By the OilKnight 03/13/19
Kirill Maksimov was drafted in the 5th round in 2017 by the Edmonton Oilers. At the time, he was viewed as a longshot prospect to even get close to the NHL. He possessed an elite shot in flashes, but was considered slow afoot & incredible raw. However, he showed enough in the second half of his draft year after getting traded to Niagara, that Edmonton took a chance on him. 2 years later, the Oilers and Oilers fans could not be happier with the progress he’s made. He went from 21 goals to 34, to 40+ goals this season. Every aspect of his game has improved, as has his stock within the Oilers organization.
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Maksimov is a shooter & scorer plain and simple. His slapshot, wrist shot and one-timer are all elite. NHL caliber release, deadly & accurate. He has that rare scoring ability where he can literally shoot and score from anywhere. That translates well to any league in the world. But, that’s not all he does well.
Maksimov plays a pro style game. He is aggressive on the forecheck, and is defensively responsible. He also displays great vision and poise on the ice. His head is always up, and he has a knack for finding the open man. Very underrated passer. He does a great job of changing angles for shots, and getting himself in the right position to make a play. He has great offensive instincts, he just seems to always be at the right place at the right time. Smart, heady player who makes it look too easy at times. He looks like a pro.
Maksimov’s work ethic might be his most exciting trait. He hustles back hard on the backcheck, he battles hard along the boards, and works hard for 2nd and 3rd chances. If he gets hit, he hits back. When he’s on the penalty kill, he will sacrifice his body to make a play if he has to. He’s always pushing himself & challenging himself to get better. Plays with great determination. It’s why up to this point in his career, he has outperformed his draft position. He works hard.
Maksimov’s skating was the big knock on him when he was drafted, and he has improved that dramatically since his draft year. Edmonton Oilers skating coach David Pelletier has worked with him several times to make him more powerful in his strides and it shows. So much so that Pelletier “came back raving how well he soaked it in“. He’s now much stronger on his skates, and it has allowed him to develop into more of a power forward who goes hard to the net. He continues to work on it too, even with no one from the Oilers there watching. Something I have noticed in person in the past. Before the game and during commercial breaks, he skates by himself pushing the pace & skating hard. Very encouraging sign.
Throughout his career in Niagara, Maksimov was a huge Powerplay threat, but also became a very effective penalty killer. When the Ice Dogs acquired more offensive firepower, Maksimov volunteered to help out a struggling penalty kill. It affected his offensive numbers a bit but helped him become more of a complete player. He was a leader for his team and well respected among his teammates. He has the elite skill that will get him to the NHL, but also the intangibles that will help keep him there eventually. Here’s his highlights from this past season:
(For 2017-18 Highlights click here. )
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Like any prospect, Maksimov also has areas he can improve on as he turns pro and continues to work on his game.
While his skating and top speed are certainly acceptable now he could definitely benefit from more explosiveness. Specifically, his first few steps could be better & will likely be an area of focus as he turns pro. His top end speed is good now, just the acceleration should continue to get better. Not a weakness anymore but certainly an area of opportunity to get even better. His agility is somewhat limited being a tall player with long legs. He has more of that powerful stride north-south who compensates with his lack of agility by coasting east-west in and out of lanes. Much like Leon Draisaitl & many other bigger players.
While Maksimov likes to play a physical game, it can at times lead to some undisciplined penalties. He was suspended on a couple separate occasions for slew-footing and hitting from behind. He also finished 2nd in the OHL in PIMS this year with 118. I personally like the chippiness in his game but admittedly he needs to cut down on the retaliatory penalties and can be guilty of being over-aggressive at times. Easily correctable.
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There’s no doubt Maksimov is ready to turn pro. He plays a complete game and in all situations. Despite his offensive success in the OHL, I still think he needs at least a year in the AHL to work on his overall strength & skating. In terms of his role, he’s definitely more of a complimentary winger than a driver. A player who can start the play but ultimately finds himself in the right spot to finish it. He loves to shoot and score; something that is sorely lacking in the Edmonton organization. But, because he is a good 200 ft player who can play a variety of roles, it’s possible he starts out as a bottom 6 forward who eventually works himself up the lineup. I just wouldn’t bank on that until 2020 at the earliest.
As far as NHL comps go, I’ve struggled for awhile to find a good comparison. I mean, stylistically there’s no player he looks like more than Draisaitl in my opinion. Just how he carries himself on the ice, the way he skates, finds open ice, sets up his teammates, reads the play, all remind me of Draisaitl. The way Leon is shooting the puck right now too it is reminiscent of Maksi. However, it’s tough to project Kirill to that offensive level right now so in terms of offensive production and impact, I see Alex Galchenyuk as a good comparison. They’re not the same player but similar in that they both are big bodies who can really shoot the puck, and have blistering one-timers. I see Makismov as a Top 6 forward in the NHL eventually, and playing at LW where he can show off that incredible one-timer. When that happens is still to be determined, but there is no doubt in my mind the sky’s the limit for this kid. Not bad for a 5th round pick.
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