With the 186th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected overage goalie Amir Miftakhov from Russia. The Lightning’s management followed a trend from previous drafts, selecting a goalie third year in a row. Miftakhov had been eligible to be drafted in both 2018 and 2019 years, however he had to wait until this year’s draft to be drafted.
Miftakhov is a 20 year-old, 6’1”, 165 pounds player. He’s pretty small for a netminder and it was probably the biggest reason why he was overlooked in previous years. He, however, compensates a lack of size with his advanced hockey IQ and his exceptional athleticism. Most experts value his quickness, movement and reflexes. His puck tracking abilities are also at a very high level and he plays with good positioning of his pads and blockers, however at the last WJC he struggled a little bit with the pucks heading over his shoulder.
Miftakhov has a history of playing for the national team and considered as one of the top goaltenders of his age in Russia. He has an experience from playing at the U18 World Championship and Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017-18 season. A year later he was selected to the U20 Team Russia roster, although he was the third goaltender behind Pyotr Kochetkov and Daniil Tarasov.
In 2020 he made the WJC roster again as a backup to Yaroslav Askarov, who was selected as the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft. Miftakhov was able to outperform his teammate and replaced him in the net after Askarov struggled in the early games. In five games at the WJC, Miftakhov recorded 2.12 GAA, .919 save percentage, posted one shutout and was one of the key reasons why Team Russia finished the tournament with silver medals.
Miftakhov is an alumnus of the Ak Bars Kazan hockey academy and spent his entire career in their organization. In two previous season he played mostly in the VHL (Major Hockey League), which is the second highest league in Russia. During the 2019-20 season he made his debut in the KHL, but played in just two games. The 2020-21 season he started again in the VHL and is battling for a backup position in the KHL. The COVID-19 pandemic already forced several teams in the KHL to send their players in quarantine and play younger players, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Miftakhov will be given more time in the KHL this season.
The Russian goalies mostly prefer to take some time before arriving to North America and stay for several seasons in Russia. Miftakhov is currently under contract till the end of the 2020-21 season, but it doesn’t mean that he comes to Syracuse immediately. I’d expect him to sign another contract in Kazan next spring for 2-4 years, establish a bigger role in the KHL and may be come to North America before he’s 25 year-old. A young Russian goaltender has already expressed a desire of going overseas before.
“Miftakhov is a third-year draft-eligible prospect – a player I’ve listed twice and continue to stubbornly believe should be drafted. He’s small, there’s no getting around that as a true six-foot goaltender. He didn’t have an amazing season either at the second division pro level in Russia. Miftakhov is an exceptional athlete, though. His ability to make the high-end save and to get to pucks he has no business getting to is right at the top of his age group and this draft class. He improvises in tough situations so well and, despite his tremendous quickness, I would not describe him as an out of control goalie. He makes great reads and stays with the play. He’s small, pucks go over his shoulder more than you like so the NHL is unlikely, but he’s so talented that he’s worth being picked.” – The Athletic, Corey Pronman
“Amir Miftkahov (6th Round, 186th overall) was the Lightning’s best pick as far as talent and skill goes. He’s had a rough start in the KHL this season (and is currently injured), but he was a huge reason Russia won silver at the World Juniors last winter and he outperformed first-rounder Yaroslav Askarov in goal. Miftakhov will need to add to his 6’1, 165lb frame, but his puck-tracking and lateral movement are excellent, and he has the tools to become a solid goaltender in the future (and it goes without saying Russian goaltenders fare well in the NHL). After drafting three goaltenders in the last two drafts (Hugo Alnefelt in 2019 and Magnus Chrona and Ty Taylor in 2018), I wasn’t expecting the Lightning to take a goalie this year, but Miftakhov still being available in the sixth round was too good to pass up.” – Raw Charge, Lauren Kelly
“Currently small and slight at six foot and under 160. He is an outstanding focused athlete that anticipates and tracks ensuing looks. Patient and will wait out puck carrying attackers forcing them to make the first move. Traffic in front doesn’t rattle him. He slides post to post when ensuing attackers go East-West across the crease. Sis slide mirrors their movements. Can quickly get down low, paddle down, closing the five hole. Very good rebound control as he absorbs most shots in his soft pads. Funnels the rest to the corners. Was outstanding at the Under 18 Five Nations. Put his name in the conservation as a possible second rounder.” – Bill Placzek, draftsite.com
For my #TBL friends, my evaluation of G Amir Miftakhov (186th overall, 6th RD). So glad someone finally took this kid; considered “undersized” but extremely smart player.— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) October 7, 2020
Very low-risk, high-reward option with Chrona and Alnefelt already in the system. pic.twitter.com/XtzNMU03vc
Apr 16, 2018 Pre-WJC U18: Amir Miftakhov amazing save vs Sweden pic.twitter.com/8rJsVA0jjc— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) April 16, 2018
Dec 14, 2017 WJAC: Amir Miftakhov amazing save vs USA pic.twitter.com/FEZoNrUw7t— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) December 14, 2017
Big save by Miftakhov on Lafreniere and a huge block by Alexander Romanov (MTL) on the follow up.— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 5, 2020
Romanov having another outstanding tournament at both ends of the ice. He's going to see a ton of ice in the third with Russia leading Canada 2-1 at the second intermission. pic.twitter.com/4AFU1AGdG9