During the 1999-00 season Polushin’s biggest achievement was making Moscow’s team in the regional tournament for his age group. He became a full member of his age group’s Russian National Team during the 2000-01 season, playing in all the tournaments his age group was involved in. In most tournaments he primarily played on the top line as a two-way forward. There he fought for the puck along the boards and in the offensive zone, representing a physical presence on the ice to protect his usually smaller line-mates. Though he rarely scored, Alexander’s +/- was always positive and usually above his point total, indicating he satisfied his responsibilities and his line mates were able to score. At the 2001 U18 World Junior Championships (WJC), Polushin played on Russia’s top line with center Yuri Trubachev and left winger Stanislav Chistov. His job was always the same — fight for the puck and create a physical presence in front of the opponent’s net to draw the defense back and allow his smaller partners to succeed. He did the job well, indicated by his +11 rating. He scored only three points in the six games, all of them being goals.
Polushin was taken by Tampa Bay with the 47th overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft. To say Tampa was thrilled to see Polushin on the board in the middle of the 2nd round is an understatement – then GM Rick Dudley and the Lightning had him ranked in their top-10. (He was ranked 8th among European skaters by the CSB and 27th overall by The Hockey News.) So, with the 2nd round pick they obtained from Vancouver in the Dan Cloutier — Adrian Aucoin deal, the Bolts gladly nabbed Polushin.
In 2001-02, Polushin didn’t get the promotion to the Super League he was looking for, but he performed well for CSKA of the Upper League, adding drive and consistency to his already impressive repertoire. He scored five goals in five games during CSKA’s Final Tour, after scoring 19 in 45 1st Phase games.
Polushin was named to Russia’s U-20 WJC squad and played right wing on the 2nd line with King’s super-prospect Alexander Frolov and Capital’s prospect Ivan Nepriayev, notching two points in Russia’s championship game win over Canada. In addition to a first period primary assist, Polushin scored a highlight-reel goal later in the game when he picked the puck up in the neutral zone, cut around a Canadian in the middle of the ice, skated to the right side, cut around a defenseman and drove to the net. He easily slid the puck by a shocked Pascal Leclaire. He was called Russia’s best two-way forward in the tournament after leading the team with a +6 rating and never being on the ice for an even strength goal against.
The 2002-03 season marked Polushin’s first in the Russian Super League (RSL) as he earned a spot with the CSKA club. Finding playing time between the checking lines and a scoring line, Polushin was able to accumulate 11 points (5 +6) in 47 games. He was also named to the Russian U20 WJC squad where he had two goals, six assists and a plus-nine rating.
High expectations entering the 2003-04 season were quickly put on hold as Polushin suffered a major knee injury in practice less than a month into the year. He was flown to Germany for surgery and sat out the year recovering. In the games he did play, however, he matched his RSL goal-high of five in just 13 games (5-2-7). He also registered two goals and six points in five games of the preseason Spartak Cup tournament.
Talent AnalysisAfter ridding himself of the "lazy" or "disinterested" label that followed him during his draft year, Polushin has established himself as one of the better prospects to come out of the 2001 draft. He boasts NHL size (6'3, 205 pounds) and has NHL skating ability and uses these traits well along the boards and driving to the net. He has good hands as he can deliver soft passes, handle the puck well, and he has a quick and accurate shot. He has excellent poise with the puck not unlike the Lightning's own Brad Richards. He doesn’t get too high or too low – he just goes out and does his job -- whatever he's asked to do.
After his performance at the 2002 WJCs, Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen said, "Polushin has excellent size and he is a very, very smooth skater with good talent level. He displayed all of this at the World Juniors Championship. What was most impressive though was he brought his intensity level up to match the caliber of the tournament and he scored, arguably the best goal of the championship game. If he plays the way he played in the tournament, and there is no reason he can't, he will have no problem adjusting to North American style hockey. He showed the willingness to hit and grind it out to get the puck ... he was impressive."
Polushin seems to do everything well – defensive play, skating, physical play, shot, stickhandling, hockey sense, and effort. However, what’s missing is Polushin putting it all together and sustaining it on Russia’s highest level. Of course, he must shake off the rust of missing nearly a season’s worth of play and stay healthy. All areas of his game are good, but could be better. He has the ability to be great, but hasn't reached that point yet. He could also stand to be more selfish offensively and use his abilities within his already polished defensive game.
Polushin’s raw skills, effort and defensive ability are his best assets. While he may not have first line offensive skills, he is capable of playing on a scoring line.
Original profile by Eugene Belashchenko (2001) Edited and Updated by Chad Schnarr (2004)