This blog I’ll focus on Russia, and more specifically Russian eligible players as the KHL/VHL/MHL system this season is not strong and most of the quality Russians have made the move to the CHL where their likelihood of being drafted into the NHL are much higher. 2014 and 2015 have the usual mix for Russians, a lot of top-end players and not a lot of depth…or depth players worth the risk of selection at the very least. These are just a few of the guys you might hear about in the coming months.
Ivan Barbashev : Barbashev made the move to Moncton in the QMJHL and played a pivotal role as their second line winger in his rookie year and is now bursting out in his draft season. The 6’0 181lb speedster had 18 goals and 62 points in 68 games as a rookie and outperformed Valeri Nichushkin at the U18 tournament scoring 3 goals and tying for the tournament lead in assists with 6. Currently he leads Moncton in goals and points with 7 and 18 in 14 games good for 11th overall. He’s got that offensive talent that is very hard to teach and can blow by defenders in a one on one situation with ease. Playmaking, shooting he provides both with a deft touch. He’s a pretty hard worker as well and plays well along the boards…though like a lot of talented Russians he still has work to do in his own zone. He’s usually ranked around the 10-15 range, but if he continues the season he’s having he could go as high as 5.
Maxim Lazarev : The 5’10 winger has yet to play a game this season for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, but like so many he made the move to the CHL to raise his draft status. Lazarev is an extremely gifted sniper with hands of silk. Internationally he has played very well including a star performance for the U17 Silver Winning Russians (second in the tournament with 5 goals and 10 points) as well as a strong performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament leading the Russians with 3 goals and 5 points in 4 games. Considering his pure skill he’s a guy expected to go in the first round, especially if his game translates well in the Q. I’ve seen him as high as 20th and as low as 60th.
Nikolay Goldobin : Goldobin is the other and probably safer Russian who could go in the first round this draft. Goldobin followed Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk in playing for the Sarnia Sting and was close to winning the OHL Rookie of the Year award last season, eventually he lost out to expected 2015 1st overall selection Connor McDavid who had 2 points and 5 goals less than Goldobin with 5 games less. Goldobin himself had 30 goals and 68 points that year. Right now he leads the Sting in goals with 7 and second in points with 12 in 12 games. He’s a very strong offensive player who is very deadly on the PP. Brendan Ross a scout for TheScout.ca and DobberProspects.com follows the Sarnia Sting religiously and says that Goldobin’s play has been excellent thus far even though the points aren’t coming as quickly as he might want. The 5’11 winger is expected to go in the late first or early second.
Nikita Scherbak : The Valentin Zykov style surprise player of the year in the WHL and a leading candidate for the WHL Rookie of the Year…maybe even CHL ROY. He leads the Saskatoon Blades with 8 goals and is second in points with 19 points in 13 games which is tops for rookies. He’s been very good on the PP with 5 goals and 10 of his points coming with the man advantage. He’s an interesting offensive player and has decent size at 6’0 186lbs, one thing that has stood out is that he is thriving off the physical side of the game. I haven’t seen him on anybody’s early lists, but with the way he’s playing he will quickly find himself in the discussion as a first round pick.
Maxim Letunov : The lanky Russian has flown under the radar playing in the American system and now the USHL. He’s 6’2 and 150lbs…yes that’s abnormal and he plays for the Youngstown Phantoms. I really don’t know much about him, nor have a seen him play, I only know the name because a buddy of mine who follows the American Development asked me questions about him. He sits third on his team in points with 3 goals and 9 points in 8 games which is good for 7th overall in the league. He’s playing with future US phenom Kyle Connor an expected top-5 pick in 2015 and fellow 2014 eligible JJ Piccinich.
Nikita Lyamkin : The 6’3 defenseman followed a lot of his fellow Russians to the QMJHL joining the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. He’s been playing well and has 4 assists in the first 13 games thus far. He’s considered a strong skating two-way defenseman. He’s usually ranked around the 3rd or 4th round.
Ivan Nikolishin : Purely offensive centre with major size issues being only 5’8. Has been very strong internationally having a good showing at the U17 where he scored 4 goals and added 8 points in 6 games as well as playing decently in the Ivan Hlinka tournament getting 2 assists. He’s playing for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and has already shown his vision on the PP getting his lone goal and 5 of his 6 assists on the man advantage (11 games). He hasn’t been great and the transition to the North American game hasn’t gone as smoothly as he would like. He does sit third on the Silvertips in points, though in general they’re pretty mediocre offensively. It’s hard to see where he could possibly go in the draft considering his size and lack of production…however he wouldn’t be the first ultra-talented foreign skater to struggle then dominate once they get used to the game style and become a steal.
