The Analysis: A deep look at Ivan Miroshnichenko’s game
Russia has been known to produce extremely talented forwards with high-end offensive potential at the NHL level, and the 2022 NHL Draft can be included in that. Ivan Miroshnichenko is a player who is making a push to be selected in the top-five this year.
After a strong DY-1 that saw Miroshnichenko put up nearly a point-per-game in the MHL for Omskie Yastreby, and was a key contributor for Russia’s gold medal entry at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Slotted in at No. 4 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 draft, Miroshnichenko has posted nine points (four goals, five assists) in 20 games for Omskie Krylia of Russia’s VHL. With a little over half of this production (two goals, three assists) coming at even strength, Miroshnichenko has shown the ability to be more than just a power play specialist against senior competition.
Miroshnichenko’s shot is quite clearly his best asset as the puck explodes off the end of his stick with deadly accuracy, regardless of which type of shot he is taking. It’s not common for players of Miroshnichenko’s age to be able to beat grown men with their wrist shot, but he is able to do just that.
In the goal below, Miroshnichenko uses a move that Jaromir Jagr was well known for. Skating towards the net, Miroshnichenko makes a quick cut to the middle of the ice, thus opening up a shooting lane for himself by separating from the defenseman. He then releases a quick shot in the opposite direction as the goalie attempts to stay square to the shooter.
This particular play is something that Miroshnichenko uses on occasion, and while it doesn’t always lead to a goal it is difficult for goalies to track the puck and can lead to rebounds and secondary scoring chances for players driving to the net.
Miroshnichenko’s next goal in the video below is scored in an almost identical fashion.
Corralling a bouncing puck at center ice, Miroshnichenko enters the zone with speed and cuts to the middle of the ice. As he makes the cut, he’s already drawing back for the shot and releases a quick accurate shot in the opposite direction the goalie is moving. This type of shot is very difficult to get off accurately but Miroshnichenko makes it look easy.
He’s threatening in other ways, too.
Miroshnichenko will often set up on his off wing, especially on the power play, to attempt one-timers. As seen here, Miroshnichenko does not take a big windup but gets a ton of power on his shot. While this particular attempt misses the net, understanding the need to control the one-timer by relying on a smaller windup is a key trait of Miroshnichenko.
In this next clip, Miroshnichenko scores on the one-timer but he takes power off of the shot to get it on net. Part of this is awareness by Miroshnichenko to know how close he is to the net and that accuracy on this attempt is more important than power.
With how lethal Miroshnichenko can be with his one-timer, it seems only natural that he will be a major contributor on the power play at the NHL level. What will be interesting to see is how Miroshnichenko adjusts and adapts to teams that try to take this play away, and what other configurations he can flourish in with the man-advantage.
For a forward as dynamic as Miroshnichenko, having high-end offensive awareness is critical for creating scoring chances as well as having controlled zone time. Miroshnichenko is excellent at both of these because he’s good at identifying opportunities to carry the puck as well as how to get the puck into high-danger areas of the ice.
Because of his preference to shoot the puck, Miroshnichenko will often skate the puck down low if a shot attempt is not available to him. Resetting in these instances and maintaining control of the puck is an indicator of Miroshnichenko’s patience to allow an opportunity to open up for him.
In the clip above, Miroshnichenko carries the puck into opponent territory wide and looks to set up a shot attempt as he enters the left circle. Realizing that he doesn’t have a shooting lane, Miroshnichenko instead opts to protect and carry the puck behind the net.
As Miroshnichenko continues his path, he sees an opportunity to curl towards the slot and adjust his position to get off a shot attempt. No goal is scored, but his patience to wait for a scoring chance in the middle of the ice is an excellent trait for a young prospect to have at this level of play.
In this next video, Miroshnichenko casually waits uncovered next to the goal.
Seeing that he’s already in position if the puck squirts free, Miroshnichenko does not overcrowd an area and sits tight. The puck finally squirts free and gives Miroshnichenko one of the easier goals he will ever score. Part of being a good goal scorer at any level of hockey is finding open ice and not overpursing the puck when unnecessary.
While Miroshnichenko has a shoot-first mentality, he can also be a playmaker with his natural offensive instincts.
Entering the zone on his off wing, Miroshnichenko is in a prime spot to get his shot off but makes an incredible saucer pass to his teammate streaking down the middle of the ice. The awareness of when to make this pass is high end and makes Miroshnichenko a multi-dimensional offensive threat.
