The Analysis: A deep look at Danila Yurov’s Game
Russia has been a consistent factory of top-flight NHL Draft talent throughout the decades.
Not surprisingly, the 2022 NHL Draft is no different.
And with that, Danila Yurov has put himself into position in recent years to be considered among the top prospects available for the upcoming draft.
Between his play in the MHL, KHL, and the international stage, the 17-year-old forward has demonstrated a complete package of skills that I believe is going to make the NHL team that eventually drafts him very happy.
So who is he and what can the team that plucks him in 2022 expect?
Welcome to your introduction to one of the draft’s top talents.
Yurov, No. 5 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 draft, hails from Chelyabinsk, and has long been a budding star while coming through Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s hockey system. During his time with the Magnitogorsk’s U16 and U17 programs, Yurov was a dominant offensive force, putting up 91 points (32 goals, 59 assists) in 55 games between the two clubs during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Yurov’s play earned him a promotion to the MHL level for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk during the 2020 season, where he continued to produce and proved himself to be a top talent in the U20 Russian circuit.
The 2020-21 season is where Yurov truly vaulted himself into the upper echelon of the 2022 NHL Draft class.
Starting the season in the MHL with Stalnye Lisy once again, Yurov earned himself a promotion to the KHL squad with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, marking his Russian pro debut at the age of 16 against CSKA Moscow.
After a successful season split between the MHL and KHL, Yurov was a fixture on Russia’s entry at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, finishing third on the team in scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in seven games en route to a silver medal.
Thus far in the 2021-22 season, despite low ice time numbers in the KHL, Yurov has shown himself to be far too good for the junior level, as he posted six points (one goal, five assists) in his only two games for Stalnye Lisy this season.
Yurov is primed and ready for professional hockey, and just needs the consistent ice time to show what he’s capable of.
THE SKILL SET
Yurov has an impressive and complete set of skills that allow him to be a difference-maker at both ends of the rink.
When working at his best, Yurov brings a package of fantastic skill, smarts, transitional ability, and dual-threat offensive ability that should translate to North American ice in due time.
Like many young players, Yurov will need to add strength to his frame and prove he can bring his best on a nightly basis before he’ll truly be NHL ready, but the mix of tools he already brings to the table at the age of 17 makes it easy to project him as a future impact player at the NHL level.
Throughout my viewings of Yurov across the KHL, MHL, and international levels, what has consistently stood out with Yurov is his phenomenal 200-foot IQ and his near-flawless reads of coverage in the offensive zone.
Yurov’s awareness on the ice and ability to read space in all three zones is very impressive for a player his age; his processing speed is very quick as he’s able to quickly recognize open pockets of ice and find avenues to move the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone.
What this translates to is a player who can find attacking lanes in the offensive zone, contribute positively to defensive zone coverage, and excel at attacking off the rush and gaining zone entries.
In this clip, you can see Yurov (No. 25, white) identifying Finland’s defensemen making over-aggressive plays on the puck and quickly is able to sense he has two teammates attacking with speed through the neutral zone. Yurov is able to read where the empty pockets of ice are in the neutral zone, and with two perfectly placed pokes of the puck, he’s able to send his linemates in for an easy 2-on-0 goal.
This is an example of how on a moment’s notice and under pressure from opposing defenders Yurov is able to quickly read space and identify attacking lanes for the puck to travel through, which is a trait that Yurov regularly uses while attacking on the rush.
Yurov’s ability to read and react to space is a prime offensive weapon in the offensive zone, and allows him to recognize soft spots in coverage and optimal routes for the puck to travel in the offensive zone.
Throughout this play, you can see Yurov (No. 22, white) acting almost like a field general for his team on the power play, directing and calling out passing lanes for his teammates.
Yurov understands where the optimal route is for the puck to open up high-danger passing lanes, and in turn, is able to sneak behind the penalty kill’s coverage and finish off the play with a one-time goal.
The advanced problem solving when it comes to Yurov’s offensive brain I find is easily the most projectable aspect of his offensive tool kit as his ability to read and react to coverage is a trait that’s difficult to teach and should translate to North American hockey.
In addition to elite offensive awareness, Yurov also displays very good defensive smarts and is able to cover for his defensemen in coverage.
In this play, Yurov (No. 22, white) makes a simple yet perfect read when coming back on the backcheck; Yurov sees his center coming deep into the zone to make a play on the puck and, in turn senses a potential threat in the middle of the ice, and he’s able to come back into his own zone to cover for his center in the slot area to break up a potential scoring chance against.
It’s these habits and consistency in his reads that make Yurov a very projectable all-situations forward at the NHL level, and in turn, I believe is a player that coaches are bound to trust in key situations.
When assessing the overall package of Yurov’s offensive game, it’s difficult not to notice his skill with the puck on his stick. Yurov is a very flashy stickhandler who can weave through defenses in tight or beat defenders 1-on-1 on the rush.
Yurov excels at using patience and deception to open up the defender.
On this play you can see Yurov (No. 25, red) angle his body towards the boards to make the defender think he’s pushing towards the outside of the offensive zone, getting the defender to pivot towards the boards, at which point Yurov outwaits the poke check and brings the puck back across his body to the interior of the ice and leaving the American defenseman behind him before going in on goal for a high-danger opportunity.
