2009 was the year of the Swede at the NHL entry draft as 7 players from Tre Kronor country were taken, including 3 in the top 10. Contrast that with Russia and you have a very lopsided game as only Dmitri Kulikov heard his name called in round one, and he actually dropped because teams feared he might head home after the season and skate in the KHL.
This year Mother Russia should be smiling a little more as several of her native sons have a chance at going in round one.
Here's a look at who I think will be the top Russians taken this June.
5. Ivan Telegin-Saginaw-OHL
Central Scouting had him 26th for North American skaters in their mid term report. ISS didn't have him ranked in their top 30 from their January report. Unlike most of the others on this list, Telegin won't blind you with dangles as he's pretty much a north-south skater. Was a role player for Russia at at the World Junior championship. Has decent speed and 22-17-39 in 48 games with Saginaw, but his biggest attribute is his size. At 6.03, 185 pounds Telegin has loads of potential to fill out and if he learns to use his size could be a useful player down the road.
4. Stanislav Galiev-Saint John-QMJHL
Central couting had him 23rd for North American skaters in their mid term report. ISS didn't have him ranked in their top 30 from their January report. Galiev is 2nd among rookie point leaders in the QMJHL with 15-45-60 in 64 games. He was left off the World Junior team because of politics, and while he might be ranked as high as some on the list, he makes it at #5 for me because of his willingness to play in North America. The 6.01, 177 pound right handed winger also spent a year in the USHL with Indiana last season.
3. Vladamir Tarasenko-Novosibirsk-KHL
Central Scouting had him 2nd for European skaters in their mid term report. ISS had him 4th overall in their January report. So why do I only have him 3rd? Simply because of where he's playing this year and where he will be playing next year. He told Russianhockeyfans.com that he has a contract in the KHL next year and that could scare off some teams. His talent is terrific and he was very good at the World Junior championship and has been productive in the KHL with 13-11-24 in 42 games played, more than doubling his output from last year. There's no doubt about his skill, but teams might be scared off in round one by his contract status.
2. Alexandre Burmistrov-Barrie-OHL
Central Scouting had him 7th among North American skaters in their mid term report. ISS had him 11th in their January report. One NHL scout told me the reason he likes Burmistrov is because he has "Canadian character" In my opinion he was one of the better Russians at the World Junior Championship, scoring 3 goals and adding an assist in 6 games on a Russian team that imploded. The only thing faster then his hands are his feet and he uses them both to back off opponents and put up points. This year with Barrie the centreman has 20-41-61 in 59 games. There was a rumour going around that he was contractually obligated to return to Russia next year, but Colts head coach Marty Williamson told Guy on January 19th, that isn't case at all.
1. Kirill Kabanov-Moncton-QMJHL
Central Scouting had him 15th among North American skaters in their mid term report.
ISS had him 7th in their January report. Guy and I first watched Kabanov at the World Junior A Challenge a couple of years ago and were very impressed. He told us then he was coming over to North America to play hockey and has followed through with that statement, although because of injuries has only skated in 19 games for the Wildcats. He does however have 22 points in limited play, including 8 points in 8 games since returning to action February 19th. Kabanov has decent size at 6.01, 176 pounds, but it's his skill that has some scouts using the word "electrifying" to describe him.
Note: There are a couple of other Russians to keep your eye out for. Evgeni Kuznetsov who's playing in the KHL is a "shoot first ask if someone was open later" type of player who at the World Junior A Challenge showed a lot of immaturity with tantrums on the ice. At the World Junior Championship in Saskatoon he was more in control and had people talking about his skill set rather then his temper. Also Maxim Kitsyn, another player we viewed at the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose will get consideration. I liked Kitsyn at the event in Camrose a lot more than I did in Saskatoon. He does have good size at 6.02, 192 pounds but saw his stock drop after the WJC.