Ilya Nikolayev – 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Ilya Nikolayev

Vancouver THW 2019 NHL Entry Draft Guide (Square)

2018-19 Team: Loko Yaroslavl
Date of Birth: June 26, 2001
Place of Birth: Yaroslavl, Russia
Ht: 6’ 0” Wt: 183 lbs
Position: C
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2019 first-year eligible


Ilya Nikolayev isn’t as big as some of the other names ahead of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but the Russian centre is an extremely well-rounded player that will be able to make an impact in the NHL.

Related: NHL Draft Guide | 2019 Edition

Nikolayev started the 2018-19 season with the Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl, playing just three games before getting called up to the Loko Yaroslavl. He did well there, scoring 10 goals and 25 points in 41 games. He really came into his own during the playoffs, scoring five goals and eight points through six games before heading to the IIHF U18 World Championship as an alternate captain.

The 17-year-old’s best attribute may be his versatility, he is strong at even-strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill. Every now and then he’ll display extreme skill, whether it’s passing or puck-handling, but he needs to work on his consistency. There are times when he disappears for a game or stretches, although that wasn’t the case in the 2018-19 playoffs.

At the U18 World Hockey Championship, Nikolayev played on the second line with Vasili Podkolzin and Rodion Amirov (a 2020 prospect). He was an alternate captain and collected two goals and two assists while helping Russia to a silver medal.

Nikolayev has a lot of potential and should rise in the draft rankings after his playoff performance. He has said he tries to follow the play of Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, only time will tell if he can live up to that level.

Other THW Draft Profiles:

Ilya Nikolayev – NHL Draft Projection

Nikolayev is ranked all over the place but should be a late first-round pick at this year’s draft. His puck-handling, vision, and ability to be used in all scenarios make him an attractive selection for any team looking for a well-rounded centre.


“The center on Russia’s top line at the WJAC, Nikolaev put up six points in six games, tying him for third in tourney scoring behind liney Vasily Podkolzin and MVP Brink. Nikolaev is a 2019 draft prospect with great vision and playmaking abilities and he also saw some time on the penalty-kill.” – Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News

“Nikolayev was fantastic at the World Junior A Challenge, looking almost as good as linemate Podkolzin. Does a great job of dangling the puck through traffic and has a keen nose for the net.” –  Derek Neumeier, SB Nation

“A strong and sturdy 200-foot center who is entrusted with every in-game scenario you can think of, Nikolaev is a dependable penalty killer who also dishes the puck with flair and accuracy.” – Steve Kournianos, Sporting News

“The Russia-born forward was good at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August but could disappear during games. When the left-shot center got going, though, he was spectacular. If he can show consistency, he could prove to be a hidden gem.” –


  • Vision
  • Playmaking
  • Puck handling
  • Well-rounded center

Under Construction (Improvements to Make)

  • Consistency

NHL Potential

If Nikolayev can remain consistent on his path to the NHL, he could become a top-six forward. If he continues as he has been, it might be more realistic that he’s a top-nine forward. He will probably spend another season in Russia before coming to play the North American game, spending at least one more season in the AHL.

Risk-Reward Analysis

Risk – 3.75/5 | Reward – 3.5/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offense – 7/10 | Defense – 8/10


Nikolayev not only participated in the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but was the alternate captain for the tournament, collecting seven points through five games, helping Russia to a bronze medal. As part of the Russia U18 WJAC team in 2018-19, he scored a goal and added five assists through six games before his four points and a silver medal at the U18 World Championship in April 2019.

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