Lightning add five new faces to Tampa Bay Russian community

By pbadmin
If the 2000 NHL Entry Draft did anything, for the Lightning, it added
depth to a young talented pool of prospects. The Bolts went in with three
goals: add a goaltender that will contribute immediately, add some
goaltending depth, and add a group of talented forwards to the system. All
of these goals appear to be accomplished. By trading the number five
selection (plus a fourth and seventh round picks), the Lightning added
goaltender Kevin Weekes and defenseman Kristian Kudroc from the New York
Islanders. Instead of adding a veteran to mentor Dan Cloutier, the lightning
added another kid to push Cloutier. The throw in to the deal is Kudroc. He
simply adds to the already ample defense core of the Bolts. He does.
However, bring a big body (6’6” 230 lbs.), more physical style of play, and
the ability to put up some points.

Once the Lightning were done playing the trading game, they were able to
draft an entire line of Russian forwards. With the eight overall selection
GM Rick Dudley chose Nikita Alexeev. Alexeev is big and fast, and hopefully
able to generate some offense. He will score most of his points from in
close, but also has the speed to create his own offense. He will need to
improve his puck handling before he is able to blow by opponents. He is
compared to Calgary Flames winger, and ex-bolt, Andrei Nazarov but with
better hands. In the second round, Dudley took solid 6’2” 202lbs. Winger
Ruslan Zainullin. The Lightning were so impresses by Zainullin that they
considered him with the 8th selection in the first round. Zainullin has good
straight away speed, but best of all plays a good two way game. The best way
to explain Ruslan is that he has no weaknesses. He does everything well, but
does not excess in any one area. Finally in the third round Dudley and staff
completed the Russian triad by selecting older winger (24) Alexander
Kharitonov. This smaller winger has been playing with men for the past four
years, plus played alongside Pavel Bure and Alexei Yashin, at the World
Championships, where he scored 5 points in 6 games. Look for all three to
play one more season with their respective clubs, with the exception of
Kharitonov who may start the year in the minors (Detroit). Of course this is
assuming Alexeev doesn’t make the team out of camp, but that is not likely.

Rest of the Picks

· C Johan Hagglund (fourth round)

Height: 6-2 Weight:197

Defensive minded center. Played for Modo Junior last season and scored 7
goals, 10 assists, and 75 PIM.

· RW Pavel Sedov (fifth round)

Height: 6-3 Weight 200

Another big and talented Russian winger, a bit more of a project.

· D Aaron Gionet (sixth round)

Height: 6-2 Weight: 187

A big physical defenseman that has a nose for the penalty box (243 pim last

· D Marek Priechodsky (seventh round)

Height: 6-2 Weight: 194

Another solid defenseman, but must wait in line behind several good defense
prospects on this team.

· G Brian Eklund (seventh round)

Height: 6-4 1/2 Weight: 200

Big goaltender to take place of former big goaltender Zac Bierk. 2.95 goals
against with .913 save percentage at Brown University last season.

· G Alexander Polukeyev (eight round)

Height: 6-3 Weight: 185
Another big goaltending prospect. Like Eklund, it will be years before we
start to hear about these guys.

· C Thomas Zeigler (ninth round)

Height: 5-10 Weight: 174

A little older, 22. Small swiss center. You have to really pull for this


We can only wait and see if Weekes is the answer or if he makes Cloutier
better. Fact of the matter is if the defense doesn’t improve it won’t
matter who is in goal. Kudroc is a nasty defender from last years draft
(first round). Won’t see action for a couple of seasons. Alexeev will
challenge for a spot but will most likely go back to Erie for another season.
Zainullan, Kharitonov, and Sedov will all play in Russia next season. Gionet
and Priechodsky were the best players available at the time. Bolts just
don’t have room for them right now. They will both go back to playing Junior
hockey in the WHL and Slovakia respectably. Eklund and Polukeyev were added
to give goaltending depth. The Lightning seem to use 5-7 goalies a season,
so this is necessary depth. Hagglund is no better than a checking center. A
future 3rd or 4th liner. And finally Ziegler, well, congratulations and good
luck back in the Swiss league. The true effectiveness of this draft won’t be
seen for 2-3 seasons. We can only hope the Weekes is the immediate impact
like he was on the Island last season.