Three Russian rookies debut in NHL

By Eugene Belashchenko

As the NHL and its fans welcome a new crop of rookies this fall, they will welcome
young talented Russian players who are headlined by none other than Evgeni
Malkin
(PIT).
Beyond the budding super star, the Russian crop includes recently-drafted young
prospects Alexei Mikhnov (EDM) and Mikhail Grabovsky (MON).
This summer marked the long awaited arrival of several Russian prospects, who
were drafted high by their respective NHL clubs as long as six years ago, but
who for various reasons are not making their NHL debut until this fall. The long
awaited prospects include Mikhnov, Andrei Taratukhin
(CAL), Alexei Kaigorodov (OTT) and Vadim Khomitsky (DAL).

The article provides an overview of each of the aforementioned player’s
last season in Russia, as background information in regards to what factors
influenced the young prospects to try their ability in the NHL and come over
to North America during the summer of 2006.

NHL BOUND:


Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins #2/2006)
The details behind his move to North America remind more of a James Bond novel
than a hockey player transfer. Fortunately, after a summer of uncertainty, Pittsburgh
Penguins fans finally have their prize, as Evgeni Malkin has crossed the ocean
and signed a deal with the NHL club. Last season the young forward has proved
himself at every level thus far, including the Russian Super League, World Championships
and the 2006 Olympics. The NHL is the next logical step for Malkin. Despite
the initial setback caused by the unfortunate shoulder injury suffered during
his preseason NHL debut, Malkin will deliver a strong season for the Penguins.
The young talented star will probably not make the same splash as his fellow Russian
Alexander Ovechkin made last season. Still, he will deliver solid numbers and
provide the Penguins with another talented center around whom to rebuild the
franchise.

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Bashkir Cup

33140
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Super League
(Reg.)
462126474628
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Super League
(Playoffs)
00000
2005-06Team Russia IIHF
World Championships
(Intl.)
63586+5
2005-06Team Russia Sweden
Games (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
31120
2005-06U20 Team Russia U20
WJC
(Intl.)
6461012+5
2005-06Team Russia ROSNO
Cup (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
10000
2005-06Team RussiaWinter Olympics41234

Alexei Mikhnov (Edmonton Oilers #17/2000)
After establishing himself as a premier sniper in the Russian Super League,
Alexei Mikhnov has made the move to North America, signing a contract with the
Edmonton Oilers. The young forward came into camp on the wings of a successful
performance at the World Championships where he showcased his size and scoring
ability for Russia, including a great game tying goal against the Czechs in
the quarterfinals with just over a minute left in the contest. His impact at
the Oilers training camp has been quite apparent, as despite criticism
in regards to his skating and adjustment to the speed of the game, there has
been little talk of any potential demotion. Mikhnov’s ability to see the
ice, utilize his teammates and take advantage of his deadly wrist shot will
make him an able contributor at the NHL level. At 24, he has developed well physically into an imposing force to be dealt with in
the crease. Whether he will become an impact player in the NHL depends largely
on the basic ability to work hard and improve his foot speed in the faster paced
NHL environment.

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Super League (Reg.)4014721184
2005-06Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Super League (Playoffs)114484-3
2005-06Team Russia IIHF World Championships (Intl.)63250+1
2005-06Team Russia Sweden Games (EuroTour) (Intl.)32130
2005-06Team Russia Karjala Cup (EuroTour) (Intl.)21124+1

Alexei Kaigorodov (Ottawa Senators #47/2002)
When the news of Kaigorodov’s arrival in North America became official,
many rushed to pencil him in as the club’s second center, behind proven
NHL star Jason Spezza. Not to say that Kaigorodov is a bust and an untalented
player, but the generated level hype was not justified when considering the
young center’s development and accomplishments to date. Kaigorodov put
together a single highly successful season in Russian hockey during the NHL
lockout in 2004-05. During that year he was one of the key reasons why HC Metallurg
enjoyed so much success despite not signing hardly any NHL players with the
exception of Patrick Elias, who fell ill
with Hepatitis B. 

Kaigorodov struggled for parts of the follow up 2005-06
season, failing to make an impact not only on the score sheet, but also in other
aspects of the game, including the faceoff circle. Some of his struggles are
attributable to injury, as the young forward skated with a sore back for most
of the playoffs and then was forced to miss to 2006 World Championships due
to the ailment. Finally, when considering the up and down career Kaigorodov
has had in the Super League over the past few seasons and that due to various
injuries his last World Championships appearance was in 2003, what becomes apparent
is that Kaigorodov has a wealth of potential, but is still developing into the
talented center he is capable of becoming. Thus, it is unrealistic to expect
instant success from this young forward. Although, if the Senators are patient
with his development and allow Kaigorodov to adjust to North American hockey
at the NHL level and simply learn English, the club will enjoy significant dividends
as early as during the second half of the 2006-07 season.

