The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Dmitry Ovchinnikov out of Russia on Friday. His name isn’t yet well known by the fanbase but that might change in a hurry.
The 19-year-old from Chita, Russia inked a three-year entry level contract, which includes playing the remainder of this season in the organization. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced that the forward will report to their AHL farm team, the Toronto Marlies, once he receives his Canadian work permit.
The Leafs owned Ovchinnikov’s rights after selecting him in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. They took him in the fifth round, 137th overall. While that isn’t a position that normally produces NHL talent, the Leafs may have struck gold this time.
This season, Ovchinnikov split his time between his junior club, Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk in the MHL and the KHL pro team in the same organization, Sibir Novosibirsk. He was a point machine in the MHL, recording 29 points in 22 games on 13 goals and 16 assists. Not surprisingly, Ovchinnikov had a far smaller role in the KHL. In 17 games, he had a goal and a pair of assists. In the previous season, playing in the MHL, Ovchinnikov put together a 51 point campaign with 20 goals and 31 assists in 40 games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Dmitry Ovchinnikov
With the Marlies, Ovchinnikov will have the opportunity to further develop his game and begin the process of familiarizing himself with the North American style of play. He will be fortunate to learn to be a pro around players like Kyle Clifford and Michael Hutchinson and his new head coach, Greg Moore.
Ovchinnikov has already shown that he has an excellent upside in Russia. Soon, it should be clear what the Toronto Maple Leafs have in him as a prospect.
In March of 2021, Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects described Ovchinnikov’s as, “an incredibly quick skater with great vision and an even better shot. He has the ability to be a dangerous goal-scorer at the higher levels.”
Ovchinnikov has already grown substantially since that time though Nevalainen’s description still holds true. Ovchinnikov has a wicked release and can create offense on his own.
The newest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization has the potential of becoming a top-six forward in the NHL. With his flashy skill, it shouldn’t take long before highlights begin to pile up with the Marlies. He has a long way to go in his development without any guarantees but at this time, it’s fair to prognosticate that that is his ceiling.
Buckle up Leafs fans because this should be a fun project. There is the potential of a massive payout for Toronto if Ovchinnikov development’s continues in a linear fashion.