Weight: 185 Pounds
Date of birth: March 30, 2002
Hometown: Tallinn, Estonia
OHL Draft: Round 1, 56th overall, 2019 CHL Import Draft
NHL Central Scouting Rankings
|C Prospect||B Prospect||69 N.A.||
The 2018-2019 season saw London Knights’ Defenceman Kirill Steklov split time with Vityaz Podolsk Under-17 and Under 18 squads. With Podolsk Under-17, Steklov appeared in 22 games and scored once while adding 11 assists. But when he joined the older squad, I think his offensive abilities may have surprised many. In 9 games, he scored twice and assisted on 5 others. He improved on those in the playoffs with 3 goals and 4 helpers in 6 games.
The Knights saw enough of him to select him with the 56th overall pick at the 2019 CHL Import Draft and in early July committed to joining the Knights. General Manager Mark Hunter had this to say:
“Kirill will make an immediate impact on our roster for this upcoming season.” We’ve been watching Kirill throughout last season and were very impressed with his talents on the ice. Kirill fits the new style of defenceman; having an offensive skill set to compliment his defensive strengths. We were very excited that we were able to select him in the Import Draft and are looking forward to having him play for the London Knights.”
Steklov would begin the year representing Russia at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup – he has Estonian and Russian duo nationalities. Steklov had one assist in 5 games as Russia went on to capture a Gold Medal. Altogether, he has represented Russia internationally on 44 occasions.
This season, Steklov appeared in 50 games for the Knights, scoring twice and adding 7 helpers. But as is often the case on a Dale Hunter coached team, your first year isn’t always about offence, but playing defence first. And when your team boasts offensive dynamo Ryan Merkley and third year OHL’er Alec Regula who finished second and sixth respectively in OHL defencemen scoring, the Knights didn’t need Steklov to provide offence. Add to that pair Hunter Skinner (112 overall at the 2019 draft by the New York Rangers) and Markus Phillips – acquired at trade deadline – (118 overall at the 2017 draft by Los Angeles Kings) and veteran Gerard Keane, there wasn’t much ice time to go around after the deadline.
Reading the book on Steklov is not an easy one. He is the ultimate definition of a raw defender. You have to love the size at 6’4” and the reach he possesses. And he has above average mobility to go with that size. He’s shown an ability to stand his blue line and deny zone entries with his reach. His skating is good enough to keep gaps tight and force players to the outside. He has the size and strength to win battles along the walls and to keep opponents from the front of his net. He’s difficult to beat one-on-one.
Steklov showed flashes of all those things. But the consistency was lacking and that could be due in part to lack of ice time, getting the repetitions and building confidence and growing accustomed to the smaller ice surface. Being away from home and his family isn’t an “excuse” as he left his family behind at a very young age in his native Estonia to pursue his hockey career in Russia. But even so, moving to London presented a different lifestyle and a new language.
As we saw with Vityaz Podolsk Under-18, we know Steklov has offensive upside. But just how much is still a question mark. He’s shown flashes of activating offensively. But there is also hesitation in his game when he is carrying the puck. He also plays it to safe at the offensive blue line, almost looking to worried about making a mistake and would rather play it safe (nothing wrong with that). Again, this could be an experience, adjustment period and a confidence thing.
Steklov should get a long look at the 2020 NHL Draft. But one has to look past the rawness and attempt to get a read on his potential.