2014 NHL Draft Preview: Uncertainty the word for Russia’s latest draft class

By Alessandro Seren Rosso

Igor Shestyorkin - Team Russia

Photo: SKA St. Petersburg goaltender and 2014 prospect Igor Sheshtyorkin competed for Team Russia at the 2013 Subway Super Series (courtesy of Derek Leung/Getty Images)

With the 2013-14 season now completed, and as the 2014 NHL Draft draws closer, the list of Russian prospects who are on the radar of the NHL scouting staffs gets thinner. The list of potential draftees playing in Russia is always somewhat difficult to gauge due to the infamous “Russian Factor” hanging over the heads of any player that chooses to stay in Russia to continue their development.

In recent years, a few high-profile Russian players decided to play in the CHL for more exposure and a better chance to be chosen in the first or second round of the NHL Draft. As a result, the prospects still competing in Russia may be overlooked for a number of reasons – first, due to the uncertainty on their future intention to cross the ocean (as has been the case so far for a player like New York Islanders’ draftee Kirill Petrov), and second because, even if passed over in the draft, a player that continues to develop his game can still be picked up as a free agent (with probably no better example than 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky).

That being said, Russia remains a good producer of talent, with the following players having the best chance of being chosen at this year's NHL Draft. As stated above, though, other players not listed here could mature in coming seasons and still get a chance to play in the NHL.

Here, then, is the top players out of Russia for the 2014 NHL Draft

1. Vladislav Kamenev, C, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

Kamenev is certainly the best player available among the ones still playing in Russia, and more so since Vladimir Tkachyov decided to cross the pond mid-season. His participation at the NHL Combine was an obvious indicator of interest from some NHL teams, who might otherwise be scared by his two-year deal in the KHL with the reigning Gagarin Cup champions, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Nevertheless, Kamenev is putting his best foot forward to show his interest in playing in the NHL, and he may even terminate his contract with Metallurg to get to North America sooner. While he is a very good prospect with some good puck skills and a good-sized frame, some seasoning in Russia playing on a good team under Mike Keenan would be no harm to his career plans.

2. Roman Khalikov, D, note presently under contract

An interesting defensive prospect with good size, Khalikov recently left Donbass Donetsk, the Ukrainian franchise with teams in both the KHL and MHL, where he spent one year playing first-line junior hockey against players mostly two or three years older than him. Khalikov displayed good mobility and offensive instincts, but needs to improve in the defensive side. Currently he is not contracted to a team, so the Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native might be eyeing a move to the CHL.

3. Nikita Tryamkin, D, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg

Overlooked last year, Tryamkin had a good 2014 WJC campaign this winter and gained some good experience in the KHL with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, scoring seven points in 45 regular season games. The huge (6’7”, 229 lbs.) defender is now under contract with Yekaterinburg for another couple of seasons which may scare off potential NHL suitors. Tryamkin is a player who might have a successful shot in the NHL considering his size, mobility and his big shot from the point. He has the potential to repeat the path taken by new Edmonton Oilers' defenseman, Nikita Nikitin.

4. Igor Shestyorkin, G, SKA St. Petersburg

Shestyorkin is an interesting goalie with good potential and excellent athletic abilities. This season, he played his first games at the KHL level and did not look out of place, posting a goals-against average of 2.80 and a .903 save percentage in nine games playing for one of the worst teams in the KHL, Spartak Moscow. As Spartak Moscow will most likely fold for next season, there has been an exodus of their players to SKA St. Petersburg, with Shestyorkin among the Spartak players who moved to that club. It’s thus unlikely that the late ’95-born goalie will move to North America this summer.

5. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Gavrikov is a promising defender with some interesting traits that include his size and defensive presence. Gavrikov lacks experience and did not have much international exposure this season, even if he did represent Russia at the Subway Super Series, so he is most likely bound to be picked during the later rounds if he is chosen at all. The late ’95-born defenseman is contracted to Lokomotiv for another season.

6. Arkhip Nekolenko, LW, SKA St. Petersburg

Nekolenko was a more highly touted prospect a couple of years ago, but injuries have slowed him down, causing him to fall off the radar a bit compared to where he was ranked in the recent past. Nekolenko is a very talented player with some good offensive flashes and excellent puck skills. He never played at the level of his potential this season, though, so he will most likely need to deliver more before getting some real attention from NHL clubs. As with many other players from the Spartak Moscow system, Nekolenko just moved to SKA St. Petersburg, so it is hard to imagine that he’ll move overseas this summer.

7. Andrei Mironov, D, Dynamo Moscow

Mironov had a solid WJC last winter playing on a defensive pairing with Nikita Zadorov (BUF), and has a good amount of KHL experience under his belt. He is more of a shutdown defender with some good instincts, but he has been overlooked in the last two drafts so it is hard to predict if he’ll be chosen at all during this weekend's NHL Draft. The physical defenseman is under contract with Dynamo Moscow for another season.

8. Daniil Vovchenko, W, Severstal Cherepovets

A natural goal-scorer, Vovchenko has skills and speed but lacks size, which could be a issue when it comes to chances of being drafted. Vovchenko scored many goals, both in the MHL and with the national team, and he has a good nose for the net to go along with his above average finishing abilities. His problems mostly lie with his size and lack of true physical play. Some teams might be willing to throw a later round pick on him based on his offensive abilities alone.

9. Ivan Nalimov, G, SKA St. Petersburg

Nalimov is a solid goalie who made a name for himself during last year's Subway Super Series, where he backstopped Team Russia to a couple of wins with some spectacular performances. He was less successful at the 2014 U20 World Junior Championship, but he remains an intriguing prospect with an interesting ceiling. Nalimov needs to gain some consistency and pro experience, but his status for next season is uncertain as he has recently been very vocal regarding his desire to play in North America.

10. Alexander Sharov, C/W, CSKA Moscow

Sharov is a player who is capable of playing both center and wing and has very good puck skills and speed, pretty much what is usually expected from Russian forward prospects. Sharov had a good season in the MHL this year, scoring almost one point per game in both the regular season and playoffs, where CSKA Moscow lost to Spartak in the seventh game. Sharov is a versatile player with a good nose for the net and for the opening pass. He is under contract with CSKA until the end of next season.

Follow Alessandro Seren Rosso on Twitter via @AlexSerenRosso