Faber’s Prospect Rankings #6: Danila Klimovich fell out of our top-5 but could be back there in no time
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By Faber2 months ago
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One of the hardest things to do during this most recent prospect rankings was dropping Danila Klimovich out of the top-five.
After a tough rookie season in the AHL as an 18/19-year-old, Klimovich found his footing during his sophomore season and finished the season with 17 goals and 12 assists in 67 AHL games.
The now 20-year-old, 6’2″ right-winger made big improvements in his own game including his play in the defensive zone as well as improving the consistency in which he is able to get a good shot off. There’s not a lot of bad things you can say about Klimovich’s 2022-23 season and that’s why we found it hard to put him in at number six on our list — I guess that speaks to the prospect pool improving or others having great runs to propel themselves into the top-five.
Klimovich’s most noticeable improvement had to be his improvement in his own zone. When he’s engaged, he’s actually a very strong defender. Klimovich has a lot of strength and a very long reach. When he uses both of those traits to his advantage in the defensive zone, he can disrupt possessions and create 50-50 pucks for his linemates. Much of his 2022-23 season was spent alongside Arshdeep Bains and Chase Wouters — two players who are very well regarded for their defensive skills in the AHL.
As much as his linemates made it easier on Klimovich, the Belarussian winger had to put in his own work and he was paid off for it at the end of the season. In his rookie year, Klimovich was a -8 on the year but completely flipped the script on his goal share as he finished this past season with a team-leading +15 plus/minus.
One thing that you’re often told when you cover prospects and are critical of them is, ‘they are so young, cut them some slack’.
Klimovich certainly deserves some slack. No hockey player made a bigger jump in competition during the 2021-22 season as Klimovich jumped from the Belarussian second-league all the way up to the AHL — arguably the second-best league in the world.
As much as we’ve given Klimovich slack to develop his defensive game and grow in the North American game, we’ve also been critical of his mannerisms on the ice. This kid came into the AHL and had some issues with keeping his emotions under control. There were slashes, there were penalties, and he even dropped the gloves a couple of times.
We like that Klimovich has some bite to his game and under his new head coach Jeremy Colliton — Klimovich seemed to be a much more mature player who wasn’t baited by the opposition like he was in his rookie season. Colliton pushed the right buttons with Klimovich (aside from not giving him consistent power play time but we will get to that later) and seems to have the youngster on the right path to developing into a piece that can be used in the NHL.
He’s far from being a defensively dominant player. There’s a lot that needs to be learned in terms of understanding systems and we did see some late-game benchings for Klimovich. The AHL is a league where no matter how young and talented you are, you’ve got to earn everything. Klimovich has learned about earnings and losing ice time a lot over the past two seasons. He was one of the top scoring players over the past seasons but he is by and far away the leader in benchings during play.
Klimovich’s combination of size, skill and shot power makes you very excited about him as an NHL prospect and his current rate of development is probably ahead of schedule if you were to go back two years and predict what you expect from him.
I mean, just look at the power behind this wrist shot.
Ceiling: Top-six winger. If Klimovich continues to develop his scoring touch while improving on his defensive game, he has the type of shot that can beat set-goaltenders in the NHL. He has such power behind his wrist shot and can unleash a bomb of a slap shot when he is given time on the power play unit.
Floor: Score a lot of goals in the AHL. He’s almost at that point right now but we have already seen enough good offence in Klimovich’s game to say that his floor would be a solid AHL scoring winger. He’s just now aging out of junior hockey and we have to think that this past two seasons is just him scratching the surface of what he can be as a North American pro.
Production (and how): Klimovich finished the 2023-23 season with 17 goals and 12 assists in 67 games. He scored 13 of those goals at even-strength and added four power play goals to get him to 17. A lot of his goals were scored from the left half-wall or around the crease. If he gets enough time and space, he is deadly with his powerful shot and though there were certainly improvements in his game in terms of consistently getting power shots on net, he also left us craving more development as he absolutely wired some shots wide this past season.
Prediction (for the 2023-24 year): As we expect Klimovich is doing for himself, we are going to up our expectations for next season. We see Klimovich scoring 25 goals and adding 21 assists next season. There should be more consistent power play time next season as he was only used on the power play about 25% of the time this season. We are completely guessing here with this number, there’s no power play ice time stat available to the public.
ETA: There’s a world where Klimovich gets into some NHL games this season but with the new management group seeming like they believe in over-marinating prospects in the AHL, we expect to see Klimovich make his NHL debut sometime in the 2024-25 season. If he is able to find consistent top-six time in the AHL this season and be able to pot 20+ goals while also finding success on the power play — he will be in the NHL for the 2024-25 season as a 21-year-old.
Before we close out, I want to circle back on Klimovich not making our top-five. As I said earlier, I really wanted to have him in our top-five but just couldn’t convince myself that he belonged above each of the five prospects we have ahead of him. A big reason for that is likely because he’s in a very tough league and unlike some of those other prospects, his development is going to be much tougher and not show us immediate results due to being able to develop something in his game against junior players or NCAA guys.
Klimovich is developing against some of the best players in the world and his hill may be steeper than some other prospect but he continues to truck along as he attempts to reach the mountain that is known as the NHL.
We already see some skills in his game looking like they could be NHL-level and depending on how the season goes in the NHL as well for Klimovich in the AHL — there’s a chance he gets a similar role to Lane Pederson. Do you remember when Pederson played 60 minutes of five-on-five ice time with Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson? We could see Klimovich used in that type of situation for the 2023-24 season and he might look even better with some offensively dynamic players like Pettersson and Kuzmenko.
The kid already has an NHL shot and has continued to make big improvements in his defensive game but he still has a lot of work to do before we are sure he has an NHL future.
Klimovich could easily be in the top-five of our next prospect rankings. He has a size advantage over Jonathan Lekkerimäki and right now we have to believe there’s a chance that Klimovich will ultimately become the better prospect between himself and Lekkerimäki.
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We will say this, if Klimovich scores 25+ goals next season, it’s going to be very difficult to keep him out of the top-three prospects and if he pots 25+, he’s automatically in the top-five.
There’s a bright future for this kid if he continues to develop at hit current rate. He has the staff support that can assist him heavily and spending his offseasons in Vancouver has given him time to work with some of the best local summer coaches while also focusing on developing his body as he grows into a man. The kid just turned 20 this year — there’s a lot of time left for him and the fact that he came to the AHL at such a young age should begin to be praised instead of being criticised as it was when he didn’t get sent down to the QMJHL.
If Klimovich can continue to grow consistency in his shot and use his physicality and long reach in the defensive zone, he will be an NHLer.
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