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2022 Flames Top 25 Under 25: #23- Ilya Nikolayev

Nikolayev fared well in his first season in North America



#23 – Ilya Nikolayev

Position: Center

Age: 21

2021-22 Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)

Stats: 58 GP, 23 G, 49 A, 72 Pts, 83 PIM

Drafted 88th Overall in 2019

2021 Ranking: #29 (+6)

The Flames 2019 third round pick had a solid first season in North America after making the transition from Russia for 2021-22. Nikolayev finished tied for 10th in USHL scoring as a whole as well as the Tri-City Storm put together a very strong regular season.

While it is encouraging to see Nikolayev dominating in the USHL, it is important to remember that it is often players who are 17-18 years old playing in this league and Nikolayev was 20 for the entirety of last season. The big test for him will be how he performs this season as he moves to professional hockey either with AHL Calgary or the Flames ECHL affiliate depending on when that is announced.

He is likely to find himself in a bottom six AHL role this season but it will be critical for the Wranglers to use him effectively to try and build on his skills. He did dress in one playoff game with Stockton last year, giving him a very small taste of AHL hockey.

With a regular role on the team, it is possible that Nikolayev could begin working his way towards a spot in Calgary, although that is likely still a couple years down the road.

by Michael MacGillivray