As might be noticed in international competition, the center position is often an area that Russia has some trouble filling with younger prospects, as that country instead fills with veterans like Pavel Datsyuk or Evgeny Malkin because of the apparent lack of production from younger, less established players. But recently, there have been some signs of trend inversion as there have been some centers drafted by NHL teams out of the KHL.
These players mostly see limited ice time at home, however, so it is still very early to gauge if they will prove worthy of their selection. Nevertheless, below is list of drafted and unaffiliated centers who competed in Russia in the 2014-15 season.
Nikolai Prokhorkin, CSKA Moscow
Drafted in the fourth round, 121st overall, in 2012 by the Los Angeles Kings
In spite of his rocky season, Nikolai Prokhorkin remains the top KHL center prospect. His talent is simply too evident for him to leave the first position to other players. His production went downhill from the 2013-14 season, with only 20 points scored in 2014-15 versus 37, and he lost the first line spot to more productive players like former Ottawa Senator Stephane Da Costa and young player Roman Lyubimov, who was very good in the KHL playoffs. Moreover, CSKA enjoyed more success than last year, and it can’t be said that it has been due to Prokhorkin’s play. If that’s not enough, he has been demoted down to CSKA’s VHL affiliate, Buran Voronezh, where he scored just one goal in seven games. His contract ran out on April 30th, but so far there is no information on where he will play next season. CSKA doesn’t seem eager to retain him, so he may try to cross the ocean and fight for a spot in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs.
Vladislav Kamenev, currently unsigned
Drafted in the second round, 42nd overall, in 2014 by the Nashville Predators
Vladislav Kamenev made some good strides forward this season, becoming a regular with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and scoring 10 points with six goals and four assists. It may look like good production, but he’s only 18 and one of a few players of his age or younger who took a regular shift in the KHL. It has been evident that some good coaching by Mike Keenan has positively influenced the young player. Recently, Kamenev was released by Metallurg, most likely so he could move to North America next season. Kamenev’s rights in the QMJHL are owned by the Quebec Remparts, but a move to the CHL would not be a step forward for a veteran of two years of pro hockey, so he will most likely play for the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. His size and defensive play may allow for a quick transition to the more demanding North American game, even without considering “Iron Mike’s” influence on Kamenev.
Alexander Kadeikin, SKA St. Petersburg
Drafted in the seventh round, 201st overall, in 2014 by the Detroit Red Wings
After a strong 2013-14 campaign with Atlant Mytischi, Alexander Kadeikin was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round has been quite a surprise, especially considering his age (a ’93-born). Midway through the 2014-15 season, Kadeikin’s contract was bought out by SKA St. Petersburg, and it’s hard to value it as a good or bad move so far. Kadeikin had played rather well with SKA, scoring eight points in twenty games, but was then left out of the lineup as the coaches preferred more experienced players during their Gagarin Cup quest. He also scored one point in nine games with Atlant. Kadeikin’s contract ran out on April 30th, but it has been rumored that he’s very close to inking a new, two-year deal with SKA, so his move overseas may not be imminent.
Pavel Kraskovsky, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Drafted in the sixth round, 164th overall, in 2014 by the Winnipeg Jets
Pavel Kraskovsky’s season was a bit up and down, but he still managed limited ice time in the KHL, skating in three games. He didn’t made the cut for the WJC squad, a surprise for many, but he skated with the senior national team for one game. Kraskovsky is a very interesting player as he possesses skills at both ends of the ice, but he needs to be tested against better competition. He will most likely be one of Team Russia’s leaders at the next World Junior Championship, so that will be a good starting point. Kraskovsky’s deal with Lokomotiv will run out on April 30th, 2016. At this point he’s still a long-shot prospect.
Other interesting centers
Sergei Kalinin, Avangard Omsk
A ’91-born player, Sergei Kalinin has recently been rumored to be interested in moving to the NHL. He is a good player with good two-way abilities who can play in the NHL if he understands that his role and importance to the team won’t be the same as in the KHL. He had to miss the most important games for Avangard in the playoffs due to an injury, but last year he played with Team Russia at the IIHF World Championship, where he helped his team to win the gold medal. He also won a gold at the WJC level, at the 2011 tournament. Kalinin’s contract ran out on April 30th.
Vyacheslav Osnovin, Traktor Chelyabinsk
Those who follow Russian hockey closely definitely know of Vyacheslav Osnovin, as he played at both the U18 World Championship and U20 World Junior Championship in recent years, with good success. Osnovin had a very good season in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk, as he scored 10 goals and 14 points while adding a couple of helpers in six playoff contests. Osnovin is a well-rounded player with soft hands, very good skating, and a good nose for the net. If he keeps on progressing like this, he may be a very interesting player in a couple of years. Osnovin’s deal with Traktor will run out on April 30th, 2016.
Follow Alessandro Seren Rosso on Twitter via @AlexSerenRosso