high-end plays with pace. Impressed with the Leafs draft so far. pic.twitter.com/4KRx3uQk6u
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) June 22, 2019
Returning to Victoriaville after being chosen by the Leafs in the 2019 draft, Abramov wasted little time showing that he could be a lethal goal scorer as well as a slick set up man. He began taking the puck to the middle of the ice in the offensive zone with far more regularity, but also began firing shots at a much higher volume than he had in the past. Abramov’s got a deadly release on his wrist shot, able to get it off with power from multiple release points, and a heavy one timer that proved effective on the power play.
— QMJHL (@QMJHL) October 3, 2019
His shot is strong and accurate enough to beat goaltenders from distance but he has the skill to take the puck to the net and finish from in close as well. He has become a much more assertive and confident player in the last couple of seasons, and there are occasions in the QMJHL where he looks downright unstoppable.
A year ago, #LeafsForever prospect Mikhail Abramov doesn't make the below play. A year ago, he tries to throw a backhand pass to his streaking winger.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) April 22, 2020
Abramov isn’t exactly a shut down center but he thinks the game well enough to recognize where he’s supposed to be more often than not, and he supports the play well when he doesn’t have the puck. There’s all kinds of good stuff in the clip below, but it all starts with him maintaining good positioning as F3 in the offensive zone allowing him to thwart the breakout before reentering the zone and creating a goal for his team:
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) November 24, 2020
Abramov has all the tools to develop into a productive offensive player at the professional level, whether that’s in the middle or on the wing where he has lined up for Victoriaville on occasion. Given his slight frame and average defensive game, he likely ends up playing more wing than center once he graduates to the pro ranks but he’s a player that will provide some versatility. He has decent speed and above average edges, but adding some more explosiveness to his stride will help him succeed at the next level. Abramov already has a shot that can beat pro goaltenders, hands to make skillful plays under pressure, and his vision as well as his passing ability will only be enhanced by playing at a higher level with players that can take advantage of the opportunities he creates. It might take a few years but Abramov could very well end up as an offensively minded middle six forward that can be a threat on the power play from the half wall.
By the Numbers
Abramov had a solid, if unspectacular, first season in the QMJHL and finished third on his team in scoring with 54 points in 62 games. He followed up a strong regular season with an even better showing in the playoffs where he picked up another seven points in eight games before Victoriaville was eliminated.
With a season in North America under his belt, Abramov was practically the entire Victoriaville offense in 2019-2020 and finished with 35 more points than his next highest scoring teammate. That disparity speaks to just how much the Tigres relied on Abramov, and how little help he received. The biggest difference in Abramov’s production during his breakout campaign was the result of him shooting – and scoring – at a much higher volume than the season prior.
Abramov fired 244 shots on goal in 2019-2020 compared to just 167 in his rookie season, a difference of about 1.2 shots per game. This season has been mired in turmoil as Victoriaville has been one of several teams in the QMJHL to have their schedule severely impacted by the pandemic, but through nine games Abramov has been getting the puck on net even more frequently than he did last year. The shift in mentality from his first season has led to his name winding up in the goal column a lot more frequently, and he’ll need to make that translate to the pro level because he is at his best when he is dictating the play.
What’s next for Abramov?
After participating in the QMJHL’s temporary bubble environment and catching up on some time lost in November, Abramov departed for Russia where he will join his countrymen for their World Junior selection camp. It would be surprising if he didn’t crack the roster, and though Russia often favors players who are still playing in Europe, that doesn’t seem like as much of a stumbling block with Detroit Red Wings legend Igor Larionov coaching the team. There’s even a chance we could see Abramov playing alongside fellow Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov who is as safe a bet as anyone to earn a spot on the Russian squad.
With the QMJHL currently on pause after running into roadblocks throughout the early part of the season, it remains to be seen what the immediate future holds for Abramov upon completion of the World Juniors but the league appears determined to complete their season one way or the other.
Abramov will turn 20 years old in March, and having already signed his entry level contract with the Maple Leafs, he is likely destined to make the jump to professional hockey next season. As is the case with much of the hockey world, nobody knows what is in store for the AHL in the coming months and years, and if the Marlies aren’t a viable option next fall it’s possible we see Abramov head back to Europe on a temporary loan agreement much like Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is doing this season.
The consensus vote pegged Abramov as being 2-4 years away from breaking into the NHL but his already well developed offensive tool kit, combined with the fact that the Leafs are going to need to fill their roster with cheap contributors in the coming seasons, could put him on the NHL radar even sooner.
(Statistics from eliteprospects.com, Pick224.com,