At the 2015 NHL Draft, Russia had one of its better recent showings with 18 Russians being drafted by NHL clubs. This made for a good jump forward when compared to 2014 with 13 players chosen, and especially 2013 where only eight Russians were selected.
This growth can be explained in particular when considering the increasing number of Russian players moving overseas at an earlier age to play in the CHL leagues, and even earlier to play in the various North American junior leagues. A good example of this early migration is Pittsburgh Penguins‘ 2015 draft pick Nikita Pavlychev, who moved to North America at 14 to play for the Wilkes-Barre Junior Knights of the AYHL before moving on to the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL.
The nine players drafted out of Russia in 2015 – including two in the first round – might be a sign that North American teams are more willing to take a risk with the selection of a Russia-based player.
As always, the 2016 NHL Draft will feature a good number of Russian-born prospects, including several players that have moved to North America to further their careers.
One additional change this season that could impact the number of Russians chosen at this year’s draft is the Russian Ice Hockey Federation’s creation of a Team Russia U18 squad to play in the MHL, which is a similar setup to the USA Hockey model of having the U.S. NTDP players compete in the USHL. Most of the top 98-born draft prospects competing in Russia now play for this team.
Below is a list of the top prospects for the 2016 NHL Draft currently playing in Russia. Russian players competing in North America will be covered in previews related to those leagues.
Artur Kayumov, LW
5’10”, 155 lbs.
A small, technically sound player, Artur Kayumov is a gifted player with a good nose for the net and excellent skating ability. He is not big, but he can overcome this problem with his soft hands and fast skating. Kayumov can both score and help other players to score and is a constant threat in the offensive zone. He is very smart and is doing very well with the U18 national team in the MHL, and he was one of the best players for Team Russia this summer at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. His lack of size may cause Kayumov to be considered a long shot to make it to the NHL, but he has all the tools to succeed.
Nikita Makeyev, D
5’9”, 165 lbs.
The captain of the U18 team, Nikita Makeyev is a two-way defenseman with good offensive tools. A right-handed defender who plays on the left side, Makeyev can contribute to his team’s offense with good vision of the ice and a strong shot from the point. Makeyev is also a good defensive player and will definitely be one of the top Russian defensive prospects at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Mikhail Maltsev, LW
6’1”, 180 lbs.
A versatile forward with decent size and good hockey sense, Mikhail Maltsev is a player with plenty of potential and very good scoring ability. The St. Petersburg, Russia native had some great performances at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge earlier this season which this put him on the scouting radar for this year’s draft. He is an intelligent player with excellent skating skills and a good wrist shot. Maltsev has all the tools to succeed, but needs to bulk up, improve his defensive play, and work on his consistency.
Mikhail Meshcheryakov, C
5’11”, 155 lbs.
A fast skater with good hands and a high hockey IQ, Mikhail Meshcheryakov is a smart center who can play hard at both ends of the ice and can also play wing, where he can take advantage of his strong shot and fast release. Meshcheryakov makes things happen with his great puck skills and fine skating ability while avoiding soft play on defense. He is also solid at the dots, but will have to work further to improve his faceoff skills.
German Rubtsov, C
6’1”, 175 lbs.
German Rubtsov is a very talented center who plays a complete game and can be effective at both ends of the ice. He is a key player for the U18 team and is expected to center the first line at the U18 World Championship that will take place in Grand Forks, North Dakota in April. He plays bigger than his size, and is strong on his skates and can be good at the faceoff dots. Rubtsov is a very intriguing prospect who can adapt his game very well to the North American rink given his strong two-way ability.
Vladislav Sukhachyov, G
5’10”, 180 lbs.
Not the biggest of goalies, Vladislav Sukhachyov is still having a good season both in the MHL and with the national team in the various international tournaments he has competed in. A very mobile goalie with good instincts, Sukhachyov has to work on his consistency and rebound control, but he has good tools and great potential.
Alexander Yakovenko, D
5’10”, 160 lbs.
Considered to be as good as Mikhail Sergachev prior to the 2015-16 season, Alexander Yakovenko’s development has slowed a bit this season as he is not producing as expected for the U18 team. Yakovenko is an interesting defensive prospect with good offensive and defensive skills, but he needs to bulk up while improving his consistency and positional play.
Follow Alessandro Seren Rosso on Twitter via @AlexSerenRosso