Breakout with Speed
Miroshnichenko is a very agile skater who can use a mix of lateral movements while skating up ice to throw defenders off balance as he attacks. By using these moves with changes in speed, he is able to disguise where he is going and also get up ice quickly.
On the play below, Miroshnichenko collects the puck in his own end and gets up ice quickly with some crossovers.
As he enters the offensive zone, Miroshnichenko generates a lot of speed and when he realizes the middle of the ice is impeded, he cuts wide and draws a penalty.
In this next play, Miroshnichenko jumps off the faceoff and heads up ice quickly with possession of the puck. Once again, his quick agile crossovers throw the defenseman off just enough to allow him to get a shot attempt off.
This is the type of dynamic ability Miroshnichenko has as he is able to not only maintain his speed when handling the puck, but also accelerate. The confidence Miroshnichenko has to carry the puck at this level with speed is a very translatable skill set to the NHL.
In one final clip showing Miroshnichenko carrying the puck out of his end, he shows off his speed and ability to gain entry with ease.
An attempt to beat the defender doesn’t yield a scoring chance but Miroshnichenko resets and maintains control of the puck into the corner.
Areas to Improve
Sense of Urgency
One thing that is noticeable about Miroshnichenko’s game is he doesn’t possess the same sense or urgency throughout a game. This can make things harder for Miroshnichenko at times as he can get pressured easily when not playing with more of a purpose. While Miroshnichenko’s patience is noted above as a good quality, it’s the moments where he seems to be waiting for something to happen that need to be removed from his game.
In the clip below, Miroshnichenko doesn’t seem to have much awareness of where the puck is going or how he can be helping out in his zone.
With the opponent making their way towards the front of the net, Miroshnichenko is floating aimlessly in the front of the net. Only after he realizes a pass out front is coming does he finally react but it is too late at this point. In cases like this, Miroshnichenko would benefit his overall game greatly by using some of his small-area quickness to change his positioning and cover the pass to the high slot. Simply looking around the ice and identifying gaps in coverage would help Miroshnichenko make a stronger impact, especially in his own end.
Being active and engaged in the play — even when not in possession of the puck — is a critical part to being successful in the NHL.
On this next play, Miroshnichenko starts to exit the zone early and waits for the breakout pass to get to him.
At one point, Miroshnichenko is basically standing still and is no match for the opponent applying pressure and steals the puck. There is a lack of awareness and a sense of urgency on this play that needs to be cleaned up by him. One thing that could have been done by Miroshnichenko on this play was to take a different exit path out of the zone. He heads up ice a bit too early and hesitating and taking a longer path to allow his teammate to collect the puck would have put Miroshnichenko in a better position to accept a pass in stride as opposed to waiting for a pass.
Miroshnichenko also needs to work on his night-in and night-out consistency.
With how impactful he can be, it’s disappointing when there’s shifts where he is not noticeably making a difference.
In this particular clip, Miroshnichenko floats out to the neutral zone and waits for the breakout. When the play does enter the neutral zone, he has to loop back towards center ice as the puck gets dumped in.
By not being more engaged in the play, it’s hard for Miroshnichenko to make a positive impact on a potential controlled zone entry. He takes himself completely out of the play and has no ability to contribute on the forecheck because of having to skate against where the play is going. Seeing plays like this is frustrating because of how dynamic Miroshnichenko can be.
The clip below is another example of Miroshnichenko lacking consistency in his game defensively. There’s moments where he will make the opposition pay for making a play like this but on this occasion, a lackadaisical effort on defense gets him walked at the point.
It’s hard not to draw some comparisons to Ilya Kovalchuk when watching Miroshnichenko play. Given how he has such a high end shot and dynamic skating ability that keeps defenders on edge, it’s fair for him to have the potential to be a first line goal scoring winger. There are still parts of Miroshnichenko’s game that leave you wanting more at times and wishing he could always be impactful.
This may ultimately cause Miroshnichenko to slip down the draft board but it certainly will not be for lack of talent.
At this moment in time, Miroshnichenko could very well be taken in the top-10 in the 2022 NHL Draft. Continuing to showcase his dynamic skill set and improve on some of his inconsistencies will only solidify the case for taking Miroshnichenko in that range.