On this play, you can see Yurov employ a similar amount of patience in order to beat a defender in a one-on-one situation. Yurov (No. 25, grey) challenges the opposing defender while attacking wide on the rush.
He holds the puck wide on his forehand and baits an aggressive pokecheck out of the defender, and he waits for the pokecheck to pass before pulling the puck wide to his backhand to beat the opposing defender clean. After that, he’s able to beat the netminder with a quick snapshot to the top corner.
It’s easy to see how Yurov’s skill adds to his dynamic ability as a rush attacker, as he’s able to generate high-danger opportunities between a combination of skills with his hands and smarts.
Each trip up the ice, Yurov has a plethora of tricks in his bag that he can employ to beat defenders and open up space. His ability to attack off the rush makes him a very versatile offensive player, able to be effective in both quick-strike situations as well as extended periods of offensive zone time.
Dual Threat Offense
To round out Yurov’s skill set as an offensive threat, the young Russian is equally capable as both a goal-scorer and a playmaker.
Yurov’s awareness of coverage and his surroundings lends itself very nicely towards his playmaking game. He is capable of making difficult passes and finding teammates in high-danger areas of the ice as he’s able to use his awareness of his linemates positioning to his advantage.
In this play, you can see how Yurov (No. 22, white) is able to find his teammate in a high-danger area by leveraging his awareness of his surroundings in the offensive zone and reacting quickly to oncoming pressure.
Even though Yurov has his back turned to the slot, he has the awareness to know that he has a teammate waiting there for a pass, and is able to send a nice backhand tape-to-tape pass once he senses the pressure on his back from the defender vacating the slot area.
Yurov also displays good playmaking vision while attacking on the rush as seen here, as he keeps his head up while streaking up the boards and is able to find a teammate in front with a well-placed pass for a tap-in goal (No. 22, grey).
In addition to being a very capable passer and playmaker, Yurov is also a strong shooting threat with a strong wrist shot, one-timer, and ability to find soft areas of ice and get into scoring position.
Here you can see Yurov’s (No. 22, grey) ability as both a distance shooter and his ability to shoot the puck off the rush.
While pressuring the defender with speed he’s able to pull the puck back and quickly release it off his back foot, generating good velocity and beating the opposing netminder in the top corner of the net.
In these clips, you can see how well Yurov is able to generate power off of his one-timer as well, allowing him to act as both the playmaker or triggerman on the power play.
Though not truly elite in either category, being equally capable as both a shooter and playmaker allows Yurov to keep opposing defenses guessing and allows Yurov the freedom to take what the defense is giving him on any given play.
Though Yurov is not a gifted physical player, he shows himself very capable as a stick checker and demonstrates very good forechecking habits.
He is able to read the routes opposing puck-carriers attempt to take out of their own zone and works proactively to cut off those routes and generate turnovers with a quick and active defensive stick.
Yurov rarely allows opposing defenders an easy out, as he looks to hound pucks and strip puck carriers of possession, and is able to marry this with his quick-strike ability to generate offensive opportunities off of turnovers.
In addition to being a capable forechecker, Yurov also displays good habits and work ethic on the backcheck.
In this clip, Yurov (No. 22, blue) hustles back to cover for his defenseman being beaten by a pass at the blue line. By using hustle, body positioning, and good stick work, Yurov is able to break up the play and deny a scoring chance without taking a penalty on the play, which further demonstrates Yurov’s complete 200-foot game and commitment at both ends of the rink.
Room For Improvement
When it comes to playing in all three zones, it is my belief that Yurov is among the most complete forwards available in the 2022 NHL Draft, however, that is not to say he’s ready as a plug and play forward straight into an NHL lineup.
As Yurov continues to grow and develop, it’s imperative that he continues to add strength to his 6-foot-1 frame. For Yurov to continue to find success at higher levels of play, it’s going to be of paramount importance that he finds ways to get to dirty areas and high-danger areas in the offensive zone, as his somewhat light frame causes him to lose battles for positioning at the pro level at the moment.
As discussed throughout the duration of this deep dive into his game, I believe firmly that Yurov has all of the tools necessary to be an all-situations, impact forward at the NHL level. Yurov is a toolsy forward who thinks the game just about as anyone in his peer group, can play with pace and skill, generate high-end dual-threat offense, and displays strong puck retrieval habits in both zones.
All that screams future top-six forward to me.
Yurov is a player that I hold in high regard in the top-five consideration for the 2022 NHL Draft, however, his ability to go that high come July may be dependent on his ability to find ice time.
He has shown himself to be far too good for the MHL level, however, he has not yet been given a substantial opportunity at the KHL level to make a difference. Through 14 games played for Metallurg Magnitogorsk this season, Yurov has averaged only 5:07 time-on-ice per game and just under eight shifts per game.
If Yurov continues to receive little-to-no opportunity from Metallurg’s coaching staff, it may be difficult and/or risky for NHL clubs to spend a top pick on the young Russian. However, I firmly believe Yurov is worth your time and consideration in the top tier of the 2022 NHL Draft class.
He is a player I will continue to advocate for until he gives me a reason not to.