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 this part we take a look at the Top-10 players, who truly stood out in Junior Hockey League’s 12th season.
Yegor Gromovik (Chayka Nizhny Novgorod)
54 games. 32 wins. 1,83 goals against average. 0.937 save percentage. 10 shutout wins
We kicked off the previous part with Yegor Guskov – today it’s his counterpart Yegor Gromovik, the top goaltender of the Eastern Conference. Chayka Nizhny Novgorod finished on top of the conference in the regular season, while Gromovik posted ten shutout wins. He’s not tall but agile and is similar in style to Salavat Yulaev Ufa’s netminder Juha Metsola. Gromovik is a little shorter than Guskov but he’s just a calm and confident. It’s not for nothing that this young goaltender players almost every regular season game.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod gives a lot of opportunities to its junior hockey school alumni – look no further than Andrei Tikhomirov for proof. If Gromovik is going to begin the upcoming season playing at the same level, it’s wouldn’t be surprising to see head-coach David Nemirovsky take notice. Besides, Torpedo once again has a farm team in VHL and Gromovik appears to be too good for Junior Hockey League and has to move forward. Torpedo is a team that can give young players opportunities to prove their worth. Nizhny Novgorod lets in too many goals, while Gromovik not only posted ten shutout wins but also allowed very few goals. Chayka led the league with just 102 conceded goals.
Many pundits believed that Chayka’s result stems from the fact that Nizhny Novgorod didn’t have a farm team in VHL last season and there were a lot of players who had to play at lower tier. However, Chayka’s team work should be given proper credit as well. Nizhny Novgorod scored a lot of goals and conceded very few. It’s a lot easier for a goaltender to play under these conditions. Gromovik has a very promising future. He should feel very comfortable in men’s hockey in about a year or two.
Yegor Savikov (Ladiya Togliatti)
56 games, 34 (4 goals, 30 assists) points
Yegor Savikov led all 2002 born defensemen in points. Savikov was a Junior Hockey League rookie last season and he has raised a bar quite high for himself. Luckily, he has room to grow in terms of club vertical – there’s Ladiya Togliatti but there’s also Lada. Savikov isn’t big-framed but he plays with his heart on his sleeve. The fact that he captained Ladiya while still wearing full face mask speaks volumes. Besides, Savikov is the only defenseman on this list, who led his entire team in scoring.
Dmitry Kostenko, who is Ladiya’s leading and very skilled defenseman, played very few games. Had he played more games, perhaps Savikov would have been given a different role. Not every player is able to pounce on such opportunity, but Yegor did.
Vasily Shumilov (Tolpar Ufa)
47 games, 21 (5 goals, 16 assists) points
17-year-old defenseman was on Team Russia extended roster for the latest U18 IIHF World Championship but didn’t make the final cut. Tolpar has a rather experienced defense. Pavel Yelizarov logged a lot of ice-time but Vasily Shumilov raised his game to new level. He has great offensive skills, which he was able to improve last off-season. Shumilov played with confidence and without defensive collapses during the entire regular season, averaging over 20 minutes a game.
Shumilov is a right-handed defenseman, which is rare for Junior Hockey League. However, having praised his offensive skills, it should be noted that his defensive abilities are not on the same level. When he’s going to bulk up and get more effective in physical battles, he’s future is going to look more promising.
Alexander Figurin (Omskie Yastreby Omsk)
49 games, 9 (1 goal, 8 assists) points
Alexander Figurin made the final cut for Team Russia at made his debut at a very important tournament - 2021 U18 IIHF World Championship. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman and plays hard to win. Figurin compensate for what he lacks anthropometrically with his good skating. He played his first full season in Junior Hockey League. Omskie Yastreby development concept helped him to gain experience. Had Figurin found himself on the team two years ago, his chances of making the cut would have been different. The team rejuvenated its roster and that is the reason why he found himself on the second defensive pairing.
He wasn’t the difference-maker at the U18 IIHF World Championship but he did his job well. A defensive-minded defenseman should be unnoticeable on the ice. TV pundit and former NHLer Alexander Khavanov mentioned that a good defenseman is like a woman’s make-up. It should be unnoticeable but underlining qualities. It’s true for Figurin’s play as well.
Matvei Michkov (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg)
55 games, 55 (36 goals, 19 assists) points
Matvei Michkov is the superstar of Junior Hockey League and we could talk about him endlessly. The way he played last season doesn’t really leave us a choice. Michkov has beaten every possible record for U17 players. He set new highs for goals and points. He was just two goals short at the 2021 U18 IIHF World Championship to beat Alexander Ovechkin’s record for goals at a single tournament. Still, to score 12 goals in seven games is absolutely unbelievable.
Michkov always knows where the puck is going to be. He’s a bit of a mixture of several players in terms of style, which makes it difficult to compare him to someone particular. Besides, Michkov says it himself that he wants to look like no other. Michkov is a forward with explosive speed and great sense of distance. He avoids physical contact well and makes the most out of the most unorthodox situations. Michkov finds ways to take unexpected shots to surprise defensemen and goaltender. Many forwards take their time to get the shot ready, while Michkov uses the flex of his stick well – his release is phenomenal as the puck leaves the blade of his stick instantly and surprises goaltenders. He is definitely ready to play in VHL.
