Vitali Abramov of the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL checks in as the 21st ranked prospect on our consensus ranking. Though the diminutive Russian winger was a relative unknown entering his draft-eligible season, his prolific rookie season has forced himself into the conversation as a first-round pick.
After amassing an impressive body of work overseas, the Chelyabinsk native was selected 13th overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. That selection proved itself a shrewd one for Gatineau, as Abramov would go on to pot 38 goals and 55 assists in only 63 games en route to the rookie scoring title, and an appearance in the BMO CHL Top Prospects game.
We’ll unpack everything Abramov brings to the table after the jump.
- Age: 18, 1995-05-08
- Birthplace: Chelyabinsk, Russia
- Frame: 5’9″, 170 lbs.
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: Gatineau Olympiques
- Accomplishments/Awards: 2015 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, WHC-17 Gold Medal (2014-15)
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“The Russian import is a constant threat offensively and makes some impressive plays due to his high skill level. An explosive, well-timed speed burst or change of pace and shifty agility in his feet as well as creative hands make him a slippery forward to check. A skilled playmaker making seeing-eye passes through the tightest of lanes and in perfect time to his teammates. Will shoot the puck when the opportunity presents itself and usually hits his mark when he does but is a natural playmaker first and foremost. Extremely dynamic top line NHL potential.”
“Abramov is having a breakout season in his first year in North America after being selected 13th overall in the CHL Import draft by the Gatineau Olympiques. Abramov leads all rookies in scoring and currently sits tied for third overall with 87 points in 59 games. Abramov has proven to be a consistent scorer and offensive threat. He has only had one game without a shot, has not gone more than two games without a point or three games without a goal and has had four different point streaks of six or more games. A strong showing at the CHL Top Prospects game also helped serve notice that the relatively unknown prospect heading into the 2016 draft year is a first round pick. While Abramov is small by pro standards, his high-end skill set and skating ability will allow him to be an effective player at higher levels.”
If Abramov checked in but a few inches taller than the 5’9″ he’s currently listed as it’s entirely possible he’s in the discussion as a top-ten pick. Likely, even.
I’ve taken a liking to Abramov because his combination of sleight stature and Russian heritage make him a tough sell to general managers. He’s also been gifted offensive ability in spades, possessing fantastic lateral movement and a deceptive wrist shot. His best asset, however, is his stickhandling, as he showed multiple times over the 2015-16 season, dancing around opponents with relative ease. Only one draft-eligible player from the Q produced primary points at a better rate than Abramov — Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is practically a lock to go in the top 5 of this year’s draft. If that isn’t enough to convince you of his offensive talent, consider that Gatineau’s second-best offensive contributor, Alex Dostie, finished 20 points shy of Abramov’s final total.
Abramov was the driving force behind the Olympiques’ offence, helping his team reach the second round of the QMJHL playoffs, and drawing high praise from coach, 2015 WJHC gold medal-winner Benoit Groulx:
“You never expect a rookie to be that good in his first year, but since day one he’s been our best player offensively. If I compare him to Claude Giroux at the same age, he’s on pace to have more points than Claude, which is quite an accomplishment… If [he has] a good game, he’ll manufacture 4-5 scoring chances for him or his partner.”
Abramov didn’t quite hit the lofty totals Giroux did in his draft-eligible season, but he did finish the season with a remarkably similar points-per-game total, just .02 shy of Giroux’s average of 1.49. Even so, that’s high praise coming from someone who’s coached as much elite talent as Groulx has.
Small players like Abramov who have a knack for putting the puck in the net are often labelled “high-risk, high-reward”, but Abramov is the rare prospect that actually fits the bill. His pGPS % of 33.33% is good value for a late first-rounder, but he only has six matches, so the sample is far from conclusive. The risk is certainly there, (among the six matches, four were outright busts) but Abramov’s most successful NHL comparable is Daniel Brière, so if he hits his offensive ceiling, we could be looking at a possible elite scoring forward. For what it’s worth, his most statistically similar match according to pGPS was Stéphan Lebeau, far from a household name, but a good offensive contributor in his own right, albeit over a short period of time.
As it stands, the “Russian factor” and size will likely cause Abramov to drop lower than his statistical profile suggests he ought to. A lot of things will likely have to go right for him to reach his ceiling offensively, but if he does, watch out. He could make a lot of teams look silly for passing on him.