The Maple Leafs have signed forward prospect Dmitri Ovchinnikov to a three-year entry-level contract, the club announced on Friday.

Ovchinnikov — a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NHL draft, who the Leafs actually traded up to pick — has split his last two seasons between the KHL and the Russian junior league (the MHL).

Ovchinnikov was in a weird spot. He was clearly too good to benefit from more time in the MHL; he scored 33 goals and 80 points in 62 games over the last two seasons for Sibirskie Snaipery. At the same time, despite being one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, his KHL club wasn’t yet comfortable enough with his game to give him regular ice time, relying on older low-scoring veterans as opposed to the skilled young Ovchinnikov. He logged 17 games in the KHL this season, scoring just one goal and three points while playing under six minutes in over half of those outings.

His organization does not own a team in the VHL (the Russian second tie pro league), so his options over the last two seasons consisted of:

A) Continue to dominate a league he’s proven to be too good for

B) Ride the pine with the big club, getting limited minutes and puck touches

Bringing him over to the Leafs organization, where he’s expected to join the AHL Marlies, should be beneficial for Ovchinnikov’s development as the Leafs are now entirely in control of his minutes. If he’s not ready to play big minutes for the Marlies, he can always report to the ECHL affiliate in Newfoundland, where he’d certainly play big minutes.

Ovchinnikov brings a ton of speed and skill to the table. When he’s getting ice time, he’s one of the Maple Leafs’ more exciting prospects to watch:

At 5’11 and 163lbs, Ovchinnikov will need to continue to add muscle to his frame and it remains to be seen how his game will translate to the smaller ice surface. That being said, this is a player with a high upside who has a lot of fun tools to work with.

All in all, it’s nice to see the Leafs bring Ovchinnikov across the pond, as it should help an exciting prospect continue to develop.