The number of Russian players drafted has gone down once again. In 2009 only six players coming out from Russia were picked up in the NHL entry draft (plus Dmitry Kulikov who played in the QMJHL). This is down by three compared to 2008.
In 2008, Russia saw two players drafted in the first round, Nikita Filatov (CBJ) and Viktor Tikhonov (PHO). This year the first player out of Russia was Dmitri Orlov (WAS), whose name was called late in the second round with the 55th selection.
Dmitri Orlov, D, 2nd round, 55th overall (Washington Capitals)
The Caps are going to add some sparks on the blueline as the young player from Novokuznetsk is a very good offensive defenseman with an excellent shot and great offensive instincts. Orlov might be a bargain in the second round as probably was first round material and the lack of IIHF agreement played a role against his stock, but it actually played in the Caps’ advantage and they didn’t hesitate to add another Russian player after last year’s selection of Dmitri Kugryshev.
A positive aspect which wasn’t known at the time of the draft was his willingness to report in North America. Despite his early commitment towards his KHL club, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, he recently changed his mind, declaring that he would accept to play in the AHL to pursue an NHL career. As he wasn’t drafted in the CHL Import Draft (even though Patrick Roy tried recruiting him for his QMJHL Remparts), he might start the season in Hershey, in a similar fashion to LA prospect Vyacheslav Voinov, who spent the last season with the Manchester Monarchs.
It might help his development and won’t be new for him as he earned some senior league experience in the KHL. At this stage of development it would be better for a Russian defender than for a forward to go to his route in America as they can get acquainted better with the more demanding NA game. If the deal won’t work out, he will most likely spend a further season with Metallurg Novokuznetsk where he would be a regular. In any case, the Caps added to their prospect crop a promising offensive defenseman with top-four potential who can be an effective power-play quarterback.
Igor Bobkov, G, 3rd round, 76th overall (Anaheim Ducks)
Three months ago, Bobkov’s selection might sound really surprising, but after his excellent U18 WC campaign, where he was awarded as tournament’s best goalie, his stock rose a lot and he was picked up in the third round, a very good result for a Russian goalkeeper. Even if he’s not comparable to Simeon Varlamov (WAS), he is surely a very good goalie prospect for the years to come. The Ducks picked well considering that they will retain rights on him in the absense of an agreement between NHL and KHL, which isn’t in sight. Bobkov himself admitted to be three or four years from the NHL, and that he doesn’t eye a move until his contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk runs out in 2012. During that time, the 6’4 goalkeeper will surely earn some experience playing for Metallurg’s main team and with the junior national team as he’s probably the best junior goalie in Russia with Alexander Pechursky (PIT) after the failure of Daniil Alistratov on the international stage and considering that Sergei Gaiduchenko (FLA) isn’t eligible anymore.
Bobkov plays more of a stand-up style, relying on his excellent conditioning and agility. He also likes to stretch his long pads covering the low corners very, very well , where he is really tough to beat. He must work on his rebound control, technique and stickhandling, but he has plenty of time in front of him to gain experience and quality ice time in Russia prior of trying his fortunes in North America. He has starting goalie potential.
Sergei Andronov, RW, 3rd round, 78 overall (St. Louis Blues)
Drafted just two picks after Bobkov, Andronov is a quick winger who likes to play the puck and has three years of experience in men’s leagues as he spent the last three seasons with Lada Togliatti’s main team scoring 19 points in 88 games. Remember that the KHL is a low scoring, veteran-filled league. Just like in the NHL isn’t easy for 18 or 19-year-old players to get a significant role with the team and having an exceptional talent like Nikita Filatov (CBJ) playing only a bunch of KHL games without a single point confirms this.
Andronov’s speedy style might fit very well the new NHL, but he first needs to get acquainted to the more physical NA game. Considering his age, he might commit earlier than other players, and definitely earlier than Bobkov. The quick winger might be ready to play in the AHL and to serve occasionally in the NHL for the call-ups, his strong WJC showed that he can play well with and without the puck and that he can score and set up plays too. He won’t park himself in the slot looking for rebounds, but his excellent stickhandling makes him a hard player to defend against, especially for slower defensemen. The Blues acquired a potential top-six forward.
Avtsin might just be this year’s Evgeny Grachev (NYR) — a later round pick who turns into an effective NHL player. But he won’t play in the CHL next year even though he was picked up by the Remparts in the CHL Import Draft. With this pick, the Habs gained a potential first line player, whose play reminds a bit of Alexander Ovechkin for the great hands and the physical edge, though being of course anywhere near to him in terms of development, both technical and physical. Avtsin also must earn some experience at the top levels as he did have a striking season with Dynamo’s junior farm team, but he has played only a bunch of games with the national team of his age and no one with Dynamo’s main lineup.
Even if he opted to not report to the CHL, it’s not easy to determine if it would have been better for him between the Remparts or staying at home in Russia. Considering Dynamo’s stacked lineup he unlikely will see any KHL constant action even if he might serve as backup for injured players, thus a move to North America might not sound bad, but the formation of the new panrussian junior league might also encourage more players playing there and it shouldn’t bad for his development to keep on working on his game at home.
Antont Klementyev, D, 5th round, 122nd overall (New York Islanders)
Klementyev’s pick was a bit surprising, considering that he is a 1990 born with little experience in both KHL and Russian national junior team. The defensive defenseman who grew up in the Lokomotiv system hasn’t had chances to prove himself in the KHL, playing only one game earlier in this season. The Islanders probably scouted him in the Gazovik tournament in April where his performances were solid even if he only scored one point. His style of play doesn’t translate onto the score sheet much so his lack of offensive production isn’t a problem. The Islanders took a good gamble with this fifth-round low-risk pick. He was picked up by the London Knights of the OHL in the Import draft and he might report there for the 2009-10 season in order to polish up his play, which needs some work especially offensively.
Mikhail Pashnin, D, 7th round, 200th overall (New York Rangers)
The first overall pick of the recent KHL draft has turned some attention on himself after the good play at the WJC where he played an important role in Nemchinov’s team with his good two-way game, which translated successfully to the North American ice. He had a very good season with Mechel Chelyabinsk in the Russian High League, but he has to raise his overall level of play prior to thinking about crossing the pound. He plays a solid style, combining his good size with his good reading of the ice and passing play, but he’s still a long shot for an eventual NHL career even if he might come out as a very good pick for a seventh rounder.