Over the last five drafts, Phoenix has used 29 percent of their picks (11 of 38) to select European players. Currently, four of them are playing within the system while four others are playing on European soil. Three suited up for teams in Russia’s top league, the KHL, while the fourth played in the Czech Extraliga.
With the exception of Martin Hanzal, Viktor Tikhonov, and Enver Lisin over the last five years, the Coyotes have generally stayed away from Eastern block countries early in the draft. Though, one could argue Tikhonov doesn’t belong in this category, having spent the majority of his life and playing time in North America.
Maxim Goncharov, D – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted 2007 – 5th round, 123rd overall
turned in another sturdy year with CSKA Moscow this past season. The 19-year-old held his own, skating in 47 games while collecting 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). As the youngest defenseman on the roster, he played the least amount of time, only averaging 12:41 minutes a game. CSKA was one of the better teams this year, as they finished in the top five in the KHL. In the postseason, they were swept out of the quarterfinals by Dynamo Moscow. Goncharov was pointless in seven games and his ice time dipped under 10 minutes a game.
On the international front, Goncharov put himself on the map. As one of the best — if not the best all-around — defensemen at the 2009 WJC, the young blueliner’s play was inspirational. He showed a wide array of skill on both ends of the ice, as helped Russia claim bronze in Ottawa. Goncharov was also one of the top scoring defensemen this year and he led all rearguards in the tournament with five goals. He was easily one of the top three players on the Russian squad.
Among Phoenix’s European prospects, Goncharov is the most likely player to make his way over to North America. And according to the young blueliner, there’s definitely interest coming from Phoenix.
“I’ve talked with their General Manager (Don Maloney),” Goncharov told Hockey’s Future earlier this month. “He said that they want me to report to North America, but well, I don’t know, I still have one year running of my contract with CSKA Moscow.”
Minus the legal wrangling, it will be interesting to see if and how all of this folds out.
Anton Krysanov, C – Lada Togliatti (KHL)
Drafted 2005 – 5th round, 148th overall
Krysanov skated out another season on a young Lada Togliatti squad. With continued growth in his game, the forward saw a considerable amount of ice time this past year. The 22-year-old averaged 16:35 minutes a game and 18.8 shifts. Of the centermen who took a significant number of face-offs, he was the best, winning 47 percent of the draws. However like the rest of the offensively-challenged team, Krysanov only put up 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 46 games. Lada made it into the playoffs but CSKA Moscow showed them the door in the first round. Krysanov led all players with three points (all assists) in five postseason games.
Dmitri Pestunov, C – Avangard Omsk (KHL)
Drafted 2003 – 3rd round, 80th overall
Playing with Avangard Omsk (his third team in as many years), Pestunov finally found a system that suited his skills best. He exploded offensively, scoring a career-best 41 points (7 goals, 34 assists) in 56 games. It also doesn’t hurt to line up with talent like Jaromir Jagr and Pestunov cashed in finishing in the top 25 in league scoring. As one of the team’s top centermen, he averaged close to 18 minutes of ice time a game and about 21 shifts. Avangard was below average for the year, but they turned it up a little heading into the playoffs. They made it into the quarterfinals before being beat by the eventual 2008-09 KHL champions, Ak Bars Kazan.
Vladimir Ruzicka, F – HC Slavia Praha (Czech Extraliga)
Drafted 2007 – 4th round, 103rd overall
For the second straight season,continued to play on a loaded Slavia Praha team. And once again, this forced him to remain on the lower lines. Ruzicka put together a decent year, putting up 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 36 games. The team made it to the finals this season, where they looked to repeat as champions, but HC Energie Karlovy Vary beat them four games to two. In 14 games played in the postseason, Ruzicka added three points (2 goals, 1 assists) and was a minus-4.
Alessandro Seren Rosso contributed to this article.