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Bashkir Cup

31120
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Super League
(Reg.)
50921304218
2005-06Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Super League
(Playoffs)
1101160
2005-06Team Russia Ceska
Poistovna (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
30002-1

TOP AHL RESERVES:


Enver Lisin (Phoenix Coyotes #50/2004)
Enver Lisin made a great first impression
with a strong performance at Coyotes training camp. He should be one of
the first in the reserves to earn periodic call-ups from the San Antonio
Rampage. At one point compared to another
former first round selection Konstantin Koltsov because of the two forwards
possessing great top speed and skating ability, Lisin set himself apart
with his impressive finishing ability to score highlight reel goals.
While not as a polished or seasoned as some other Russian prospects coming to
North America this season, Lisin has already proved himself at the Super League
level, especially during the lockout season, when Russian hockey was filled
with NHL veterans. A year in the AHL will help the 20-year-old adjust to the speed and
the physicality of the North American game. He already has the tools to be a
marginal contributor to the Coyotes this season, but with additional seasoning
in the AHL, he should be ready to take on a significant role on the club next
season.  He already has two goals in two games for the Rampage. 

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Ak Bars (Kazan)
Super League
(Reg.)
437512264
2005-06Ak Bars (Kazan)
Super League
(Playoffs)
1331463
2005-06U20 Team Russia (86) 4
Nations Tourn.
(Intl.)
30224+1
2005-06U20 Team Russia U20
WJC
(Intl.)
62022-1
2005-06U20 Team Russia 4
Nations Tourn.
(Intl.)
30006-4

Andrei Taratukhin (Calgary Flames #41/2001)
Taratukhin is a reliable two-way center who has proven to be a desirable asset when the game is on the line and the club needs to make a defensive
stance or win a key face off. These are the reasons that the Calgary Flames
signed the talented young forward to a two-year deal earlier this summer and
brought him over to North America. Taratukhin has steadily improved over the
past three seasons, developing into an impact player with Salavat Yulayev during
2004-05 and finally becoming a top line center for HC Lokomotiv the following
2005-06 season, as well as skating for Russia at the 2006 Winter Olympics. The
talented center will start the season in the AHL with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben
Knights, giving him ample time to become more comfortable with North American
hockey. He will eventually fulfill the
role of a versatile third line center, who is strong defensively and at the
faceoff circle, but is also capable of at times contributing in the offensive
end of the ice.

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Super League
(Reg.)
4091524859
2005-06Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Super League
(Playoffs)
1122424-4
2005-06Team Russia Karjala
Cup (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
21230+1
2005-06Team Russia Ceska
Poistovna (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
32136+3
2005-06Team RussiaWinter Olympics100000

Vadim Khomitski (Dallas Stars #123/2000)
Known as a hard-hitting, aggressive defenseman with an offensive upside, 24-year-old Khomitski decided to
seize the opportunity after another successful
season in Russia to make the jump to North America. The young defenseman spent
his entire career with HC CSKA until this summer, when he first signed a two-year deal with another Russian club HC Khimik, and then signed a one-year deal
and left for Dallas. Besides skating in the Super League, he also saw significant
ice time for Team Russia, enjoying a key role at the 2006 World Championships
in Riga, Latvia. After arriving in Dallas, Khomitski did not have a stellar
camp, at times struggling to keep up with the faster pace of the North American
game. The young forward’s physical style of play did translate well to
the smaller ice surface and he will continue to improve as he gets used to the
faster speeds and if he continues to improve his skating.  He’ll play for
the Iowa Stars this season.  

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06CSKA (Moscow)
Super League (Reg.)
5156111106
2005-06CSKA (Moscow)
Super League (Playoffs)
70006
2005-06Team Russia ROSNO
Cup (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
10002
2005-06Team Russia Karjala
Cup (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
201120
2005-06Team Russia Ceska
Poistovna (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
300040
2005-06Team Russia IIHF
World Championships
(Intl.)
60332+2
2005-06Team Russia Sweden
Games (EuroTour)
(Intl.)
10002

Mikhail Grabovsky (Montreal Canadiens #150/2004)
Mikhail Grabovsky changed teams during the summer of 2005, following his former
HC Neftkhimik head coach Krikunov to HC Dynamo in Moscow as one of that club’s
top offseason acquisitions. He enjoyed another productive season with Dynamo
before deciding to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. A sniper with impressive
speed and vision, Grabovsky excels when given open space on the ice. He will
need to spend some time in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs to get used to the smaller surfaces and physical
nature of North American hockey.

Statistics:
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIM+/-
2005-06Yunnost (Minsk) Belarus Elite (Reg.)8681410
2005-06Dynamo (Moscow)
Super League
(Reg.)
48101727286
2005-06Dynamo (Moscow)
Super League
(Playoffs)
400042

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future.  Do not
reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.