Alexander Mikulovich : 6’3 defensive defender moved to play for Niagara in the OHL and has shown some good physicality. He has some offensive upside, though it hasn’t translated to the OHL as of yet. Most of his offense stems from his really strong shot from the point, though accuracy is still an issue. He plays a physical game and is a strong skater, he does have a lot of filling out to do. Could be a decent later round pick.
Vladimir Tkachyov : After being drafted 39th overall in the 2013 CHL Import Draft most expected Tkachyov to make the trip to Moncton to play with Barbsahev…but he never did and remains in the MHL as of today. At 5’9 136lbs he will be in tough to be drafted despite his obvious skill as if it wasn’t difficult enough to be drafted simply out of Russia, it’s almost impossible for somebody of that size. He was a Top-3 Player on his team at this past U18’s tying for the lead in goals and points for Russia (tied with Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich) with 5 goals and 11 points. He started with Avangard Omsk, but has since been sent back to the MHL.
Dmitri Yudin : The 6’2 defender has stuck with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL at 18 and I’ve been really impressed with his play despite being on the bottom-pairing. He was draft eligible in 2013 but like so many others fell through the cracks of the “Russian Factor.” He’s a bit of a poor skater, but he plays physical and has good gap control. He has a goal and an assist in 18 games. He was also a pretty late 1995 birthday at the 31st of July. Might be a sleeper pick in the later rounds if somebody is willing to believe he’ll come over at some point…though I said the same about Zakhar Arzamastsev who is playing like a seasoned vet at only 20 for the past two seasons and nobody was willing to throw a 7th pick on him.
Pavel Kraskovsky : 6’3 winger playing pretty well for Loco Yaroslavl with 2 goals and 5 points in 6 games so far. Good player around the net and seems to have some solid defensive instincts, had a really good breakup play in the game I saw, got back from a shot and caught the defenseman at his line napping and took the puck off him and went in on a breakaway. Could be another 3rd-7th round guy you take a chance on (Yakimov, Kucherov, Slepyshev and Shalunov come to mind).
Vladislav Kamenev : An interesting forward who plays an advanced game for his age. He’s a strong defensive forward who thrives on the penalty kill. He’s played well internationally at the U17 and Ivan Hlinka Tournament anchoring the defensive duties for the Russians. He plays centre internationally and left wing in the KHL. He has stuck with Metallurgical Magnitogorsk and looked pretty good in the only three games he played before he was injured scoring a goal on the fourth line.
Yevgeni Svechnikov : The crown jewel of the 2015 crop for Russia, Svechnikov is a pure elite offensive talent with an elite snap shot and elite wheels. The 16 year old scores big goals off the rush and is a handful one on one. He’s started well for Bars Kazan in the MHL scoring 3 and adding 5 points in 6 games as well as getting 2 games in the KHL on the fourth line. He scored 7 goals in 6 games at the U17’s on the Silver Winning Russians second in the tournament. The major issues with Svechnikov that I can see are that he is a puck hog and doesn’t like to pass if he sees the whites of a goalies eyes.
Alexei Platonov : Big rangy defender from Atlanty Mytischi, I’ve seen him play once and he is a really mean puck mover. He has a really hard and accurate slap shot and gets it off very quickly. Already he has 2 goals and an assist in the first 6 games and is one of the best young defenseman in the MHL. At 6’4 he’s a decent, though not too special of a skater, mobile but he won’t blow you away with his speed. Could be more physical.
Maxim Tretiak : Grandson to the famous Vladislav Tretiak. Tretiak is coming through the CSKA Moskva system the same system home to his grandfather for his whole career. Tretiak is a very athletic goalie with an unorthodox style that we’ve seen from some high profile Russian goalies, things that are tinkered to make them better as positioning has never been a real strength from Russian produced goalies. Tretiak stands at 6’3 already at 16 and has room to grow. He was fine as a split starter last season in the MHL and despite a rough start; he’s doing well for a 16 year old in the MHL.
Dmitry Osipov : The first overall selection in the CHL Import Draft and 1st overall selection in the KHL Draft came out of nowhere to going to the Vancouver Giants. He’s a big defender at 6’3 and 190lbs. He’s considered a smooth skating defensive defenseman that likes to take angles and box players out. So far he remains pointless in 8 games on the last place Giants. Considering his high draft selection you might expect him to be some superstar, but he really isn’t, more like a steady and stable guy…though he has a lot of room to grow considering he’s only 16 so who knows?
Nikita Serebryakov : Currently the backup for the Saginaw Spirit, the 17 year old Russian goalie made the move to North America last season where he was the backup as well. He hasn’t been great though that isn’t anything new with 16-17 year old goalies, especially before his draft year. With a GAA of 3.89 and SV% of .891 he isn’t all that spectacular…though the real issue is that he’s 5’8 which is pretty much a death sentence for goalies hoping to play in the NHL. He relies on his excellent reflexes to compensate for his size. He was pretty darn good at the Ivan Hlinka tourney though…