The 2012 NHL Entry Draft class doesn't seem to be a particularly big one for Russia, especially when considering that the top players, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov, left the Mother Land to play in the Canadian junior system. In the last few years more and more players have decided to cross the pond earlier, and even if it didn't pay off in all cases, the CHL is now becoming a good alternative for Russian players who opt for an early transition to North American hockey.
Below are the top-rated Russians elgible for the 2012 NHL Draft:
1. Anton Slepyshev, W, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
6'1, 181 Lbs
Slepyshev is a talented winger with good eye for the crease and an improving two-way game which can be very appealing for NHL teams. He was selected as captain at the recent U18 WJC, where team Russia didn't play very confidently and finished the tournament with a disappointing fifth place. Slepyshev scored more than a point-per-game (three goals and seven points in six games), but he didn't record stats similar to those other Russian offensive leaders in the tournament, Nikita Kucherov (TBL), for example, amassed 21 points in seven games last year. This might be cause of concern, but Kucherovs and Kuznetsovs of the past had better teams and line mates. Slepyshev had a good first pro season with Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the KHL, scoring four goals and three assists in 39 regular season games. Slepyshev will most likely spend another two or three years in Russia before considering a move overseas.
2. Andrei Vasilevsky, G, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
6'3, 190 Lbs
Vasilevsky is a very interesting goaltender with a very rich international experience as he already represented Russia in three U18 WJCs and one U20 WJC. With that being said, he doesn't have any significant pro experience which could be a drawback for his NHL draft status. He however possesses first-round size and skills. Vasilevsky is a tall goalie with a good reach and a very athletic way of play, which make him one of the top goalies for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Vasilevsky lately has been very vocal on his intentions about moving overseas and it might well happen next year, but he is currently under contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL and it won't be easy for him to get the green light for a commitment to NA. If he won't be joining a CHL side, he will likely spend another season in the Russian Junior League.
3. Nikolai Prokhorkin, F, CSKA Moscow
6'2, 183 Lbs
Prokhorkin is another potential top-six forward for this NHL draft from Russia, even if he was already overlooked last year, mostly due to injuries that forced him out of the ice for long time. Prokhorkin is a very skilled player with some grit who can play physically along the boards when needed. More a passer than a scorer, the Chelyabinsk native can play either center or winger. Injuries might be some concern with him as this year, once again, he played only about 30 games in the whole season. But skills-wise, he is a very interesting player with all the tools to make the top-six at the NHL level.
4. Vyacheslav Osnovin, C, Traktor Chelyabinsk
5'11, 174 Lbs
Chelyabinsk is always producing excellent players and they are keeping the tradition alive with Osnovin. A very skilled player, Osnovin is very dangerous when the game opens up and during breakaway or odd-man rush situations. He lacks some size and muscle, but he has time to develop into a more mature player, even if probably he will never be a power forward. Recently Osnovin took part in the NHL draft combine and this certainly didn't hurt his stock. Osnovin has top-six potential, but needs to develop into a more mature player before thinking about crossing the pond.
5. Nikita Gusev, W, CSKA Moscow
5'9, 163 Lbs
One of the top-skilled U20 players of the world, Nikita Gusev had a breakout season in the international scene this year thanks to his excellent performance at the Subway Super Series and the U20 WJC. Overlooked in the two previous drafts, Gusev's possesses excellent puck skills, but it will be hard to convince NHL teams to draft a very small player like him, even if the success stories of smallish players are abundant even in the modern-day NHL. The Muscovite forward had a phenomenal season in the MHL with 76 points in 34 regular season games and 33 in 19 playoff clashes, but he had a limited role in the CSKA main team as he scored only one goal and one assist in 15 pro games. If any team will draft him, most likely they will want to wait and see what he is really capable of in a full pro season.
6. Zakhar Arzamastsev, D, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
6'2, 203 Lbs
Arzamastsev is another player who was overlooked last year, but has a chance to get picked this year after a good WJC campaign. In spite of his young age, Arzamastsev is a veteran of more than 100 pro games in Russia and this is certainly something that would help him in the transition to the more demanding North American game. Arzamastsev might work on his skating and offensive production, but he has some interesting size and the needed experience to deserve to be picked during the selections. He is under contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the KHL for other two years and this might scream "KHL factor" to some NHL GMs, but most likely some other team will take a chance on him on the later rounds.
7. Egor Malenkikh, D, SKA St. Petersburg
6'3, 190 Lbs
One of the higher touted 94-born Russian players last year, Malenkikh didn't progress as expected and he is now one of the fallers of the NHL Draft rankings. Malenkikh is a good sized, puck-moving defenseman with interesting mobility, but this season he underperformed and consequently his stock for the Draft is now very low. It wouldn't be surprising to see a team take a chance on his raw potential but it is equally likely Malenkikh goes unselected in 2012.
8. Valeri Vasiliev, D, Spartak Moscow
6'1, 201 Lbs
Vasiliev is a stay-at-home defenseman with an NHL body, but a serious shoulder injury limited him to 18 games this season for Spartak Moscow in the Russian Junior League. Vasiliev might get some attention during the selections thanks to his size, mobility, and defensive play. He can deliver big hits, but he also needs to avoid overdoing this in North America, because the game there is faster and there is less time to recover if compared to Europe. Vasiliev is right now just a long shot prospect, but things can change if he will play a full season next year.