Newly signed Maple Leafs’ prospect Dmitry Ovchinnikov joins Marlies for playoff push
By Nick Barden8 months ago
Amidst a busy trade deadline at the NHL level, there’s been some news in the AHL for the Marlies organization.
One day shy of a month ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger Dmitry Ovchinnikov to a three-year entry-level contract. When Toronto announced the signing, they said the 19-year-old would join the Marlies “immediately upon the approval of his Canadian work permits.”
On Sunday afternoon, Ovchinnikov officially arrived in Toronto, posting this story on his Instagram.
Ovchinnikov is coming to North America after spending most of three-straight seasons in the MHL, which is Russia’s junior league. There, he totaled 135 points over a 116 game span. Ovchinnikov did get some time in the KHL, but never got enough ice-time to show what he’s capable of at that level.
The 19-year-old left-winger brings a lot to this Marlies team who’s currently pushing for a Calder Cup playoff berth. From watching him through a development day and practice, you clearly notice that one of his assets is his speed. Ovchinnikov might very well just be the fastest player on the Marlies.
A few other parts of his game that stick out are his stickhandling and shot. One of the more interesting things to see will be how his five-foot-eleven, 163 pound frame translates to the heavy AHL and North American hockey in general.
During Marlies practice on Wednesday, Ovchinnikov spent time both participating in drills and watching line rushes from afar with Josh Ho-Sang and Marc Michaelis. (Michaelis is making his way back from an injury he suffered in November.) At one point, the three were even working with Maple Leafs’ Director of Player Development, Danielle Goyette.
“You can definitely tell the skill level that he has,” said Marlies head coach Greg Moore about Ovchinnikov on Wednesday. “Very smooth skater, great ability with the puck, so we can definitely see what our organization sees in him, in terms of talent and potential. He’s fitting in well, today he looked good in practice. So, it’ll just be some time here to get him assimilated to the league, the level, and our systems and we’ll go from there.”
One of the biggest challenges for Ovchinnikov and the Marlies will be the language barrier. The 19-year-old barely speaks any English and when coming over from a new country, it could be difficult to learn systems and just the overall game in North America.
Luckily, the Marlies do have a few players who speak Russian who’ll help Moore with the teaching.
“It’s definitely something you have to be mindful of,” Moore said of the language barrier. “Luckily we have Nik Antropov, [Semyon] Der-Arguchintsev, [Mikhail] Abramov, we have guys that can help bridge that gap for us in talking with him and staff. We just come up with a plan of sitting with him one-on-one with those other guys and translating our details and going through them a little bit in more detial. A lot of the times in a meeting where I’m talking really fast and English isn’t your first language it can be tough to get it all in.
“So, we’re being mindful of that and making sure we’re putting in the right protocols to help him succeed.”
Like I said, Ovchinnikov spent a lot of time with Ho-Sang during Wednesday’s practice. The 19-year-old looked to be really keen on learning, but more importantly, just trying to fit in with his new team. It can always be a difficult transition to a different club, especially with a language barrier.
But from what we’ve seen from this Marlies team before and how close they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ovchinnikov already felt incredibly welcomed into the organization.
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