Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
2021 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Santeri Airola
#24: Jan Drozg
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Clayton Phillips
#21: Chase Yoder
#20: Kirill Tankov, Forward
2020 Ranking: NR
Age: 19 (March 26, 2002)
Height/Weight: 6’ 2”, 190 pounds
Acquired Via: 2021 NHL Draft (Seventh Round — #218 overall)
Prior to last month, the Pittsburgh Penguins had not drafted a Russian skater coming out of the Russian ranks since....Evgeni Malkin. As part of the team’s new management, they hired former NHL player Alexander Khavanov as a scout, giving the Pens a presence in that country that has been lacking for a long, long time.
The first addition to the organization from their new eyes in Russia came in the last round of the 2021 draft with the addition of center/forward Kirill Tankov.
Tankov is an over-age player, he was passed over in all of 2020 and almost all of 2021 in the NHL draft.
Tankov is pretty fun to watch controlling the puck and dekeing around opponents, it’s easy to see how he got on the scouts radar. This is an offensive-minded player who likes to put the puck on a string and go dancin’.
Tankov is one of the few Pens’ prospects that even have a limited chance of seeing NHL success, based on Patrick Bacon’s Equivalency and Prospect Projection Model.
In 2021, there aren’t many secrets with advanced scouting, video, the internet, and all the wonders of modern technology — but sometimes players fall through the cracks in Russia. Back in the day it was around where Detroit could find a Pavel Datsyuk in the seventh round. Artemi Panarin was a small, scrawny, light weight and unknown player to the NHL during his draftable years.
Tankov might be in the same category. Hailing from a city called Yurga, Tankov is pretty much out of the “middle of no where” and is way closer to Mongolia or Kazakhstan than he is to Moscow. He played in nearby Metallurg Novokuznetsk (not to be confused with the completely different Metallurg Magnitogorsk team that Evgeni Malkin hails from) and now is up to the MHL, or basically a junior feeder league to the VHL and eventually KHL in the Russian hierarchy of professional hockey.
As of now, Tankov is pretty much just the brainchild of Khavanov right now. Will it pay off for the Pens in the years to come? That would be the best case scenario. Tankov has good size, and obviously has the dangles and some skill in his hands.
Tankov is still very young and still has several levels up to get to the promised land. As a seventh round pick, this is still very much the territory for the Penguins that if anything comes of this pick, it’s a nice bonus. If not, life will go on.
Perhaps the more important factor beyond whatever Tankov does or doesn’t become as a player is simply the fact that Pittsburgh’s new management and scouting is now invested into scanning the Russian pool of players more now, and have “boots on the ground” in the form of an actual full-time Russian native that will be scouring that area to give the Pens more knowledge and information for the future.
Scouting strategies in the NHL are long-term propositions, but the hiring of Khavanov and using a draft pick right away on a upside type player like Tankov who probably wasn’t on many NHL team’s radars is an interesting development in Pittsburgh. It’s only a meaningful development if they can turn finding prospects and draft picks into NHL contributors, which we won’t know for many years, but the shifting of vision and allocating an investment to Russia is a new and potentially exciting step for a franchise who has had players like Malkin, Kovalev, Morozov and Gonchar play big roles over the years.