Top 5 drafted wingers from Russia

By Alessandro Seren Rosso
Photo: Vladimir Tarasenko is among the best hockey players not currently skating in North America. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Just as one might expect, wingers are nowadays one of the best filled positions of Russian hockey, if not the best one. Russia keeps on producing excellent winger prospects and this new group has already proven they can be as good as the preceding one, led by Nikita Filatov (CBJ), Evgeni Dadonov (FLA) and Alexander Vasyunov (NJD).

Top 5 at a glance:

Vladimir Tarasenko
Kirill Petrov
Sergei Andronov
Mikhail Stefanovich
Maxim Trunev

1. Vladimir TarasenkoSt. Louis Blues
6’1, 200 lbs
1st round pick, 16th overall in 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Currently playing for Sibir Novosibirsk

Thanks to the combination of reputation, seasonal play and willingness to translate his success in the NHL, Vladimir Tarasenko gets the honors of being the top drafted winger playing in Russia. Tarasenko had an excellent season not only due to his great contribution to Team Russia‘s gold medal triumph at the recent WJC, but also due to his strong play in the KHL, where he scored nine goals and 19 points in 42 games, scoring a little less than last year (24 points) but having a bigger role within the organization.

Now what North American fans wonder is if he’ll report to the Blues or not. While it’s always a bit uncertain when it comes to Russian players, most likely Tarasenko will cross the Ocean this summer in order to try his chances in with the Blues sweater on. He has all it takes to become an impact player in the NHL, considering his package of technique, skating, leadership abilities and versatility.

2. Kirill PetrovNew York Islanders
6’3, 222 lbs
3rd round pick, 73rd overall in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Currently Playing for Yugra Khanty-Mansyisk

It was a breakout season for the Islanders prospect, who finally left his alma mater club Ak Bars Kazan to move to KHL newcomers, Yugra Khanty-Mansyisk, where he could play a much bigger role and show what he’s worth. Petrov, 20, thanks to his great season he even enjoyed senior Team Russia consideration and played for the second national team in international tournaments. The North American audience shouldn’t be disappointed by his 19 points production – he has been one of his team’s best players all season long and had an excellent playoff first round against KHL contenders Metallurg Magnitogorsk, even if his team eventually lost. He scored four points in the six games of the series.

Kirill Petrov can develop in a top-six NHL player thanks to his size and technique, although he needs to mature tactically and physically, and has to polish his defensive play.

3. Sergei AndronovSt. Louis Blues
6’2, 190 lbs
3rd round pick, 78th overall in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Currently playing for CSKA Moscow

Sergei Andronov couldn’t show much in his second year at the famous CSKA Moscow as it was a very rocky season for the whole organization on multiple levels. Last year Andronov had a good season – split between Lada Togliatti and CSKA Moscow – but he couldn’t repeat it this year as he scored a mere seven points in 53 games, and his team missed the playoffs with one of the worse KHL records.

In spite of all this, Andronov is one of the most interesting young players from the popular Moscow organization, mostly due to his rare combination of size and skills. He has a good set of hands that can make him score or look out for the assist once in the offensive zone. His size also allows him to throw the body around, even if he’s not a physical player just like most of the Russian prospects. Andronov didn’t show much interest in crossing the pond so far, but he might well do it just a little bit later, in a similar way to Igor Makarov (CHI), for example.

4. Mikhail StefanovichDallas Stars

6’2, 200 lbs
4th round pick, 98th overall in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Currently playing for Dynamo Minsk

The Belarus native winger spent most of his season in the KHL with Dynamo Minsk and seen his rights moved from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Dallas Stars in the Fabian Brunnstrom deal. After a bunch of games played for the Leafs’ AHL and ECHL affiliates, the former Mike Bossy Trophy winner was reassigned to Dynamo Minsk, where he struggled to get ice time and to produce. He scored only one goal in the 21 regular season games, getting an average TOI of 7:27. In the later stage of the season he got a higher ice time and he was named KHL rookie of the month for February after his good performance in the playoffs against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, but he had to quit the series during the fourth game due to a knee injury that might sideline him for the next World Championship, to be held in Slovakia in May.

5. Maxim TrunevMontreal Canadiens
6’0, 190 lbs
5th round pick, 138th overall in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Currently playing for Severstal Cherepovets

After refusing to move to the CHL Trunev didn’t have much fortune in the KHL as he mostly spent time on Severstal’s fourth line, playing for a team which is far from being a contender, even if this year they reached the playoffs and this meant some good post-season experience for the 20-years-old winger.

Trunev scored only one goal this season, but he improved his assists production to six. Trunev is a very fast skating winger with smooth hands and some size, but he would need some seasoning in the American minor leagues as his playing style wouldn’t translate very well on the more demanding small ice surface. He needs to work on his strength, physical play and defensive presence before even considering to move overseas.