Blues Russian prospects season review

By Sergei Balashov

Konstantin Barulin, G
Spartak Moscow (RSL)
3rd round choice, 84th overall in 2003 Entry Draft

Konstantin Barulin’s season had more ups and downs than a roller coaster. He started the season as a backup behind Spartak’s starting goalie Tyler Moss, but soon took over after Moss suffered an injury that sidelined him for a few games. Barulin demonstrated some great abilities putting up some impressive numbers in his first 16 starts, allowing slightly more than two goals per game and seeing his save percentage reach the 92 percent mark. He played the total of 36 games during the regular season and allowed more than three goals only once – in a 7-5 win against Ak Bars. Moss soon recovered, but his job had already been handed to Barulin.

Barulin was carrying the team playing behind a mediocre defense that didn’t feature any big-namers. His contribution to Spartak’s success can’t be overestimated. His strong performance earned him a spot on the national team for the Karjala Cup. However, he never saw any ice time and served as backup to Maxim Sokolov who later represented Russia at the Turin Olympics and Dynamo’s Sergei Zvyagin. The second round of the regular season wasn’t quite as good as the first one. Barulin lost his starting job to Tyler Moss and made just seven starts getting pulled from two of these seven games. Spartak made the postseason but saw an early exit after a 3-0 sweep from Salavat Yulaev with both Tyler Moss and Barulin not playing confidently enough.

Konstantin Barulin’s numbers still looked good as he was 13th in the league with a GAA of 2.14 and 12th in save percentage with 91.47 percent with 36 games played. He’s a good butterfly-style goalie who lacks consistence and needs some more experience as a starter. The 2005-06 campaign can still be considered successful as he made some progress and was a starting goalie in the RSL for the better part of the season.

Nikolai Lemtyugov, RW
CSKA Moscow (RSL)
7th round choice, 219th overall in 2005 Entry Draft

Lemtyugov had a very good season, his second in the RSL. He was constantly playing, unlike in his previous season when he played in only 11 games. His first full Super League season was a true jump start as Lemtyugov posted really good numbers, scoring nine goals and 12 assists in 37 regular season games. However, his value goes way beyond that. Lemtyugov’s a very useful player whose presence on the ice always puts pressure on the opponent’s defense and makes them stay back more than they’d like to. His physical abilities and knack for creating turnovers make him a very good forechecker. Lemtyugov always evaluates all of his options before going for the best one when on offense. He has excellent speed but needs to work on his shot and pass accuracy to boost his value as a playmaker. He possesses excellent potential and special teams value which he proved in the course of the season by setting up four power-play goals and developing very good chemistry with Alexei Kudashov who helped him on five of his nine regular season goals. Lemtyugov is something of a Lady Byng Trophy contender as he tends to not take unnecessary penalties. He recorded just 45 PIMs in 37 games with 25 of them coming in one outing.

Lemtyugov played one of the key roles in Team Russia’s trip to the World Junior Championship final. He appeared in all six games at the tournament and recorded four goals and one assist including a two-goal game against Latvia that clinched the first place in the group for Russia.
The upcoming RSL season is going to be crucial for Lemtyugov who will either keep progressing at the current fast rate and have a legitimate shot at going to the NHL or slow down and go no further than a second line winger on his team.

Viktor Alexandrov, LW
SKA St. Petersburg (RSL)
3rd round choice, 83rd overall in 2004 Entry Draft

Aleksandrov still remains one of the most underachieving players in the Super League. His size must be one of the factors that prevent him from playing to his full potential and developing into a prime player. Standing just 5’11 and 165 lbs he still needs to beef up to be more of an effective forward, especially in front of the net and improve his endurance. In general, Aleksandrov has the right attitude for a forward. He never stops looking for scoring chances and stays concentrated throughout the game, even in the most crucial situations. Aleksandrov’s an average skater who doesn’t lack in mobility and has a decent shot but tends to always get outplayed physically by the opposition.

He finished 12th on his team in scoring with just 11 points (4 goals and 7 assists) in 41 regular season games. That included two major slumps. One of them occurred middle through the first round of the regular season when Aleksandrov remained scoreless for 12 games. He notched his last point of the tournament in early January. He played 12 more games splitting time between SKA and their farm team. SKA made the postseason and advanced past the first round but got swept by Avangard in the quarterfinals. However, that was without Aleksandrov who wasn’t dressed for any of the games. It’s been rumored he might join CSKA Moscow in the offseason which would provide him with a better chance to progress than he’s had with the underachieving SKA.

