In Hockey Wilderness’s annual prospect rankings earlier this year, I wrote about how Minnesota Wild prospect Danila Yurov was the whole package and that he’d be arriving in North America sooner than later.
I’m sorry, that's my bad.
As it turns out, Yurov has reportedly signed an extension with his KHL club, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and will play in Russia for an additional season. That’s a shame for the Wild and Yurov. When Yurov flew over for development camp before this season, he expressed interest in coming to North America after this season. It turns out that won’t happen.
Yurov is doing just fine in the KHL this season. The former first-round pick is rewarding Metallurg for playing him more. Last season, Yurov averaged just eight minutes of ice time per game as a 19-year-old. Yurov is averaging over 15 minutes of ice time per game through 35 games this season.
With 12 goals and 15 assists through 35 KHL games, Yurov has established himself as one of the top players on his team and for his age. Yurov’s 27 points are already a career-high.
Yurov is on pace to finish with 48 points this season. Assuming he doesn’t have a second-half slump, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll achieve that. Why does that matter?
Suppose Yurov continues to build on his successful second season in the KHL. Then is what the new all-time points by 20-year-old KHL player in a single season record books will look like:
Name Born Pos Season GP G A P
Danila Yurov 2003 F 2023-24 62 21 27 48
Vladimir Tarasenko 1991 F 2011‑12 54 23 24 47
Anatoli Golyshev 1995 F 2015‑16 56 25 19 44
Evgeny Kuznetsov 1992 F 2012‑13 51 19 25 44
Marat Khusnutdinov 2002 F 2022‑23 63 11 30 41
Kirill Kaprizov 1997 F 2017‑18 46 15 25 40
Nikolai Prokhorkin 1993 F 2013‑14 52 19 18 37
Pavel Buchnevich 1995 F 2015‑16 58 16 21 37
Artemi Panarin 1991 F 2011‑12 50 13 19 32
Even if Yurov played more games, the Russian is still fifth in points per game among this group as it stands right now. Yurov puts himself ahead of guys like Tarasenko, Kuznetzov, Wild prospect Khusnutdinov, current Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov and Artemi Panarin.
But, I mean, shoot, what have those guys ever done?
So now that we’ve confirmed that Yurov is the next great Russian superstar, why would Wild fans not want him to play in America as soon as possible? Well, they should. But the KHL is a fine place to develop. It worked out for Kaprizov and Panarin, although they played in Russia even longer.
The only problem with developing in Russia is that often KHL clubs will put pressure on players to sign extensions that prevent them from coming stateside. We saw this play out with Kaprizov and with Khusnutdinov more recently.
KHL clubs will cut the minutes of a young player to force them to sign an extension. There would be games where St. Petersburg SKA would scratch Khusnutdinov or play him a handful of minutes at the bottom of the lineup. Once he signed the extension? He was right back in the top six.
Yurov has made his intentions to come over to the NHL clear. He signed his extension for one more year. Therefore, there shouldn’t be a concern that Yurov will stay in Russia long-term. It’s just disappointing that we’ll have to wait another year to see the Russian phenom in a Wild sweater.
There are a few reasons why Yurov might have signed this extension. First, there are the economic factors. Yurov will make more money in the KHL. Players Yurov’s age typically sign for over $1 million in Russia, and Yurov is capped at 925k on his rookie deal, and that's if he plays in the NHL.
The Wild faces a two-fold issue with Yurov.
The first part is that there is no room for Yurov on the Wild roster right now. By extending Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Freddy Gaudreau, Marcus Johansson, and Marcus Foligno, the Wild have created limited opportunities for Yurov to thrive. With all these veterans locked in for the long haul, Yurov would have to start at the bottom of the lineup. After getting a taste of that in the KHL, I’m not sure he’s all too interested in doing that again.
So if he can’t play in the NHL, then he could play in the AHL, right? Not so fast. His fellow countrymen Vladislav Firstov, Alexander Khovanov, and Dimitri Sokolov had an unpleasant experience in the AHL. In general, Russians tend not to play in the AHL. Why make $70k in the AHL when you can stay home and make more money? The AHL would also be a lateral move for Yurov. The KHL is the second-best professional league in the world, and Yurov will play against better competition in his home country.
So, with no room on the NHL roster, and no desire to play in the AHL, Yurov did what was best for him and signed in the KHL for another season. With the extension, Yurov should take Johansson’s spot in the top six when he comes over in 2025-26. That’s also the last year of Kaprizov and Zuccarello’s deals. It would be good to pair Kirill with a player he’s excited to play with as his best friend embraces a twilight season.
I’d still expect that Khusnutdinov and Liam Öhgren will come over after this season. Russo reports that the Wild expect Khusnutdinov to start in the NHL and that Öhgren will fight for a spot in camp but could play in the AHL. Khusnutdinov is also a guy who could be a good stylistic fit in the bottom six for the Wild. Minnesota will most likely have to replace one or two of Pat Maroon, Brandon Duhaime, or Connor Dewar. Therefore, they should have a spot in the bottom six open.
Yurov is still very much part of Minnesota’s future after signing an extension in the KHL. But it’s a concerning sign that a top prospect would rather play for a different team because the Wild don’t have room for a top prospect to crack their roster.
All stats and data via HockeyDB, QuantHockey, and Elite Prospects unless otherwise noted.
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