While the number of Russian players in the NHL has decreased when compared to the early 2000’s, a trend reversal is expected in the next few years, especially considering the difficult economic situation of the KHL. Some evidence of this change includes the offseason movement of some of the KHL’s top players crossing the Atlantic in a fashion that hasn’t been seen in many years, with players like Artemi Panarin, Evgeny Medvedev, Sergei Plotnikov and others venturing forth to the NHL.
With that being said, it is doubtful that there will be many players chosen out of Russia in the 2015 NHL Draft as there is plenty of Russian talent in the CHL leagues that is accessible with less risk, but also because NHL teams likely consider most KHL players to be more worthy as a free agent signing rather than as a draft pick.
Nevertheless, there are still some very interesting prospects from Russia up for grabs in this year’s draft. But prospects listed below that may be passed over in this draft, as well as those draft eligibles not listed in this article, may still be chosen in future drafts, as was the case with Nikita Tryamkin, who was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks in 2014 in his third and final year of draft eligibility.
Below are the top players coming out of Russia for the 2015 NHL Draft.
1. Alexander Dergachyov, C, SKA St. Petersburg
A giant with soft hands and a good nose for the net, Alexander Dergachyov is a gifted player who can be very valuable along the boards or in front of the crease. His style of play and his other features should allow for a relatively easy transition to the North American game, even if he may lack the offensive potential to become a consistent first-line player in the NHL. His combination of size and mobility, however, should make him a lower-risk player if compared to other more flamboyant forwards coming out of the KHL, who may lack some appeal due to concerns over lack of size or deficient defensive play.
2. Denis Guryanov, W, Lada Togliatti
A more classic Russian player in style when compared with Dergachyov, Denis Guryanov is a good-sized winger who plays a puck possession game, joined with a strong and accurate shot and a good will to get back to help his team in the defensive zone. A very dynamic player, Guryanov likes to shoot the puck and is not a pass-first player like many other Russian prospects, a trait that may help him should he play in North America. He played very well at the recent U18 World Championship despite Russia’s lesser showing, scoring six goals in five games and ending up as one of the tournament’s top scorers. Guryanov’s undeniable talent, his skating, and his size may guarantee him a spot in the top two rounds of this draft.
3. Ilya Samsonov, G, Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Along with Guryanov, goaltender Ilya Samsonov was probably Team Russia’s top player at the recent U18 WC. The athletic netminder was definitely one of the tournament’s surprises as he was awarded with Best Goaltender honors, like Igor Bobkov (ANA) in 2008. Samsonov is a very interesting goalie who will most likely be the first European netminder chosen in this draft. The Magnitogorsk, Russia native is gifted with most of the attributes that can potentially drive him toward a long career in the NHL, including his ability to read the play, his size, and his positioning. Samsonov does need to be tested against better competition as he has only played a handful of minutes in the KHL to this point.
4. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
One of the more anticipated players for Russia’s U18 WC squad, Kirill Kaprizov did not have as good a tournament as expected and finished with just one goal. Kaprizov is a smallish winger with a very good nose for the net and smooth hands, qualities that he joins with excellent skating ability and a quick release. As with many other Russian players, Kaprizov needs some seasoning to develop his physical play and his defensive awareness, but he is talented enough to be a legit NHL prospect with scoring line potential. He will most likely spend the next couple of years at home, where his ice time should increase and he will be able to get the advantage of spending some valuable time with a pro hockey franchise, a feat that few players can count on at this age.
5. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Even though he has been overlooked a couple of times, defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov remains a very interesting prospect with a definite chance of being drafted, in a similar fashion to what happened with Tryamkin last year. Gavrikov is more of a defensive player with good size and good skating ability who lacks sky-high potential, but who could still become a good player at the NHL level. His talent was evident at this year’s World Junior Championship, where Gavrikov was named the tournament’s Top Defenseman and captained Team Russia to a silver medal. Gavrikov’s style of play should prevent him from getting lost in the smaller North American rinks, but he will need some seasoning to complete the transition towards pro hockey.
6. Yegor Rykov, D, SKA St. Petersburg
Team Russia’s captain at the 2015 U18 World Championship, Yegor Rykov, is an interesting two-way defenseman with a good mental game and very good puck skills, but who must also improve his defensive game and positioning. He does have some solid potential, however, so it seems likely that an NHL team might be interested in a promising defenseman with good size and international hockey exposure. Like others on this list, Rykov definitely needs some seasoning at home and must gain some experience in pro hockey before heading to North America. His contract with SKA will run out on April 30th, 2017.
7. Dmitri Yudin, D, SKA St. Petersburg
The second overager on this list, Dmitri Yudin, is a relative late bloomer who played very well at the 2014 Subway Super Series and the following WJC, getting on the scoresheet in both tournaments. Yudin also had a very good season in the KHL – his second full season as a pro – winning the Gagarin Cup with SKA St. Petersburg. Yudin is a two-way defenseman with a good first pass, soft hands, a good shot from the point, and a good reading of the ice. Like many other Russian prospects, however, he is not physically or defensively ready to play in the NHL. Yudin recently signed with SKA for another two seasons, and, once that contract is up, he may be ready to make a go of it in North America.
Anton Krasotkin, G, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, CSKA Moscow
Ziyat Paigin, D, Ak Bars Kazan
Kirill Pilipenko, RW, Dynamo Moscow
Daniil Vovchenko, RW, Severstal Cherepovets
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