Dmitri Semin, C
Spartak Moscow (RSL)
5th round choice, 159th overall in 2001 Entry Draft

Semin has gained the coaches’ trust and has been involved considerably more than last season, which positively affected his productivity. Semin played to his fullest by notching 12 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 51 regular season games. He ranked third on his team trailing only David Ling and Alexander Yunkov. As a center with excellent offensive and defensive awareness, Semin proved to be useful on special teams. He scored three power-play goals and set up another four for his teammates. He also recorded team-best two short-handed goals. Semin then added another assist in three playoff games.

Semin not only progressed in production, but also saw some improvement in his hockey skills. Being on a mediocre team gave him a chance to get more ice time than he would on a better squad. He got the compelling experience that could help him step up faster than expected. He sees the ice even better now, he makes faster and better decisions but tends to go pass-crazy when it’s not necessary. His size (5’10 185 lb) is below average, especially for a center and sometimes it shows when he avoids collisions and doesn’t hit when he probably should. Semin still has a long way to go as it wouldn’t hurt to add up some weight, work on checking ability, shot and pass accuracy which sometimes lets him down.

Alexei Shkotov, RW
Khimik (RSL)
2nd round choice, 48th overall in 2002 Entry Draft

Shkotov can still be considered an above-average offensive prospect. He spent the 2005-06 season with Khimik which relocated in November. Shkotov appeared in 31 regular season games scoring six goals and 10 assists for the total of 16 points. It could have been better had he not been bothered by injuries throughout the season. His first one came in September when he injured his hip and was forced to miss six games. He scored in his first game back and helped Khimik beat Lokomotiv 4-3. He suffered another, a more serious injury January. This time he broke his collar bone. He didn’t take too long to recover and was back in the line-up eight games later in early March. Shkotov was expected to play for team Russia at the World Championship in Riga, but he’ll not be there because of problems with his foot.

Shkotov is an above average playmaker with very good speed and decent skating. He’s got tremendous puck and stickhandling skills but tends to take his time before releasing a shot or a pass. He emphasizes individual game and carries the puck around too much instead of moving it around and getting his teammates involved. His value is considerably undermined by the injuries and his small frame (5’9 165 lbs).

Nikita Nikitin, D
Avangard Omsk (RSL)
5th round choice, 136th overall in 2004 Entry Draft

Nikitin had a breakout year developing into one of Avangard’s leading defensemen and securing a spot on the roster. He also made team Russia for the World Juniors in Vancouver where he bolstered Russia’s already solid defense. Nikitin established himself as a skilled stay-at-home type defenseman with exceptional hockey sense and stickhandling skills. He’s been good in man to man coverage, but was getting lost under pressure. Nikitin has the ability to change the flow of the game by creating turnovers in own zone and releasing quick and accurate passes to the blue line. He still needs to work on his confidence and it wouldn’t hurt to add up some more bulk to his 6’3 172 lb frame.

Nikitin finished with three points (1 goal and 2 assists) in 41 regular season games. He posted a not so impressive – 2 rating. He appeared in all of his team’s 13 playoff games and notched three points (1 goal and 2 assists). His was one of the best defensemen of the postseason but it didn’t save his team from losing in the Super League finals.

Andrei Pervyshin, D
Ak Bars (RSL)
8th round choice, 253rd overall in 2003 Entry Draft

His second season with Ak Bars was more successful than the first campaign. Pervyshin appeared in 48 regular season games and posted three goals and six assists. He was scoreless with three assists in 57 games last year. His +9 rating was sixth-best on the team and third-best among the team’s defensemen.

Pervyshin is still not one of Ak Bars’ leading defensemen but he’ll be getting there if he progresses at the current rate. His size could be a problem since he’s only 5’9 and 165 lbs. He makes up for the lack of size with his skill. He’s an accurate passer with decent skating skills and defensive awareness combined with good versatility.

Pervyshin played in every game in playoffs and helped his team to their first title since 1998.

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