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:
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.
A lot has been made of the lack of quality depth within the Edmonton Oilers prospect pool over the past few years. “The Cupboard is bare” was an all too familiar theme among pundits and social media last season, as Edmonton was ranked near the bottom of the NHL in terms of organizational depth outside of its NHL roster. However, after last season’s strong Draft results for the Oilers, what was once considered a weakness has now become a strength.
Edmonton is starting to reap the benefits of quality drafting under it’s current regime with the likes of Jesse Puljujarvi, Caleb Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ethan Bear all cracking the lineup at some point over the last year. On top of that, guys like Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Cameron Hebig, William Lagesson, Stuart Skinner & Dylan Wells are all 22 or under playing in the minors currently while trying to develop their skills. That’s 10 quality prospects playing Pro hockey. Add a couple of talented players in Filip Berglund & Joel Persson who had really good seasons in Sweden, along with USHL players Phil Kemp & John Marino, and you’ve now got 14 prospects to get excited about.
It doesn’t end there either. Evan Rodrique and Ostap Safin are two excellent prospects currently playing in the QMJHL. Safin will be AHL bound next season, and Rodrigue the year after that. But this article will focus on the four OTHER prospects in the Oilers pipeline all playing in the OHL – Evan Bouchard, Kirill Maksimov, Ryan McLeod & Dmitri Samorukov.
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RD EVAN BOUCHARD – LONDON KNIGHTS (27-6-4-1)
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 194 lbs Shoots: R
15 GP – 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 Points
When you talk about EDM prospects the #1 player on most people’s lists is Evan Bouchard. “Bouch” as he’s known by many, is the RH Powerplay Quarterback of the future for the Oilers. He has terrific poise, a hard accurate shot, and is an excellent puck-mover. Plus, as mentioned he is a Powerplay specialist. One area he needs to continue to work on to get better is defensively. Evan can be guilty of puck watching at times in his own zone. He does a decent job at tying up opponents sticks but you’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive boxing out players & aggressively challenging shooters. He needs to bulk up a bit and be tougher to play against which is something you would expect him to do even more once he turns pro next year.
Bouchard currently plays for the London Knights who are one of the favourites to win the OHL title this year. They are loaded on defence led by Bouchard who plays regularly with Alec Regula (DET 3rd rd) at even strength, and Adam Boqvist (CHI, 1st rd) on the PP. London plays a fast paced style led by their Defence who like to routinely push the pace and jump up into the rush. Up front, they recently added OHL vet Kevin Hancock at the trade deadline to go with NHL draftees Liam Foudy & Alex Formenton. Hancock, has 32 goals and 66 points in 39 games so far. This year’s draft eligible Connor McMichael also plays in the Top 6. He has 25 goals in 37 games for London.
After starting the season in Edmonton, then getting sent back to London, Bouchard played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. His performance overall was a bit of a mixed bag as he showed flashes of brilliance, but also showed he needs to continue to work on his defensive intensity. Here’s examples of both:
Both clips show the strengths and weaknesses of the player pretty clearly. Bouchard has a very high offensive ceiling but is still young and needs to continue to get better in his own zone. He still projects as an eventual John Carlson type with experience & more consistency but Oilers fans need to be patient and let him develop at his own pace otherwise it may turn out like Justin Schultz did in Edmonton.
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LW KIRILL MAKSIMOV – NIAGARA ICE DOGS (24-9-7-0)
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 194 lbs Shoots: R
37 GP – 27 goals, 28 assists, 55 Points
Easily the most underrated and least talked about Prospect in the Edmonton organization, Kirill Maksimov is finally starting to gain recognition among fans as a big time scorer in the OHL. “Maksi” as he’s known by many, is the best natural shooter in the Oilers pipeline without question. His slapshot & one-timer are elite. His wrister which has almost no back swing is deadly and accurate. He is a threat to score every time he touches the puck in the offensive zone. He also have great vision and poise which allows him to set up his teammates if teams take away that shot. His 200 foot game is also a strength. He is physical and aggressive on the forecheck, he plays both PP & PK, and will sacrifice his body to make a play. Maksi is a hard-worker who keeps getting better.
The knock on Maksimov when he was drafted was his lack of speed & explosiveness. He has since worked extremely hard on getting stronger on his skates, something that EDM skating coach David Pelletier praised him for here. He can still be guilty of coasting at times but can really skate once he gets going. Acceleration and first step are better but can still be worked on. Something he should continue to focus on when he turns pro next year.
