Russian 2004 NHL Entry Draft review – Rounds 3 and beyond

By Eugene Belashchenko

3RD ROUND:
72 DENIS PARSHIN (Colorado Avalanche) (RP projection: third round)
Hailed by some to be the most skilled player in the draft, Parshin’s selection
in the third round was a bit late for some scouts, but just as RussianProspects
projected the young winger to go in the draft. Parshin’s talent is unquestionable,
but his size will clearly cause a lot of problems for the diminutive forward.
6’0 or even 5’10 would be entirely too generous for him, as he stood
at about 5’8 in the draft’s press room. The young man will not likely
grow any more, or gain that much muscle mass in the coming seasons. He has, however,
already proven that he is capable of competing in the Super League (Russia 1)
and will likely continue to play for CSKA Moscow and elevate his game during 2004-05
season.

82 SERGEI OGORODNIKOV (New York Islanders) (RP projection: third round)
Ogorodnikov met our expectations and was selected in the third round. Several
factors contributed to what would be considered by some to be a relatively late
selection for the young forward. First, his lack of exposure in the High League
(Russia 2) and his absence from the U18 national until the U18 WJC did not help
the matters. Also, despite possessing impressive offensive upside, Ogorodnikov
is soft and reminds a bit of Alexei Ivanov (a center from the 2002 NHL Entry
Draft, who fell deep into the draft despite high expectations). After the conclusion
of the 2003-04 season, Ogorodnikov was traded by Dynamo Moscow to CSKA Moscow
and is currently attending the Super League club’s preseason training
camp.


83 VICTOR ALEXANDROV (St. Louis Blues) (RP projection: mid second round)
Viktor Alexandrov was projected to be a mid second round selection, but his
fall to the third round was not too much of a surprise. The young forward is
talented, but while he enjoyed a great season in the Russian Super League, he
may be much closer to the ceiling of his ability than some may think. Still,
Alexandrov has significant NHL potential and the Blues came away with a very
good pick in the third round. The young forward will continue to skate for Metallurg
Novokuznetsk during the 2004-05 season in the Super League (Russia 1).

84 ALEXEI YEMELIN (Montreal Canadiens) (RP projection: third round)
The hard hitting defenseman came on strong late in the 2003-04 season in the
High League (Russia 2) in Russia, as well as with the Russian U18 National Team.
Yemelin possesses the ability to have a Kasparaitis like talent to hit and annoy
on the ice. Yemelin is spending the preseason with Super League (Russia 1) club
Lada (Togliatti), and according to the club’s management has a very good
chance of making his Super League debut this season.

96 ANDREI PLEKHANOV (Columbus Blue Jackets) (RP projection: N/A)
Plekhanov’s selection in the third round was a surprise since the young
blue liner enjoyed hardly any exposure during the 2003-04 season. Formerly a
member of the national team, Plekhanov suffered a serious injury that knocked
him out for half of the last season, and spent the other half with Neftkhimik’s
junior farm club, Neftkhimik 2. The Blue Jackets likely drafted the young prospect
based on what their scouts remembered of him from a season ago, and it remains
to be seen if he can fulfill such hefty expectations.

4TH ROUND:

122 ALEXANDER NIKULIN (Ottawa Senators) (RP projection: fourth round)
Highly regarded by Ottawa’s coaching staff, Nikulin was selected by the
NHL club in the fourth round. The playmaking center sees the ice well and possesses
impressive leadership ability, captaining CSKA’s junior farm team for
most of the 2003-04 season. The young center has been recalled by CSKA and has
been spending the preseason skating with the Super League (Russia 1) club.

5TH ROUND:
136 NIKITA NIKITIN (St. Louis Blues) (RP projection: seventh round)
While receiving virtually no exposure in Russia, Nikitin’s trip to North
America with a severely undermanned Team Russia for the Re/Max Canada Challenge
definitely helped the young defenseman’s draft stock. St. Louis Blues
scouting personnel stated that they saw him in a few games in Russia, but it
is unlikely the club’s scouting staff would make the effort if they were
not impressed with what they saw in November. A lanky defenseman, Nikitin impressed
with his quickness, aggressiveness and slap shot. He, however, has plenty to
improve on, including his understanding of the game and defensive positioning.
It’s unlikely that Nikitin will consistently earn a spot in Avangard’s
lineup this season, but he will see some ice time in the Super League (Russia
1).

150 MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI (Montreal Canadiens) (RP projection: N/A – Overage
Player)

The Montreal Canadiens once again went back to Russia to further boost the club’s
depth, drafting Mikhail Grabovski in the fifth round. The talented young forward
is an overage player, but proved quite capable on the surprising Neftkhimik
(Nizhnekamsk) squad, which was the Super League’s overachiever all season
long. A smooth skater with good speed, Grabovski leads the rush and
made a significant contribution on offense. He will remain with Neftkhimik for
the 2004-05 season.

