About the League
We present to you the list of top Junior Hockey League players in the 2020-21 season with comments by KHL TV experts Artyom Bozhko and Kirill Kornilov. In total the list consists of 20 players, who truly stood out in Junior Hockey League’s 12th season.
20. Yegor Guskov (Loko Yaroslavl)
64 games. 45 wins. 2.05 goals against average. 0.933 save percentage. 15 shutout wins
Loko Yaroslavl made it to 2021 Kharlamov Cup Finals largely due to great performance by Yegor Guskov. As the matter of fact Yaroslavl goaltending development should be given proper credit – every year we get to learn a new name. It began at the time when Anton Krasotkin played for Loko. He was followed by Ilya Konovalov, who was replaced last season by Vladislav Okoryak. This past season it was Yegor Guskov who stepped into the spotlight, setting a new Junior Hockey League record for shutout wins in a single season. He was able to post 13 shutout wins over the course of the regular season.
Guskov got injured in the playoffs, effectively stripping Loko of a chance to make another run at winning a championship title. Guskov is a mentally consistent goaltender who plays for a rather system-comes-first team. As a result, he doesn’t face a lot of shots on a nightly basis. Nevertheless, when Yaroslavl were up against tough competition – JHC Dynamo Moscow and SKA-1946 St. Petersburg – Guskov always gave his team a chance to win. He can play against weaker opposition as well as bringing his A-game against stronger adversary. He didn’t get all of his shutout wins against the likes of Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk and Taifun Primorie Region. He’s excellent at almost every goaltending skill – he’s great at sliding on his pads and his stretching is commendable. The injury he got had nothing to do with technical flaws but, nevertheless, it will require a certain time to recover from.
Due to not being of a large frame Guskov opts for a rather aggressive style and moves around the crease a lot. He reads the play well and helps out his skaters. Loko Yaroslavl allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference. We have to give proper credit to Yaroslavl skaters as well – they tend to block a lot of shots. Loko give the opposition almost no second chance opportunities.
19. Vladislav Lukashevich (Loko Yaroslavl)
41 games, 20 (3 goals, 17 assists) points
Vladislav Lukashevich is one of the most promising defensemen born in 2003. Despite the injury he got during the season, which forced him to play less than half of the regular season games, he managed to score 19 points. Lukashevich is great both on a power play and in his defensive zone. He was first called up to Junior Hockey League back in the 2019-20 season. Moreover, playing alongside with players born in 1999 and 2000 he didn’t look like a kid, who just came out of a junior hockey school, but as solid player, despite playing in a face mask.
Lukashevich is the kind of defenseman who can doesn’t do anything unnecessary. It would be very difficult to find any negatives in his game. He doesn’t make simple mistakes. Loko Yaroslavl is a system-comes-first team and every player is positioned right where he belongs, which gives more freedom for defensemen. They know what they have to do and when they can join offensive rushes. Lukashevich has a potential of growing into a Daniil Misyul-like player, who is also a member of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl system. Misyul played as a forward until he turned 14 years old – that’s where his offensive skillset comes from. As for Lukashevich, he’s a natural defenseman who has a knack for joining offensive rushes at the right time.
He definitely has a decent shot. He scored goals against Almaz Cherepovets and SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. However, his greatest asset is the way he sees the ice. He has a knack for identifying the right moment to make a play and uses it to his advantage. As we have said before, he doesn’t do anything unnecessary, which is an important quality for a young player who wants to move to a higher level. Players like Lukashevich get an opportunity to compete in Kontinental Hockey League almost immediately, especially on teams coached by Andrei Skabelka.
18. Nikolai Makarov (Krasnaya Armiya Moscow)
43 games, 6 (1 goal, 5 assists) points
Nikolai Makarov didn’t just make a name for himself in Junior Hockey League. He made Team Russia’s final cut for the 2021 U18 IIHF World Championship and came back with a silver medal. He didn’t score score any goals at the tournament and neither did he in Junior Hockey League regular season. Makarov scored his only goal of the season in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. Unlike Vladislav Lukashevich, he is a classic stay-at-home defenseman. Makarov has a big frame, he can hold his own and step up for his teammates. It’s not for nothing that he has already played for all three teams within CSKA Moscow system. Out of three young defensemen within the system – Artyom Duda, Vladimir Grudinin and Nikolai Makarov – it is the latter who has a better chance of becoming a regular on KHL team.
17. Vasily Machulin (JHC Dynamo Moscow)
76 games, 26 (9 goals, 17 assists) points
The blue-and-white were unbelievable this season – JHC Dynamo Moscow lived up to the status of one of the main contenders of the year and Vasily Machulin, undeniably, was a huge part of that success. He bulked up and became a large-framed and huge defenseman. Machulin has a decent shot and he almost never loses battles for the puck in the corner. He can be compared to Yegor Zaitsev, who also wasn’t quite dominant but has showed from his early days on KHL’s Dynamo Moscow that he is able to play tough and come out on top from physical battles.
Vasily Machulin has a vivid offensive streak about him – he scored nine goals to lead all Dynamo defensemen in that statistical category. He is not afraid to join offensive rushes and he shoots well from the blue line. Notably, this Dynamo defenseman has a decent wrist shot and slapshot – everything shot-wise is well-developed by him. Not only was he Dynamo’s key defenseman in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs, it’s quite difficult to imagine Dynamo without him. Machulin almost never left the ice on penalty kill and it’s impossible to see the blue-and-white going all the way to hoist the cup with him out of the lineup. It wouldn’t be surprising to see plenty of players called up from Junior Hockey League to KHL’s Dynamo Moscow now that Alexei Kudashov is at the helm.
