The Detroit Red Wings changed the fate of their franchise in 1989 by drafting a pair of talented Russians, Sergei Fedorov (74th overall, 1989) and Vladimir Konstantinov (221st overall, 1989), who helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1997. Even though they have found success with Russian players throughout the years, Detroit doesn’t have a history of using high draft picks to acquire them. Even Pavel Datsyuk was drafted in the 6th round of the 1998 Draft. You have to go back to 1997 when the Red Wings selected winger Yuri Butsayev in the 2nd round for a somewhat high Russian draft pick.
Related: Red Wings 2022 Draft Coverage
Here is a look at Danila Yurov, who has first-round talent and could be a sleeper selection by the Red Wings with the 8th pick on July 7.
Born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Yurov is a left-shot winger, listed at 6-foot-1 and 179 pounds. His highest draft ranking is #3, according to the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking (Among EU skaters), and his lowest ranking is 15th per Smaht Scouting Winter Rankings.
Yurov spent the 2021-22 season playing for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk in the MHL (Russian junior league) and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. For Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, he scored 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 23 games and had a goal in two playoff games. For Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he was scoreless in 21 games, largely playing a fourth-line role with limited ice time. He did not have a point in 19 playoff games.
He has had international success, representing Russia at the IIHF Under-18 World Hockey Championships, where Yurov scored four goals and seven assists in seven tournament games and helped his team to a silver medal. In 2019-20, he put up two goals and six assists in six games at the U17 World Hockey Challenge, helping Russia win a gold medal.
Yurov has a balanced offensive game. He likes to play quickly, moving the puck fast, which enables him to successfully give and go while cycling the puck in the offensive end. He has a heavy wrist shot and can play the role of a sniper, often fooling goalies with his quick release. Along with these offensive skills, he enjoys playing a physical game, getting in on the forecheck often and battling hard on the boards for loose pucks.
His skating is considered good but could be great with some adjustments. His stride is a bit choppy, preventing him from getting the most out of his natural ability. He has good top-end speed and can still change speeds, which can be a weapon in the offensive zone. He has excellent edgework and agility and can be elusive with and without the puck.
Yurov needs to work on his stick handling to become a far more dominant offensive forward. The potential is there. He just needs to work on cradling the puck around attackers and honing in on his deceptive instincts to counteract his attackers’ defensive measures. He does have the chance to be a quality top-six winger at the NHL level and has the mindset to complement a top-line center.
Using High-Draft Picks on Russian Players Comes With Risk
Drafting Russian prospects can be challenging for an NHL franchise. Even if they possess high-end talent, many get passed over because they have the option to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), commonly known as the second-best hockey league in the world. Teams don’t want to invest a high draft pick and have to wait too many years for a player to come to the NHL team that can when they could use their talent right away. In Minnesota, it took five years and three GMs to finally bring Kirill Kaprizov to the Wild.
The fact that Yurov has KHL experience is a testament to how physically mature he is for a player his age. The MHL, Russia’s junior-aged league, is a weaker league compared to the Canadian Hockey League, as many of the top players there won’t go on to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Those who get a coveted call-up are often given terrible minutes when they arrive, as many coaches prefer experience and age, putting young players in a tough spot. Yurov’s current KHL contract runs through 2022-23, which shouldn’t be much of a hindrance in his development timeline.
Potential Fit in Detroit
There is a quote from Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s former director of amateur scouting, who, in 2012, referred to general manager Steve Yzerman’s philosophy about drafting Russian players. “There is no connection or secret to why our drafts have turned out that way,” Murray noted. “We don’t care what nationality you are, as long as we do our homework and make sure the players want to come to North America then we have no problem picking them.”
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
“When I came on board, a group of us sat down with Steve (Yzerman), and we looked at our team philosophy and what we would be looking for in players, and there were a number of different criteria we wanted to reach,” Murray continued. “We wanted a certain level of hockey sense, competitiveness, skill, size, and skating, and at no point did the nationality of the player ever come into the equation.”
If Yurov is management’s choice, you can bet Yzerman did his due diligence and made some calls for a scouting report from Fedorov, who served as GM for five seasons of CSKA Moscow and was recently named coach of the year in the KHL in his first season behind the bench. While Yurov is not likely to be selected by the Red Wings with the 8th-overall pick, he does have the talent, skills, and competitiveness that Yzerman looks for in a player.
“While we have yet to truly see his capabilities at the KHL level due to extremely limited minutes through his 19 games, his play internationally and in the MHL is more than enough to convince FCHockey’s scouts. His competitiveness and two-way ability make him a very promising prospect.” Josh Bell – SportingNews/FC Hockey
“Yurov has the speed and skill level to be a top-two line NHL winger though he’s a bit of a tougher read because he tends to play limited minutes against men in the KHL.” – Bob McKenzie, TSN
“Don’t let Yurov’s lack of KHL production fool you – this kid has plenty of offensive talent. He plays a bit more of a straight-ahead game, but his pace and ability to make plays under pressure stand out. With greater opportunity, those talents will shine through.” Nick Richard – Dobber Prospect
“He’s a smooth skater and has amazing speed, making him lightning quick in transition. He has no problem being able to go from end to end and take charge of a play every shift. He’s a strong playmaker, finding the seams and is extremely effective at protecting the puck.” Peter Baracchini – The Hockey Writers
Rob Klein grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan playing pond hockey every winter, and watching Hockey Night in Canada on CBC every Saturday. Being able to finally watch his Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in 1997 was his finest NHL moment. As a fan of the NHL for over 40 years he has been able to follow many great teams and appreciate the history of this great game as well as the remarkable talent that is playing today.