Top 10 Russia prospects for 2009

By Alessandro Seren Rosso

The 2009 Russian draft class doesn’t look as good as the last one, which produced Nikita Filatov (CBJ), Evgeny Grachev (NYR), Dmitri Kugryshev (WAS) and Memorial Cup champion Andrei Loktionov (LAK). At the last U18 World Championships, Russia earned a silver medal mostly thanks to the contribution of the 2010s like Kirill Kabanov and Vladimir Tarasenko. But because of Russia‘s depth, there are some good talents available in two weeks in Montreal, including some overage ones overlooked in the last drafts who somewhat raised their stock recently.

The recent wave of players going early to North America means that the top 2009 Russian national, Dmitri Kulikov, is in fact in the North American rankings as he’s a player of the QMJHL Drummondville Voltigeurs. Other interesting players are also playing in the CHL and this probably will mean that the number selected won’t be any higher than the 2008 draft, which saw nine players out of Russia picked.

Another notable difference in this draft class is that, despite the prototype of the Russian school, there is a good number of defensemen and our top 10 actually features four blue liners.

Top 10 at glance

1. Dmitri Orlov, D, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
2. Maxim Chudinov, D, Severstal Cherepovets
3. Pavel Chernov, C, Atlant Mytischi
4. Alexander Avtsyn, RW, Dynamo Moscow
5. Sergei Andronov, RW, Lada Togliatti
6. Anton Burdasov, LW, Traktor Chelyabinsk
7. Sergei Chvanov, C, Severstal Cherepovets
8. Georgi Berdyukov, D, SKA St. Petersburg
9. Nikita Dvurechensky, LW, Dynamo Moscow
10. Igor Bobkov, G, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

1. Dmitri Orlov, D

5’10, 187 lbs, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, KHL
CSS Final Rankings: #9 European skater

A talented, smooth-skating offensive defenseman, Orlov had a very good U18 WC where he was really a valuable player at both ends of the ice. Having a knack for the net is a bonus for him as it’s becoming more and more important in the "new" NHL to get some production from the blue line. Orlov can do it thanks to his smart shooting choices and his hockey intelligence, though some additional power in his slap shot would be welcome. A capable skater, he won’t get outskated by the speedy lines.

At this point Orlov could even go to the first round as his appealing offensive game is something that won’t last long. Not only does he have very good offensive instincts, but also competent defensive play. He had one point in 16 games for Metallurg this year and was +1.

2. Maxim Chudinov, D

5’10, 180 lbs, Severstal Cherepovets, KHL
CSS Final Rankings: #179 European skater

Despite Central Scouting ranking him really low, Maxim Chudinov is an excellent prospect with a very good defensive game, toughness, grit and good read of the ice. He is an experienced player as he played in many international tournaments, included two WJCs. In this year’s, he racked up some good numbers thanks to his vision and ability of making great breakout passes. He’s got a good shot too, especially from the short range, but he has to learn to use it more often as he rarely scores. He also has to work a bit in his positioning, but he got good experience in the defensive play and thus he doesn’t overdo it or cross the line as much. A good hitter, both along the boards and open ice, he might well develop into a reliable defensive defenseman despite being overlooked in last year’s selections, probably mostly because of his relative small size.  ISS ranks Chudinov 189th overall for this draft.

Chudinov had no points in 26 games for Severstal this year and was -6.

3. Pavel Chernov, C
5’11, 194 lbs, Atlant Mytischi 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #117 European skater

Overlooked in the 2008 NHL Draft, Chernov is a very good playmaking center who was also overlooked by his head coach Fedor Kanareikin in their stacked team and he played just 17 games in two years. But if he didn’t shine in the RSL/KHL he excelled in this year’s WJC, scoring five points in seven games, constantly playing in the top lines. Compared to last year he bulked up some size, which is good as some work was needed. He has polished up his play too, but hasn’t been tested in a full pro season. He might get some attention considering his experience in international play, his strength along the boards and his two-way play. 

He had nine goals and 14 assists in 24 games for Atlant in the third league.

4. Alexander Avtsyn, RW

6’2, 198 lbs, Dynamo Moscow 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #18 European skater

Avtsyn is an intriguing player without much exposure as he didn’t play in the KHL nor in the WJC. But he’s a very good player with excellent, smooth skating, very good hands and appealing size. Avtsyn can dribble through the opponents with relative ease thanks to his flair and technique, getting in front of the goalie who can eventually beat thanks to his good touch around the crease and finishing skills, which was proven by the big number of goals he scored this season. The competition in the Russian First League is surely not the best, but 110 points are always a good result, no matter which you are playing. Untested with legit competition, he’s still a long shot now, but he has the ceiling and the size to do it through North America even if he has to learn how to use his size to his own advantage, especially in the corners and along the boards.  Avtsyn had a whopping 56 goals and 54 assists in 76 games with Dynamo in the Russian third league. He also posted 130 penalty minutes.