16. Semyon Demidov (Russkie Vityazi Moscow Region)
58 games, 50 (21 goals, 29 assists) points
Semyon Demidov showed very good productivity this year as he averaged just under a point per game. Russkie Vityazi didn’t make the playoffs but Demidov fully deserves to be on the list. If you take a look at the players who were called up to KHL, it doesn’t seem unlikely that Demidov also has a bright future ahead of him. He’s a scorer with a good shot and amazing puck-distributing skills. He also was the captain of his junior hockey school team. It’s easier for players of Demidov’s caliber to prove their worth on mediocre teams, while Russkie Vityazi put a lot of trust in their young skaters.
15. Ivan Miroshnichenko (Omskie Yastreby)
20 games, 15 (5 goals, 10 assists) points
Ivan Miroshnichenko is one of the biggest Junior Hockey League stars. He missed almost half of the season, practiced individually and became one of the key players on Omskie Yastreby almost right away. In the 2019-20 season the ‘Hawks’ made serious adjustments to their roster and got much younger, which is an upside for Miroshnichenko as he received much more ice-time. This young player has a professional approach to his job and doesn’t have any trouble regarding his physical conditioning. Perhaps, when we talk about forwards of this generation, Miroshnichenko has the best shot among them all. He’s a right-handed forward which is rare. At the 2021 U18 IIHF World Championship we saw how many times the puck went in as a result of his shots.
14. Nikita Guslistov (Almaz Cherepovets)
26 games, 23 (14 goals, 9 assists) points
For the 18-year-old hockey player the past season was nothing short of amazing, but he didn’t spend that much time in Junior Hockey League. Talent multiplied by work ethic – that’s the best way to describe Nikita Guslistov. He got off to a great start in Junior Hockey League, got his chance in Kontinental Hockey League and made the most out of the ice-time he received. He has already made Kontinental Hockey League history as the youngest Russian born player to score a hat-trick and to be named captain.
Guslistov turned his life upside down in just a matter of a year as he was given the role of Almaz Cherepovets leader and he fully lived up to it. Kontinental Hockey League coaches spot guys like him almost immediately – and Severstal Cherepovets head-coach Andrei Razin didn’t call him up just to be one the bench-warmers. Guslistov has a chance to make huge progress if he’s going to be trusted. And scoring the hat-trick against Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg is a great example of that. Some young players struggle with making the jump to men’s hockey but Guslistov didn’t have any trouble with that, skipping the VHL stage altogether.
13. Ilya Kvochko (Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk)
53 games, 29 (10 goals, 19 assists) points
This is a Magnitogorsk wunderkind, who back in day played alongside Ivan Miroshnichenko at Youth Olympic Games. Ilya Kvochko is, perhaps, the best center forward born in 2004. He is able to deal with a lot of grinding, which is necessary at his position. He’s a 2-way center, who is equally good at offense and defense. The Kantserov-Kvochko-Zhugin line is the real motor of their team. They make opposing defensemen make mistakes with their quick movements and criss-crossing.
Stalnye Lisy head-coach Denis Platonov didn’t break up the line. The trio are given a lot of trust and they grew confident in themselves. Stalnye Lisy are putting together one of the strongest teams of the Eastern Conference. Notably, Magnitogorsk rejuvenated their lineup quite a bit. Metallurg Magnitogorsk head-coach Vladimir Vorobyov has a lot of great options regarding his future roster.
12. Alexander Pashin (Tolpar Ufa)
50 games, 55 (25 goals, 30 assists) points
Alexander Pashin can be compared to Ilya Kvochko. Both players have a great skillset and scoring chance conversion rate. However, Pashin stands out by his ability to finish off offensive rushes. He’s a hockey player who’s more offense-minded. He was consistent in the regular season in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. Despite the fact that Tolpar received several KHL’s Salavat Yulayev Ufa players as reinforcements for the post-season such as Rodion Amirov, Daniil Bashkirov and others, it was Pashin who provided Ufa’s major junior team with energy and was the leader in the dressing-room and on the ice. It should also be noted that Tolpar follow an interesting game-model, which is aimed at fancy plays in the offensive zone. In the 2019-20 season Tolpar Ufa, coached by Mikhail Vasiliev, led the Eastern Conference in scoring and in the previous season the team’s forwards, coached by Igor Grishin, had also put their skill on display.
In certain games Pashin was able to make the difference almost by himself as he would score a lot of points. Pashin’s biggest asset is his speed, which allows him to be consistent. He was already given a chance to prove his worth on VHL’s Toros Neftekamsk and got called up to Salavat Yulayev. Pashin has everything it takes to be a top-scorer. All he has to improve on is the mental side of the game.
11. Prokhor Poltapov (Krasnaya Armiya Moscow)
67 games, 55 (27 goals, 28 assists) points
The biggest problem with Prokhor Poltapov is his scoring chance conversion rate. He creates a lot in front of the net by himself. If he could capitalize on every opportunity he creates, the young forward would score up to 80 points a season. Poltapov is a very skilled player. There aren’t many skilled players like him in CSKA Moscow system. Krasnaya Armiya plays with system-comes-first attitude – the ‘right’ way – and it’s difficult to single anybody out on their roster. And yet Prokhor Poltapov is the one who finds a way to be unorthodox at making decisions.