Maksimov currently plays for the Niagara Ice Dogs who are another popular choice to challenge for the OHL title this year. They are loaded up front with NHL draftees Jason Robertson (DAL 2nd rd), Akil Thomas (LA, 2nd rd), Jack Studnicka (BOS, 2nd rd), and Ben Jones (VGK, 7th rd). Their goaltender Stephen Dhillon is an OHL veteran who is very solid and capable of stealing a series himself. The defence will be the question mark moving forward. Are they good enough to get this team to the finals? Time will tell. As for Maksimov, check out these highlights from last season and pay attention to that one-time shot.
The future for Maksimov is in a Top 6 role at the NHL level. While he could fill in as a bottom 6 forward initially because of his strong defensive game, ultimately his career will make or break based on what he does in the Top 6. Simply put, he’s a scorer who plays better with talented centers. He’s not a driver so can be taken out of games unless he’s playing in an offensive role. He’s the perfect complimentary winger who a sports a legit NHL shot and release while maintaining a strong 200 ft game. Still a sleeper among pundits at this point of his career. Should be a LW as a Pro.
For a more extensive breakdown from earlier in the year, check out this article from The Cult of Hockey.
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C RYAN MCLEOD – SAGINAW SPIRIT (25-11-2-2)
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 208 lbs Shoots: L
35 GP – 13 goals, 29 assists, 42 Points
In today’s NHL, you need players who can really skate and Ryan McLeod might be the fastest prospect in the Oilers pipeline. Blessed with tremendous skating and agility, there is no question McLeod has the potential to be a solid NHL‘er. He has very good awareness, is defensively sound and can play in all situations. He has good offensive instincts but doesn’t always go hard to the net and still plays a bit of a perimeter game which can limit his effectiveness. His shot can be classified as good not great. He has a quick release and soft hands in close but tends to be more of a pass first type than a natural scorer.
McLeod currently plays for the Saginaw Spirit who loaded up at the trade deadline by acquiring he and former teammate Owen Tippett from Mississauga. He’s flanked by OHL vet Cole Coskey and this year’s draft eligible Cole Perfetti. They also have Bode Wilde on defence and a strong goaltender in Ivan Prosvetov. They’re in tough against some powerhouse teams in the OHL but they have a chance and should at least advance a round or two giving McLeod some much needed experience. Here’s a clip of him showing off his speed and soft hands:
McLeod is smart, fast & has an excellent 200 foot game. I just wonder about his hands at the next level. His shot is good not great. He could be a 15-20 goal scorer in the NHL eventually but seems destined to be a bottom 6 role player. When I watch him now I see so many similarities with a former Oiler Todd Marchant – a very solid, valuable #3 center who can win faceoffs and penalty kill while chipping in the odd big goal, which would seem to align up perfectly with Edmonton’s needs.
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LD DMITRI SAMORUKOV – GUELPH STORM (21-12-4-4)
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 180 lbs Shoots: L
33 GP – 3 goals, 17 assists, 20 Points
“Dima” as he’s known by many, is a very intriguing defensive prospect in that there are a lot of different tools in his toolbox. He is a very good skater who loves to rush the puck. He also has a cannon of a shot. He excels at retrieving the puck and making a good first pass out of his zone. He can also make that nice stretch pass tape to tape. Dima even has a little shake and bake in his game where he can walk a guy if they’re not paying attention. Defensively, he uses good positioning to keep guys in front of him and will sacrifice his body to block a shot. He also plays a lot on the Penalty kill unit. He hasn’t had a lot of Powerplay time in the past despite the big shot and does seem to be too tentative & unsure of himself when he does get an opportunity – something that can be worked on at the next level. Plenty to like about his game as he can be described as a “toolsy” player.
