Alex Ovechkin. Nikita Kucherov. Evgeni Malkin. Artemi Panarin. The Russian hockey circuit has produced several all-stars in the game today. Not to mention, all the Russian all-stars of days past, like Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure and more. In the 2022 NHL draft, there are several Russian youngsters who could very well be the next in line. At the top of many lists is forward Danila Yurov.
Danila Yurov leading the way for Russia
Yurov, born December 22nd, 2003 in Chelyabinsk, Russia, is a 17-year-old right winger. He stands at 6’1” and 179 pounds. Playing in the Metallurg Magnitogorsk system, Yurov has been ranked in the top-10 consistently by experts and various sites. He’s been ranked fourth by The Puck Authority and Smaht Scouting, fifth by Draft Prospects Hockey, Recruit Scouting, and FC Hockey, sixth by Elite Prospects and McKeen’s Hockey, seventh by Sportsnet and Craig Button, eighth by Bob McKenzie, and ninth by Dobber Prospects. On my list, Yurov ranks fifth.
Back in his 15-year-old season, Yurov made his MHL debut, playing in 18 games with six goals and seven assists for 13 points. He played an additional 19 games with the Magnitogorsk U17 team, scoring seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points. In his 16-year-old season, Yurov made his KHL debut, starring in 21 games with two points. Additionally, he played 23 MHL games with 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points. Finally, this season, Yurov has appeared in 21 KHL games, without recording a point. Meanwhile, he played in six MHL games with three goals and nine assists for 12 points.
Danila Yurov Scouting Report
Yurov has been given an early crack at every league in Russia to this point. He made an early debut in the MHL and KHL leagues, a rarity for such a young kid. In Russia, the focus is on winning, not developing the younger players. The fact he has been not only given a KHL opportunity for 20+ games, but to do it in back-to-back seasons before turning 18 years old is a massive achievement. What skills does Yurov possess that has allowed him to accomplish these impressive feats in a daunting hockey circuit?
Danila Yurov: Is he an Elite Skater?
Yurov is an interesting skater. He doesn’t possess blazing speed, necessarily. It’s not that he can’t win foot races by any means, however. But there’s explosiveness in his skating that shows some promise that he can become a much more fluid and efficient skater. The issue as of right now is some of the technical ability. When skating at full speed, Yurov’s strides become smaller and choppier, which holds back some of his explosiveness in a straight line. His ankle and knee bend also need some tweaks, but it’s more of a consistency issue with having the right flexion rather than trying to learn new habits with his skating.
The best attribute that Yurov’s skating possesses, however, are his edges. Yurov can complete tight turns without losing speed, stop on a dime, and transition from skating backwards to forwards effortlessly. His edgework will be the foundation of his skating for the long run, but his overall speed despite his technical abilities needing some work paints a picture of promise moving forward. With NHL coaching, Yurov could become one excellent skater.
High-Danger Russian Machine
Yurov is a monster in the offensive zone, based on data gathered across three MHL contests. He generated a lot of high-danger chances through both his passing and his shooting. To start, let’s talk about his passing skills. Yurov can be the most conservative passer at times, focusing on controlling possession and making the simple, low-danger passes. On the other hand, Yurov can be the most up-tempo player in the offensive zone, dissecting the opposition’s defense and working passes into the high-danger areas of the ice. There isn’t much of an in-between.
Across those three MHL games, Yurov attempted 75 passes in the offensive zone, completing 61 of them (81.33%). For comparison, in the same span of games, Shane Wright completed 47 of 55 passes (85.45%) and Logan Cooley completed 57 of 61 passes (93.44%). While Yurov is the least accurate, there is a reason, as he attempted 17 high-danger passes (Wright had 13 and Cooley six) and he completed 52.94% of them. That means that 22.67% of his passes were aimed at high-danger areas. Meanwhile 74.67% of his passes were aimed towards low-danger, showing his conservative style in spades.