Danila Yurov (Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk)
26 games, 28 (15 goals, 13 assists) points
Danila Yurov is a player with almost no weaknesses. It would be difficult to single out any one component of Yurov’s game – he’s great at puck distribution and he has a great shot. Yurov proved once again that he’s too good for Junior Hockey League level as he looked decent in Kontinental Hockey League playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Head-coach Ilya Vorobyov mentioned that had Yurov developed better physically, he would have been given more ice-time.
Aside from making KHL debut, Yurov also scored goals and picked up assists. He also had a tally in a playoff game against future Gagarin Cup champions Avangard Omsk. While Kvochko lacks size, Yurov is a forward with no downsides who can pressure the defense, win net front puck battles, take shots and stickhandle. His well-roundness as a player should be commended. Aside from playing on the wing, he’s equally good at center.
Ilya Fedotov (Chayka Nizhny Novgorod)
54 games, 48 (18 goals, 30 assists) points
Ilya is the youngest of Fedotov brothers and he still plays in full face mask. He’s a 2003 born forward and he already makes very mature and unorthodox decisions. He can score goals taking shots between the legs and off one-timers. Fedotov is good at everything but, obviously, he still lacks physical strength. There are a lot of players on Chayka Nizhny Novgorod who have to make a step forward. Not many are going to be able to get to Kontinental Hockey League level right away, like Severstal Cherepovets’ forward Nikita Guslistov did, and that is exactly why they need a boost in VHL. Fedotov is exactly one of those players.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod head-coach David Nemirovsky is very fond of skilled players and Ilya Fedotov can grow up to be one. In terms of style he reminds of Sergei Mozyakin – he’s small-sized but good luck trying to catch him with a hip-check or separate him from the puck any other way. Fedotov made his Junior Hockey League debut last season and yet managed to score 38 goals. Perhaps, his anthropometrics are his biggest downside but he’s still very young and has time to bulk up.
Dmitry Zugan (Krasnaya Armiya Moscow)
68 games, 41 (16 goals, 25 assists) points
Dmitry Zugan can be described as one of the forwards who makes the fastest progress. He’s one of the most creative center forwards in Junior Hockey League. Zugan is very good at starting offensive rushes from his own zone. If he has gained speed, it’s almost impossible to stop him. He’s a small-sized forward but he has a very important tool in his arsenal – he never switches off his hands while working with his legs. Zugan has great hand-eye coordination and he can beat anyone in one-on-one situations.
He can grow into an elite center forward even for CSKA Moscow, coached by Igor Nikitin. Zugan made the extended roster for U20 Team Russia prior to the Black Sea Cup. That means that he has piqued interest of head-coach Igor Larionov.
Dmitry Ovchinnikov (Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk)
40 games, 51 (20 goals, 31 assists) points
A Chiti junior hockey school alumnus, Dmitry Ovchinnikov scored 51 points in 40 for Sibirskie Snaipery last season. He’s a complete player who play at both center and wings. He has been on display for some time now and it’s not surprising to see him put up high numbers. Ovchinnikov’s future in Kontinental Hockey League is going to depend on Sibir Novosibirsk head-coach Andrei Martemyanov. Novosibirsk major junior team has a great cluster of players, which means their men’s team is unlikely to impede their way up.
Alexander Kisakov (JHC Dynamo Moscow)
75 games, 83 (41 goals, 42 assists) points
This JHC Dynamo Moscow forward got to hoist the Kharlamov Cup in the spring. Alexander Kisakov put up great numbers and was without a doubt a leader of his team. The Makhrin-Kisakov-Lukhovsky line showed mature game. Kisakov was one of the leaders on U18 Team Russia consisted of player who were born in 2002, which missed the world championship due to coronavirus. He shows a great level of play in Junior Hockey League, which means he should get an opportunity to prove his worth on the Kontinental Hockey League team from head-coach Alexei Kudashov.
Kisakov is one of the most experienced players on this list. The 2020-21 season was his third in Junior Hockey League. While Yurov has outgrown the league’s level in one season, Kisakov was able to pull it off only this year. However, the entire line Kisakov plays on should be given proper credit. Dmitry Subbotin, whose job on Yaroslav Lyuzenkov’s staff is to work with forwards, has said that it was very pleasant to work with the entire trio. They absorb information like sponges and are quick to bring it to life on ice. The line was put together quite unexpectedly but they were good from the onset. They understood each other from half a glance. Sometimes it’s not even necessary for the players to discuss something first as they understand each other perfectly. The ambience on the line is amazing – there were no quarrels or struggle for power. Everyone had a role to play. Makhrin, as the most experienced player on the line, tended to dish the puck out more often and supported offensive rushes with second chances, while making a difference at face-off. Lukhovsky is the outstanding goal-scorer of the line and Kisakov was always great at finding open ice and didn’t have any trouble finishing off his scoring chances.