Rodion Amirov death: Maple Leafs 2020 first-round pick dies after battle with brain tumor

The hockey world received sad news on Monday afternoon, as NHL agent Dan Milstein announced that Maple Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov had died after a battle with a brain tumor. 

Amirov was 21 years old. 

“From the moment he received the news, he refused to speak in the negative, determined to enjoy every day, facing it with the same positive attitude he showed during his hockey career,” Milstein said in his statement. “We will always remember his courage, his desire, his will, his smile, all of the great things about him. We’d like to thank his doctors, who took great care of him. We’d like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs and his KHL — Salavat Yulayev Ufa team. Both did everything possible to help in any way, do whatever was necessary for Rodion and the Amirov family.

And we’d like to thank hockey fans all over the world who sent notes of encouragement and best wishes over the past two years. They meant so much to the Amirov family.”

A native of Salavat, Russia, the forward was drafted 15th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by Toronto. 

“The entire Maple Leafs organization is devastated by their tragic loss,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “Over the duration of his courageous battle, Rodion’s positivity inspired everyone around him, and he made lasting impressions with our team and fans in his brief visits to Toronto.

“It is incredibly sad to see a young man with so much promise taken from us so soon. We offer our deepest condolences to Rodion’s family and friends as we mourn this loss together.”

“It’s incredibly hard to comprehend the loss of Rodion,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said in an online post. “His smile and joy for life & hockey was infectious. My teammates & I are grateful for our time spent with him & forever inspired by his courageous fight. Condolences to his loved ones. We’ll miss him dearly.”

Rodion Amirov health history

Amirov signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs in April of 2021. The plan was for him to eventually come over to North America and play for Toronto’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. 

However, in February 2022, then-Leafs GM Kyle Dubas revealed that Amirov had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was undergoing treatment in Russia. 

“There are many other people that have their own sicknesses or illnesses. I want to show by example that I can give people hope,” Amirov said at the time of his diagnosis. “They can see what I am doing, they hopefully take some positives. I am positive. I want to feel that I can play in the best hockey league in the world.”

While the Leafs let Amirov continue to focus on his health, the team also made sure that he felt included in the organization. Toronto celebrated Amirov during its home opener of the 2022-23 season, including him as a part of the player introductions. 

The Maple Leafs continued to show support for their young prospect, especially during November, which is Hockey Fights Cancer month. The team displayed tributes on its video board for Amirov during a home game last November.

Amirov did not play at all during 2022-23 season while he was undergoing treatment.

So, it was a good sign for his eventual return to the ice when it was announced this past May that he had signed a one-year contract with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa. It was the program that he came through the youth system with and had played with their senior team in the KHL for 49 total games for during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

There was positive news about Amirov’s condition just a month ago. In an interview with Sport-Express Russia, Rinat Bashirov, Salavat Yulaev’s general director, discussed Amirov’s health. 

“He continues treatment, there is a positive trend,” Bashirov said, through the translated site. “He has full confidence that he will go on the ice. Of course, if Rodion played for us, it would be a completely different team. 

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