Despite the skill-set there are flaws in his game that need to be addressed. As mentioned, he has a cannon of a shot but really struggles with accuracy. If the hitting the glass counted as a goal he might have 50 by now. Also, the physical part of his game seems to have disappeared for long stretches. Dima has become more of a stick-checker defensively now than a punishing, physical defenceman even though he has shown flashes of that in the past especially in his draft year. His defensive awareness and play recognition appear to have improved over the course of this year which is a positive. Here’s that shot though when it does hit the target:
Samorukov currently plays for the Guelph Storm who absolutely loaded up at the trade deadline especially on defence. Markus Phillips, fresh off a Team Canada appearance was added. So was OHL vets Sean Durzi (TOR, 2nd rd) and Fedor Gordeev (TOR, 5th rd) giving Guelph a talented and experienced Top 4 D-core all of the sudden. That’s good for Dima as he has plenty of help, but it also takes away some PP opportunities and ice time. Up front they added Team Canada alums Mackenzie Entwhistle and Nick Suzuki too which means Guelph is going for it all this year. That will prove to be a great challenge for Samorukov who I feel needs to prove he can play tough, consistent, defensive hockey.
In the past, I have often referred to Good Dima vs. Bad Dima when describing his game as consistency seems to be one of his biggest weaknesses. I have personally witnessed games live where I thought he was one of the worst players on the ice. Questionable decision making, lackadaisical efforts and just not enough intensity. Then, there are other times where I think he looks fantastic and a looks like bonafide prospect. Take the World Junior Championship for example. Playing for Team Russia I thought he had a very strong tournament. I broke down his game versus Canada below:
Since coming back from that tournament, Dima has been very good. The defensive intensity appears to still be there and he looks fully engaged. It helps his team is loaded now as they make a run at an OHL title. He is certainly an intriguing prospect with some nice tools but ultimately if he does make it to the NHL after a few years of AHL seasoning, he probably won’t be anything more than a 3rd pairing guy. But, he can skate and move the puck so he has a chance. The skill is there but the big question still remains….does he have the will?
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So as you can see, there are plenty of prospects in the Edmonton Oilers organization to get excited about. Not all of them will make it obviously, and not all them will necessarily will be Top 6 or Top pairing guys. However, there are several prospects with interesting skill-sets that Edmonton doesn’t really have right now on their NHL roster which means some of these guys could end up being nice complimentary pieces. When you already have stars like Connor McDavid & Leon Draisaitl, sometimes that’s all you need. Cheap, young players on Entry-level contracts who can contribute and fill a variety roles. The cupboard is far from bare now folks. The prospect pipeline has now been built.
With the 1st round of the OHL playoffs now complete and the Niagara Ice Dogs moving on it’s time to preview Round 2……
2nd Round Matchup
#4 Niagara (35-23-7) vs. #1 Hamilton (43-18-7)
Niagara Ice Dogs won the Season series 5 games to 1 outscoring their K9 Rivals 26-16. Kirill Maksimov in 5 GP vs. Hamilton this year (He was suspended during one matchup) had 4G, 5A, 9 Pts, +2 & 16 shots. Hamilton boasts two players with Edmonton Oiler bloodlines – Isaac Nurse (cousin of Darnell) & Matthew Strome (brother of Ryan).
2017-18 Regular Season Rankings:
PP: Niagara 19.5% (12th), Hamilton 24.6% (4th)
PK: Niagara 80.1% (8th), Hamilton 77.1% (16th)
Goals for: Niagara 240 (6th), Hamilton 252 (3rd)
Goals against: Niagara 235 (4th), Hamilton 207 (2nd)
The Bulldogs are coming off a rather easy first round matchup vs. Ottawa where they won the series 4-1 scoring a whopping 27 goals in 5 games. They were the number one team in the Eastern Conference this year & despite losing the season series to Niagara – are still the favourites.
Offensively, Hamilton is LOADED and deep. They have SEVEN forwards who scored 20 or more goals this year led by Matthew Strome who had 37 goals while guys like Ryan Moore & Isaac Nurse even chipped in with 18 & 17 goals respectively. Plus, they have a 16 yr old named Arthur Kaliyev who had 31 goals this year and looks like a future Top NHL pick. That’s a lot of firepower spread out over 3 lines. They’re a smaller team but are quick, move the puck around extremely well and love to crash the net and pounce on juicy rebounds. STL 1st rounder C Robert Thomas is the best of the group having come over from London at the deadline. His speed & vision are both elite and he creates so much havoc in the offensive zone it opens up gimme goals for his teammates. Just one example:
Robert Thomas is putting on a show in game 1 of the OHL playoffs. 1 goal and 2 assists so far. Here's one of the assists: pic.twitter.com/fpSrcZmAyK
On the Powerplay, Hamilton is also deadly having the 4th best PP during the Regular season and went 10 for 21 (for a ridiculous 47.6%) in the opening round against the 67’s. They are adept at cross ice passes and are a high shot volume team. Niagara would be best served NOT to take unnecessary penalties or the Bulldogs will make them pay.