Danila Yurov’s Shooting Ability
As for his shooting, Yurov can be dangerous. While his shot does feature a quick release and good power, there are some inconsistencies with that said power. There are times where he can laser the puck from long distance and other times where it barely poses a threat. The main issue that I found, however, was accuracy. He hit the net plenty of times, but a good portion of his shots hit the goalie square in the chest. Working on becoming more accurate and bulking up to add more power could go a very long way in making his offensive abilities that much more dangerous.
Across three MHL games, Yurov attempted 26 shots with 20 being on net (76.92%) Of those attempts, two were goals, and 57.69% were from high-danger. When comparing the percentage of shots coming from high-danger to that of Wright’s and Cooley’s, there’s a bit of separation. Wright fired 31.82% of his shots from high-danger, while Cooley fired 55.56%.
What do these numbers tell us?
Essentially, what all this tells us is the style of game that Yurov plays. He is an up-tempo player who also knows when to settle things down and make smart and safe decisions. He can play through the slot effectively and work the perimeter and be a threat. That said, it’s difficult to defend Yurov effectively, as he can play you in several different ways.
On top of his difficult style to defend, Yurov has a high hockey IQ and good vision, both with and without the puck. He finds soft spots in coverages to be open for teammates, and he can spot openings rather quickly, which helps him exploit the opposition’s mistakes. Add his strong stickhandling, and you have a young kid who has a bright future in terms of offensive ability. However, there are still flaws. Yurov can, at times, force plays and turn the puck over. He’ll either try to do too much on his own and give the puck away, or he will force a pass into tight coverage and miss. These things can be worked on, and with an NHL coaching staff, should get ironed out.
Danila Yurov’s Transitional Abilities
Yurov is an exceptional transitional player. He is extremely efficient moving through the neutral zone. In fact, he may be the best transitional player in the class. His speed is solid, as mentioned, and his edge work is excellent, allowing him to skate his way through traffic. His vision while carrying the puck is also great, as he can identify open skating lanes very quickly. Add to those solid traits his stickhandling ability and puck control, and you will understand why his transitional stats are outstanding.
Being involved directly in 33 total zone entry attempts, Yurov successfully entered the offensive zone 90.91% of the time. The next best mark was Frank Nazar with 87.5% rate in one game with eight total attempts. The next best with at least 10 entry attempts was Juraj Slafkovsky at 73.33% in one game at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup. It’s very clear that Yurov is at another level, albeit in a weak league like the MHL.
Defensive Zone Play
Meanwhile, his ability to exit the defensive zone is a testament to how solid he is in his own end. Being involved in 20 zone exit attempts, Yurov cleared the zone successfully on 65% of them. That mark is above average to this point in this class.
Yurov is constantly putting himself in the right spots in the defensive zone. When the puck is on his side, he attacks the point. When the puck is on the far side, he comes down low to help defend the slot. He also possesses an active stick, most of the time. The main issues are very subtle right now, but will be exposed at a higher level; he lacks consistent engagement and cheats up ice constantly for offense. However, those are things that can be coached, and the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
What is Danila Yurov’s Potential?
Yurov is tough to project. The Russian hockey circuit is extremely difficult to scout, because the MHL is a considerably weak league, and young players really do not play often at the KHL level if they do make it. That said, it’s difficult to see what exactly Yurov can bring, as he hasn’t necessarily played much, in terms of minutes per game, at the KHL level. Additionally, the MHL is not a great league to use as a measuring stick. However, with what was seen and tracked, it’s clear Yurov has raw skills in all three zones. The fact he has played at the KHL level over the last two seasons shows he’s moving along his development curve fairly well.
Yurov’s offense is certainly promising, though his shooting ability needs improvement. His transitional abilities are excellent against lower competition, but it’s clear he is extremely efficient already and, with experience and growth, could be solid in that area at the NHL level. Finally, he is solid in the defensive zone, showing at least some promise lower in the line-up, if necessary. Yurov projects as a top-six winger, likely landing on the second line, with special teams upside. However, on a lower scale, Yurov looks to be a middle-six winger that can play in almost all situations. Not to say he has a safe floor, due to Russian league’s being difficult to truly evaluate a young player, but his decent defensive ability gives him a better chance to make it than if he wasn’t so reliable in that area.