5. Sergei Andronov, RW

6’2, 189, Lada Togliatti, KHL
CSS Final Rankings: #24 European skater

Andronov is another overage player who has been overlooked in the last couple of drafts, but that has seen his stock rise in the second half of the season because of his very good WJC and KHL season, in which he scored eight goals, which might not seem a big number, but that actually is very good for youngsters in Russia, and Andronov has also played in a defense-first team. After the WJC in Canada, at which he helped Nemchinov’s team earning the bronze medal with eight points in seven games, scoring a goal in the semi-finals too. His speed, technique and game without the puck makes him a prospect worth of attention, and the kind of experience he gained in the last two seasons make him a readier prospect under certain aspects. Andronov had eight goals and four assists in 47 games for Lada of the KHL and was +1.

6. Anton Burdasov, LW

6’3, 202 lbs, Traktor Chelyabinsk 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #20 European skater

A good sized winger, Burdasov is another appealing prospect whose stock has been surely hurt by the lack of a transfer agreement. Without it, such a speedy and gifted winger would probably drop down to the fourth or fifth round. Additionally, he didn’t play in any major tournament in the last few months after the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in the last August. Coach Plyuschev decided not to call him for the U18 WC, and that hurt his chances as well. But Burdasov remains a very interesting player as his scoring abilities are hard to contain when the ice opens up also because of his good size that makes him hard to knock off the puck. His excellent wristshot and reading abilities make him a threat every shift, but he has to work on his consistency and game maturity because he tends not to share the puck with his linemates, reminiscent of his dominant play in the Russian junior leagues that usually don’t offer players top competition.

Burdasov had 10 goals and five assists in 29 games for Traktor of the third Russian league.

7. Sergei Chvanov, C

5’11, 174 lbs, Severstal Cherepovets 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #25 European skater

Chvanov is a character player who has shown some interesting production in the U18 playing in a line with 2010 hot prospects Kirill Kabanov and Vladimir Tarasenko. A true leader on and off the ice, Chvanov has also an excellent work ethic, which leads him to commit a lot and fight hard, some features not always easy to find in Russian players. He also has a very good playmaking game and stickhandling, thus meaning that he can play in both scoring and checking lines. Besides, he’s a very good penalty killer because of his commitment and hard-working style. But he has to work on his overall offensive game and on his skating prior of seeking an eventual North American career. Chvanov had 16 goals and 13 assists in 46 games for Severstal of the third Russian league.

8. Georgi Berdyukov, D
6’1, 200 lbs, SKA St. Petersburg 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #69 European skater

An underrated offensive defenseman, Berdyukov combines good skating with a big slap shot from the point and a very good size. The 6’1 defenseman recently bulked up to 200 lbs and it adds a lot to his game as he will set himself as a physical presence back in the zone too. Unfortunately he suffered from a collar bone injury this spring, so he has been left out from the U18 WC, but he was a regular for Russia-91 for the whole season, often playing top pair with Orlov. He’s got a very good ceiling, but he’s yet to be tested playing against men. 

Berdyukov had seven goals and eight assists in 44 games, along with 66 penalty minutes, for SKA of the Russian third league.

9. Nikita Dvurechensky, LW

6’2, 183 lbs, Dynamo Moscow 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #36 European skater

Dvurechensky is a skilled winger with an excellent touch around the net and interesting finishing abilities, even if he didn’t show them in the U18 Worlds. He played mostly on the third line then, which wasn’t much used by Plyuschev. He’s not a big sized player, but he can land hits and play aggressively, without crossing the line. Dvurechensky is a very good skater with an above average shot that can release very quickly, but has to work a lot on his vision and passing play. His stock fell a bit after the U18 WC as his zero points and general play were disappointing. Dvurechensky had 57 goals and 30 assists in 75 games in the Russia-3 league for Dynamo.

10. Igor Bobkov, G

6’4, 192, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2, Rus-3
CSS Final Rankings: #10 European goalie

A very tall goalie who plays a stand-up style, Bobkov was named the U18 World Championships top goalie thanks to his impressive play in the medal round. He played off the radar most of the season, playing only nine matches with Metallurg 2 and 17 for the junior team. With Metallurg 2 he had a 2.67 GAA. His style relies mostly on his size and on his athletism: at 6’4 he covers a large part of the net, and with his very quick legs he can either stretch them for a pad save or effectively slide around from post to post. He needs to work on his glove hand, technique and challenging, but he has the physical edge to play in North America, it wasn’t surprising that after his strong play at the Worlds, it was rumored that he could join a CHL team for the 2009-10 season, but most likely he will defend the crease of Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s junior team in the new Russian junior league starting from the next year.

Honorable mentions

Stanislav Bocharov, RW, 5’11, 170, Ak Bars Kazan

An excellent stickhandler with speed to burns, Bocharov is very talented, but lacks size, defensive awareness and passing play.

Andrei Kuchin, LW, 5’10, 180, Vityaz Chekhov

An immensely talented player, Kuchin was meant to go first overall not more than three years ago, but since then he slipped down. He might be a sleeper in the draft, turning into a super star even if drafted in the late rounds, but he might also turn up as a bust.