Kris Russell of the Medicine Hat Tigers is just too talented for NHL teams to ignore. At times this year, the Tigers were short on the blueline when Cam Barker was out with mononucleosis and Steve Marr was sidelined by injury, but the pint-sized Russell was able to shoulder the weight and carried the team offensively.
His 61 points this year were enough to place Russell third in the league for defensive scoring just five points back of the top spot held by Mike Green. Aside from his offensive upside, what Medicine Hat coach Willie Desjardins likes the most about his diminutive blueliner is his fearless ability to battle players much larger than himself. Russell was matched against the opposing top lines for much of the year and had to defend players like Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd, and did so extremely well.
In the WHL playoffs, a head injury suffered against the Red Deer Rebels limited his effectiveness but any who saw Russell during the regular season came away knowing they saw someone special. Russell represented Canada at the U18 Junior World Cup in August of 2004 and at the 2006 WJC.
Scout #1: If there’s a little guy that’s ever going to play, he’s the one. The nights he’s playing he can control a game, it goes at whatever speed he wants to play it. I see him blocking shots and coming back and doing a great job of taking on guys in front of the net that are twice his size and he does it along the boards, in the corners and he’ll fight too. If he was 25 pounds heavier you’d be fighting to get him and still I think he’s going to go pretty high.
Scout #2: He’s only 160 pounds but he plays like he’s 200 lbs. He thinks the game, he’s aggressive and he has great hockey sense. It’s tough to guess where he’s going to go in the draft because of his size but if he were 6’0 tall he’d be a definite first rounder. He certainly has the ability to be a good player and from the skill and heart standpoint he has all the attributes to be an NHL player but it’s tough to project where he’s going to fit in at the NHL level.