155 ALEXANDER MIKHAYLISHIN (New Jersey Devils) (RP projection: sixth
or seventh round)

The New Jersey Devils continued to draft big defensemen out of Russia, picking
up Mikhaylishin in the fifth round, earlier than expected. At 6’4 and
214 pounds, Mikhaylishin plays physical hockey and shows a lot of heart on the
ice. However, beyond the size and heart, his skill level is very average, or
below average, which brings down his overall stock. The Devils seem to have
an affinity for Russian blue liners with size, drafting Uchevatov and Kadeykin
in the second rounds of the 2001 and 2002 NHL Entry Drafts. Kadeykin will play
in the AHL this season, while Uchevatov will likely contend for an NHL spot,
but it remains to be seen if Mikhaylishin can join their ranks.


157 DIMITRI VOROBIEV (Toronto Maple Leafs) (RP projection: mid third
or fourth round)

Vorobiev’s fall to the end of the fifth round was a bit of a surprise,
considering that the young defenseman played well the entire season in the Super
League (Russia 1) and will likely be one of the top blue liners on the U20 Russian
national team. The Toronto Maple Leafs came away with a steal when they selected
the reliable blue liner with the 157th overall pick.

7TH ROUND

206 ANTON KHUDOBIN (Minnesota Wild) (RP projection: fifth round)
Anton Khudobin significantly boosted his stock with a gold medal winning performance
at the U18 WJC. However, the young back stoppers inconsistent play at the tournament
and average overall skill level still put a serious question on his NHL potential.
He is a fierce competitor, but his positioning could be improved, as well as
his skatin
g. It’s also hard to say that Khudobin earned the starting role
just by his ability, since the national team’s assistant head coach was
Mr. Kalashnikov, who was his head coach with the Metallurg’s (Magnitogorsk)
junior farm team and preferential treatment may have been at play.

220 MAXIM SEMENOV (Toronto Maple Leafs) (RP projection: 31st among
Russian players – eighth or ninth round)

A talented overage, ’84 born blue liner, who enjoyed a breakout 2003-04
season with Lada Togliatti in the Super League (Russia 1). A quick, aggressive
defenseman, who is reliable in his own end, but is also capable of contributing
on offense, Semenov fit in quite well with Lada’s defensive oriented doctrine.
He will remain with Lada for the 2004-05 season.

8TH ROUND
243 DENIS KULYAZH (Nashville Predators) (RP projection: N/A – Overage
Player)

Nashville’s last year selection of another CSKA (Moscow) defenseman Dmitri
Mukhachev was somewhat understandable, considering Mukhachev’s 6’4
and 190lb size and experience in the Super League (Russia 1). The selection
of Denis Kulyazh was a bit of a mystery, considering that the young blue liner
is not so young at 21 and was likely one of the weakest blue liners playing
for CSKA Moscow during the 2004-05 season. While also sizable at 6’2 and
200 pounds, Kulyazh is not a physical defenseman. His skating and positioning
are also areas he can improve upon. On the positive side, Kulyazh’s 6’2,
200 lb. frame is hard to move and he is a hard worker along the boards. It remains
to be seen if Nashville’s scouting staff may have picked a diamond out
of the rough, or if Kulyazh will not even make CSKA’s opening day roster.

257 GENNADY STOLYAROV (Detroit Red Wings) (RP projection: 35th among
Russian players – eighth or ninth round)

Kudos to the Detroit Red Wings for being one of the only NHL clubs who took
a flyer on a Russian player in the late rounds. Only 10 Russians in the six
rounds of the second day of the NHL Entry Draft is a shocking number to say
the least. Stolyarov was a relatively highly regarded prospect by some scouts
due to his size, but the young forward’s skating and overall skill level
is at best average. Another knock on Stolyarov’s game is his unwillingness
to share the puck. Stolyarov made his professional debut in the High League
(Russia 2) during the 2003-04 season with mixed success and he is a project
pick at best.

9TH ROUND:
282 VALERI KLIMOV (New Jersey Devils) (RP projection: 37th among Russian
players – ninth round)

See Mikhaylishin’s selection evaluation for the Devils draft tendency
comments. Mikhaylishin’s Spartak (Moscow) teammate, Klimov is another
big defenseman the Devils took from Russia. The defensive defenseman has good
size, shot and positioning, but he needs to significantly improve his decision
making with the puck, speed, and physical presence. Currently, Klimov is spending
the preseason with Spartak and has a relatively good chance of making the Super
League (Russia 1) club’s opening day roster in a limited role.