Nikita Serebryakov represents an endangered species in North America — a European goaltender ranked amongst Central Scouting’s list of Canadian Hockey League players to watch.
“It was a surprise for me because last year I played not good for a couple of games, then I played bad,” the Moscow-born netminder said. “I got in 22 games, which is good for a rookie, but I want more. So it was a big surprise for me when I went on the draft list and got a B.”
Serebryakov was selected 18th overall by the OHL's Saginaw Spirit in the 2012 CHL Import Draft. In May of this year, the CHL’s board of directors voted to restrict the drafting of European goaltenders to the first round of the 2013 import draft; in 2014, goalies are banned from the selection process, making it extremely difficult for a non-North American goaltender to suit up for a junior squad.
While the decision does not impact Serebryakov personally, as he is grandfathered into the system and can complete his junior eligibility, it doesn’t mean he likes what’s happened.
“No, for me it’s not a good idea. I don’t know why they did it,” he said. “I think the Canadian Hockey League is the best [junior] hockey league in the world. In Russia, there’s not a lot of people come and watch — I like the style that the Canadian and American guys play. There’s a lot of shots, every time you need to be ready. I don’t like Russian [style] hockey.
“I think it [hurts Russian goaltending] because I have a couple of friends who were born in 1996 who want to come here this year, but they can’t. Right now they’re playing in Russia — it’s sad.”
Beyond the fact that some of the world’s top netminders will be hard-pressed to find their way into the CHL, Serebryakov said future netminders won’t be able to benefit from the time he’s had to acclimate to North American hockey, culture, and language.
“It’s very important because I learned different things. I learned to speak English here and the hockey here is better,” he said. “I have all the things that I couldn’t do the year before that I’m able to do because I get better every day — I’m playing against the best players in the world, in the best league.”
Serebryakov saw limited action behind all-world goaltender Jake Paterson. He played in 22 games, compiling an 8-11-1-1 record. And while he said he’d love to play more, he appreciates the learning opportunity he has backing up the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect.
“Every opportunity, I watch Jake because he’s a very good goalie. I think he’s the best goalie in this league and I’m very happy to be his teammate,” he said. “I watch him every practice, every game, every play. Every day I try to pick up a couple of things. If I like it, I’ll add it, but if I see it’s not for me, then I’ll go away and try to learn more.”
Serebryakov, who was given a B-rating in Central Scouting’s players to watch, said his strong performance at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he backstopped Russia to a gold medal, was the main reason for his solid rating. However, he said he knows he has to continue to refine his game, no matter how many opportunities he gets to suit up for the Spirit.
“I think I need to be a little bit stronger and faster,” he said. “And I have to be more patient sometimes. I want to help my team win games.”
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