‘It was always a dream’: Flames’ Daniil Miromanov excited to share ice with Ovechkin

Daniil Miromanov on Monday’s legendary foe: ‘Ovi was the guy you looked up to. He was the brand, ever since he started playing in the NHL’

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Daniil Miromanov dreamed of scoring goals like Ovi.

On Monday, his top priority is to stop one of his childhood idols from padding his incredible stats.

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Miromanov, a Russian rearguard who has made a heck of an impression in a handful of appearances so far with the Calgary Flames, could be in pinch-me mode as he faces Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for the first time.

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“It’s going to be special, man. I’m excited for it,” Miromanov said after a St. Patrick’s Day practice at the Saddledome. “He is an absolute living legend and he’s done so much for hockey and for Russian hockey, as well. It was always a dream of mine playing against him or playing with him. I had a dream, too, to play against (Pavel) Datsyuk or with Datsyuk, and I had the privilege to play against him during his last year of hockey, when he was in the KHL. And now I’m really excited to play the Caps.”

For any defenceman, the excitement of matching up against Ovi is a case of careful-what-you-wish-for.

We are, after all, talking about one of the greatest lamp-lighters in NHL lore.

Ovechkin has cashed 841 career goals. He’s chasing only Wayne Gretzky (894) on the all-time charts. At age 38, Father Time is his biggest opponent in his quest to bump the Great One to second spot. (A nine-time winner of the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, Ovechkin has managed only 19 markers this season, including eight on the man advantage.)

Miromanov, just like Ovi, hails from Moscow.

And remember, the Flames’ emerging fan favourite was already playing Midget AAA when he made the switch to defence. Before that, he was filling the net as a right-shot winger. Sound familiar?

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“Ovi was the guy you looked up to,” Miromanov said, mentioning Ilya Kovalchuk as another of his twine-tickling role models. “He was the brand, ever since he started playing in the NHL, just scoring so many goals and basically scoring on a nightly basis and celebrating like it’s his first goal every single time. His passion and his love for the game, and what he’s done, it will never be taken away.

“That’s Ovi. He’s a legend.”

Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals shoots the puck against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Capital One Arena on March 3, 2024 in Washington, DC. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The 26-year-old Miromanov is still getting settled at the Saddledome. It has been a whirlwind week-and-some since he received word that he had been traded from Vegas to Calgary, and that his new employers were eager to get a contract extension signed that same night.

The Flames’ scouts have long been fascinated by Miromanov’s offensive upside and this late-blooming blue-liner has already tucked two goals on behalf of his new team, including a juicy rebound in the third period of Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Even more important, especially for a guy who arrived in Calgary with just 29 nights of NHL experience, is that Miromanov hasn’t looked the least bit overwhelmed as he aims to prove he’s capable of filling a top-four role. During Thursday’s triumph over the Golden Knights, he worked a career-high 20:53. He eclipsed that total against the Habs, logging nearly 23 minutes.

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“I know what type of player I am and I know my potential,” said Miromanov, who is currently partnered with MacKenzie Weegar and has also been quarterbacking the power-play. “I was just waiting for that opportunity, and right now is just the beginning. More and bigger things are coming. I’m just very happy and I’m just using the opportunity the best that I can. That’s the best thing I can do.”

So far, so good.

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“He has great poise with the puck. That’s one thing with him,” praised Flames coach Ryan Huska. “And I feel like the more that he plays, the more that he feels like, ‘Yeah, I’m (settling) in here now,’ I think you’re going to see it even get better and better. Sometimes, when you look at players like that, you’re thinking, ‘Jeez, does he get nervous? Does he feel the pressure?’

“Because he has that vibe about him where he’s like, ‘Oh, no problem, I’ve got this taken care of.’ It takes me a little bit to get used to those type of guys. But he has great poise with the puck and I think the more we see him, the better he’s going to continue to get.”

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If he can show that same poise against one of his hockey heroes, against one of the all-time greats, it will be a very good sign.

If he could hold him off the scoresheet, even better.

Daniil Miromanov celebrates his goal with MacKenzie Weegar
Daniil Miromanov #62 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his third-period goal with MacKenzie Weegar #52 of the Calgary Flames against the Montreal Canadians at the Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2024, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Leah Hennel/Getty Images

“Just enjoy it,” Miromanov said as he prepared for Monday’s matchup with Ovechkin and the Caps (6:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan). “When you’re a kid, you can only dream about these things. And then when you’re growing up, when you’re slowly on that road, you kind of understand that, ‘Wow, this is the full cycle.’ Because I used to dream, looking up to those guys, idolizing those guys. And now you’re playing against them, the same game that you’ve been watching when you were a kid …

“This is special. This life is special, and the game is special. So it’s a great feeling. Just enjoy every moment of it. It’s going to be exciting.”

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