ARLINGTON, V.A. — Back in 2004, Alex Ovechkin came to D.C. after hearing the Washington Capitals select him first overall in the NHL Draft. Now 37, he is the captain and an all-time great and is watching a new promising young Russian in Ivan Miroshnichenko join the team after going 20th to the Capitals in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Ovechkin was keeping an eye on the draft, and when he heard assistant general manager Ross Mahoney call Miroshnichenko’s name, he knew that Washington had made the right — and smart — pick, potentially getting a late steal.
“Great pick,” Ovechkin said. “He’s one of the young players who can be a superstar.”
Miroshnichenko was pegged as a top-5 talent going into 2021-22, wearing the “C” at the age of 17 for the Russian U-17 and U-18 squads and also standing out with Omsk in the VHL and MHL. However, a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis in March led to a drop in draft stock and also caused Miroshnichenko to lose a lot of body mass and his hair.
“I remember seeing him in the U18 World Championships in Germany; he was there to do another round of chemo,” Mahoney said. “He had no hair, his blue jeans looked like they were just sort of hanging on his hips. Didn’t look good at all, and I talked to him there… he’s a really strong character. He went through an awful lot. But I think it speaks volumes of his character and the type of person he is.”
Since then, Miroshnichenko has gone into remission and has been putting on size and muscle again, while making progress in his recovery. He is back on the ice, but is still waiting for medical clearance to play.
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The 6-foot-1, 185-pound winger came to the DMV for off-ice sessions to close out development camp and meet fellow prospects. There, he met Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Alexeyev, who joined him to watch the scrimmage at Capital One Arena.
“I had a little conversation with him and it sounds to me he’s very, very nice guy and very intelligent,” Kuznetsov said. “I really believe that one day, he’s going to be here and he’s going to be successful player.”
Once Miroshnichenko gets the green light to play this season, he will skate with Avangard Omsk after signing a deal with the KHL club in 2020. In the meantime, he has been skating on his own and training with his dad, who is also a coach.
However, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have high hopes he will be in North America sooner rather than later.
“He sounds like he’s in a perfect way to start playing more and more,” Kuznetsov said. “He deal with a tough thing, and I’m glad that he recovers perfect well.”
Ovechkin hasn’t gotten to talk to Miroshnichenko yet, but he noted that he’ll catch up with him soon.
“We can talk to him anytime. I wish him luck, and I hope he’s going to be here next year,” Ovechkin said.