Defensively, the Bulldogs don’t generate a lot of offence from their defencemen. Instead, they rely on playing sound positional defence and don’t get caught running around too much. They’re a big group with 6 of the 7 guys being 6’1″ or more & they are experienced with four 19 yr olds & two 20 yr olds. Collectively, they do a good job of clearing guys in front and getting sticks in lanes especially. They can at times struggle with speedy teams and Niagara has beat them with their aggressive forecheck in the past creating numerous turnovers which will something to watch for. Their goalie 19 yr old Kaden Fulcher is solid but not unbeatable. Hamilton gave up the 2nd least goals in the OHL this year but he still had a .899 SV%. The Ottawa 67’s did manage to score 8 goals total in the 1st two games of the opening round which reinforces my point. Good group on the back end but not great.
16 yr old phenom Arthur Kaliyev. Courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com
Robert Thomas – 24G, 51A, 75 pts in 49 games.
Matthew Strome – 37G, 31A, 68 pts
Brandon Saigeon – 35G, 35A, 70 pts
Will Bitten – 20G, 44A, 64 pts
Kaden Fulcher – 32-17-3, 2.86 GAA, .899 SV%
Niagara Ice Dogs
Offensively,the Ice Dogs 1A line as I call it in Sam Miletic–Akil Thomas–Danial Singer won them the series in the 1st round vs. Oshawa. They had 19 points combined and were frankly too much for Oshawa to contain. In Game 5, Coach Burke replace Singer with Maksimov for a lot of the game and they were even more dangerous. What really surprised me is how much offense they got from everyone else especially some unlikely sources. D Drew Hunter had 4 goals all year but scored twice. D Liam Ham had 6 goals all year but he also had 2 goals. In fact, Niagara had goals from 13 different players in the 5 games. I didn’t see that coming and certainly wouldn’t expect that to continue moving forward. The line of Corneil-Jones-Maksimov did not have a real good series and needs to be MUCH better in the 2nd round. Their Top 6 and PP unit has the ability to match Hamilton in terms of production.
Oilers Prospect #13 Kirill Maksimov
Defensively,it all starts with goalie Stephen Dhillon. Yes, there were defensive breakdowns but he bailed out his team by making some incredible saves. He had a .899 SV% in the Regular season but sports a .932% after Round 1. He will need to continue to be brilliant as the defensive group in front of him struggle at times with shot containment. They aren’t a very physical group either but are speedy and might actually match up better with the smaller, quicker Bulldogs. 4 Dmen chipping in with 6 goals total certainly was a pleasant surprise. They are an average to good group who typically bends but doesn’t break – as long as Dhillon is on his game.
#30 Stephen Dhillon. Courtesy of OHL Images.
Sam Miletic – 36G, 56A, 92 pts
Akil Thomas – 22G, 59A, 81 pts
Kirill Maksimov – 34G, 46A, 80 pts
Stephen Dhillon – 27-16-4, 3.34 GAA, .899 SV%
Difference in Series:
Despite the success in the Regular Season vs. the Bulldogs, Niagara is going to be in tough in this matchup. Last round, they got away with being basically a one line offensive team (Miletic-Akil Thomas). In this round, if they are going to have any chance at pulling off the upset they need the line of Corneil-Jones-Maksimov to show up big time and take pressure of the first group. Maksimov in particular did not have a great series last round he took way too many penalties and got away from his game. He has however had a history of showing up on the scoresheet versus this team so he will need to continue to do so if the Ice Dogs are indeed going to move on. He is the key to Niagara winning this series. It was a very chippy opening round vs. Oshawa so Niagara needs to forget all that and prepare for a much faster Hamilton team. Simply put, if Niagara continues to put Hamilton on the Powerplay they will lose the series. Stephen Dhillon also needs to outperform Kaden Fulcher if the Ice Dogs are to have any chance.
Niagara will be the underdog and is going to need their 3rd & 4th lines to outperform Hamilton’s which is a tall order to ask. I think Maksimov has an excellent series but in the end the Ice Dogs still fall short. I’m hoping I’m wrong but I’m going with Hamilton in 6 games.
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