2015 NHL Draft Review: Russia a factor in this year’s draft selections

By Alessandro Seren Rosso
Ilya Samsonov - Washington Capitals - 2015 NHL Draft

Photo: Metallurg Magnitogorsk goaltender and Washington Capitals prospect Ilya Samsonov was the only goaltender chosen in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

 

 

After a few years in which drafting Russians was considered a risky practice, NHL teams turned their attention back to that country, selecting 18 Russian players at the 2015 NHL Draft, including 10 playing in the different Russian leagues.

The “Russian Factor” seems to be a thing of the past when also considering the many prominent Russian players, like Artemi Panarin and Mikhail Plotnikov among others, that decided to leave the KHL to sign with NHL teams this offseason. While it is certainly too early to consider this a new trend, NHL teams have certainly started looking at Russian players in a different way. Perhaps in the next few years, there could be a new wave of Russian players looking to add their skills and skating ability to NHL lineups. Certainly, Russia is not lacking for good prospects to offer in the coming drafts.

Here is the breakdown of the 10 players chosen out of Russia during the 2015 NHL Draft.

Denis Guryanov, RW – Lada Togliatti
Chosen 12th overall by the Dallas Stars

 

While the selection of Denis Guryanov by the Dallas Stars was – generally speaking – pretty obvious, not many expected a first round pick being spent on him, let alone in the top 15. A complete player with good size at 6’2” and 190 pounds, it is expected that Guryanov will spend another season at home in Russia trying to get more ice time in the KHL and representing his country at the 2016 World Junior Championship. He will most likely try to get to the NHL sooner rather than later, even if his contract is valid through the 2016-17 campaign.

Ilya Samsonov, G – Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Chosen 22nd overall by the Washington Capitals

 

Ilya Samsonov’s selection was a surprise, too, especially as it came from the Washington Capitals, a franchise with a few young goalies in their system. The Capitals most likely decided that Samsonov was simply too good to pass up, even if drafting a Russian goalie in the first round may seem like a bit of a risky move. That being said, Samsonov was probably the best netminder up for grabs in this year’s draft, and this was shown at the U18 World Championship where, in spite of Team Russia’s bad performances, he was awarded with the Best Goaltender honor for posting a 1.87 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage. Next season, Samsonov will most likely have the opportunity to play in the KHL with more frequency, so it will be interesting to see how he will fare against better competition.

Alexander Dergachyov, C – SKA St. Petersburg
Chosen 74th overall by the Los Angeles Kings

 

With Alexander Dergachyov, the Los Angeles Kings added to their system a very intriguing prospect with great size, excellent mobility and a soft set of hands who can become a luxury checking line player that could potentially both win puck battles and get onto the scoresheet for some secondary scoring. His impressive size of 6’4” and 200 pounds should guarantee him a fast adaptation to the different North American environment. Dergachyov will most likely spend next season at home in Russia trying to win a regular spot in current Gagarin Cup champion SKA St. Petersburg’s lineup.

Andrei Mironov, D – Dynamo Moscow
Chosen 101st overall by the Colorado Avalanche

 

After being overlooked in two prior NHL Drafts, defenseman Andrei Mironov was drafted this year with a relatively high pick, considering that he is three years older than this year’s eligible players. A big player with a good shot and defensive skills, Mironov is a low-risk pick for the Colorado Avalanche, who may get a solid defensive player in 2017 once Mironov’s contract in the KHL runs out. In spite of his young age, Mironov is quite an experienced player and was a member of Team Russia at the latest IIHF World Championship, where he helped his country win a silver medal. He also won a Gagarin Cup with Dynamo Moscow back in 2013.

Mikhail Vorobyov, C – Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Chosen 104th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers

 

The second Russian player drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft, Mikhail Vorobyov is the first true surprise of the draft among the Russian draftees. At 6’2” and 198 pounds, it is not surprising that he got attention from North American scouts, and it should be noted that he is also gifted with smooth skating ability and good vision of the ice. Vorobyov had a good showing at the recent U18 for Russia, scoring one goal and four points. He also had a good season in the Russian junior league with Tolpar Ufa and next year will most likely try to cement his reputation as good two-way prospect with a solid future in pro hockey. His contract in the KHL will run through the 2015-16 season.

Dmitri Zhukenov, C – Avangard Omsk/Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Chosen 114th overall by the Vancouver Canucks

 

A solid offensive player with some size-related issues, Dmitri Zhukenov has great offensive instincts paired with strong skating ability and always tries to play bigger than his smaller size. After being chosen by the Vancouver Canucks, Zhukenov was also drafted in the CHL Import Draft by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL, where he will spend the next season. After a good season with Omskie Yastreby in the Russian junior league, the creative playmaker was one of the top forwards for Team Russia at the U18 World Championship, where he scored six points (3G, 3A) in five games. It will be very interesting to see how his career will pan out in North America as he works towards an NHL spot with the Canucks.

Kirill Kaprizov, LW – Metallurg Novokuznetsk
Chosen 135th overall by the Minnesota Wild

 

One of the most anticipated Russian prospects for this draft class, Kirill Kaprizov played very well at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where he scored five goals in four games. At the 2015 U18 World Championship, however, he failed to play up to the high expectations created by his earlier showing as he scored only one goal. Small in size, Kaprizov doesn’t have the ultimate offensive talent of other Russian prospects, but he is a hard worker and is gifted with good hands and smooth skating ability. He already has scored his first goals in the KHL, with more likely to come next season. His contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk will end on April 30th, 2017.

Vladislav Gavrikov, D – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Chosen 159th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets

 

As was the case with Andrei Mironov, Vladislav Gavrikov has been a well-regarded Russian player who was surprisingly passed over in previous drafts. But at this year’s draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to give him a chance, and by doing this they gained a solid defender with plenty of defensive potential. This past season, Gavikov had his first stint in pro hockey, spending most of the year in the VHL and in the KHL playing for Hk Ryazan and Lokomotiv, respectively. He also captained Team Russia at the 2015 World Junior Championship, where he was named the Best Defenseman of the tournament. Gavrikov’s deal with Lokomotiv will run out in April of 2017, but he has already declared that he intends to move to North America only as a complete player.

Ivan Fedotov, G – Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
Chosen 188th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers

 

The third Russian player drafted by the Flyers this year, Ivan Fedotov is a solid goalie who had a great season in the MHL and, since he didn’t play with the national team, he went under the radar and overlooked until the seventh round of the draft. Other than his good season, Fedotov also appealed with his size (6’6’’, 192 lbs.), but he is still a long shot at this point. His task for next season will be to debut in the KHL, but it won’t be easy as his team has a solid duo between the pipes.

Ziyat Paigin, D – Ak Bars Kazan
Chosen 209th by the Edmonton Oilers

 

Remembered until now mostly due to the stick incident at the WJC, Ziyat Paigin will now also be considered as a legitimate NHL prospect. A very mobile player, especially considering his size (6’6”, 210 lbs.), Paigin is a two-way defenseman who has good potential at both ends of the ice. Paigin’s selection with a seventh round pick should be considered a low-risk pick, in part because, for now, Paigin has not expressed any desire to move overseas.

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