A recent question from the guys at Illegal Curve is the inspiration for this blog. The fellas wanted to know about Russians for the upcoming draft. We here at The Pipeline Show pride ourselves on knowing the draft (Guy went 27-30 last year and has pegged 3 of the last 4 Oilers first round picks) so I thought I would throw my two cents out and try to answer the question.
It doesn't appear to be a good year for Russians in Montreal this June, in fact I don't think a Russian will be taken in the first round, which hasn't happened since 2005 when the first Russian, Vitali Anikeyenko was taken in the 3rd round, 70th overall by Ottawa. According ISS, which is the exclusive scouting source for TPS, there isn't a Russian ranked in the first round, which does include 7 Europeans. In fact the highest ranked Russian among the top 30 Euros is Anton Burdasov, who is rated 11th among those from across the pond. Burdasov was supposed to be in Camrose with the Russian team for the World Junior A Challenge, but an injury kept him off the team. The next highest Ruskie is D-man Dmitry Orlov, who is suiting up in Camrose. I thought Orlov, who is listed at 5.11 and 176 pounds played a decent game Tuesday night. For a small player, he is above average on the physical side, and didn't make it fun to park in front of the net for Canadian players. He's a good skater, but does paint himself into a corner sometimes when carrying the puck out of his own end, by either making one to many moves, or waiting to long to make a pass. The only other Russian ranked in the top 30 Europeans is Georgy Berkyukov, who I didn't notice at all Tuesday night.
However, keep your eye on Mother Russia for 2010 as there could be a boatload drafted in the first round. The leader of the pack is Kirill Kabanov, as guy talked about earlier this week. While he does have a wicked shot, he's also very emotional, and that could scare teams in the top 3 away. Some have compared him to Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, and yet some say he's better than those two at his age which is 16 right now. I was really impressed Tuesday night with Maxim Kitsin, who will turn 17 in December and is already 6.03 and almost 180 pounds. He played in every situation, and for me was Russia's most dangerous player. Vladamir Tarasenko is another Russian getting a lot of hype in draft circles, as Guy pointed out in an earlier post, he did score a beauty of a goal, but seem to disappear as the game wore on and Canada became more physical. In fact the only time I noticed him after the first period was when Guy pointed him out to me.
We will be running a feature this Tuesday on Team Russia where we get more in depth about the countries draft prospects for the 2009 and 2010 draft.
We would have loved to speak to some of the Russians Tuesday night but were told - at first by Hockey Canada - that we weren't allowed to. Which is kind of like Edmonton Oilers PR man JJ Hebert telling the media that after a game against Minnesota we wouldn't be allowed to talk to Wild players. After some of us (Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun, Cam Tait of the Edmonton Journal and myself) raised a bit of a fuss, Hockey Canada changed it's story and said it was the Russians that didn't want to speak, which was kind of funny since Hockey Canada member Jason Larose had earlier mentioned to me that he hadn't asked the Russians about it, and that it was his decision. I have no problem with a team saying they won't talk. I don't agree with it, but it is their decision. What I had a big problem with was Hockey Canada deciding that the Russians weren't talking, after a rough game in which Team Canada West received the benefit of some brutal officiating. The Russians embarrassed themselves with childish antics and obscene gestures ( Cam Tait has more on this story in his blog as well) and I think HC was hoping to avoid negative publicity. In this case mission failed. Eventually, a women who I think was the Russian translator told us "no comment" which we accepted.
Back to the team, I am really looking forward to seeing the Russian World Junior squad at the 2010 and 2011 tournaments as there will be some extremely exciting players to watch.