Lost Russians: Calgary Flames

 

Editors note: Andrey Osadchenko is the senior Russian Correspondent at the Nations Network. He writes regularly in Russian at allhockey.ru, and has a series of web videos called "Joining the Rush" with Steve Dangle. Today Andrey catches up with some of the former Russian-born draft picks of the Flames organization. The piece underscores why drafting Russian-born players has gone somewhat out of style; simply put, it’s a risky proposition.

By: Andrey Osadchenko

The Flames are the first organization that successfully signed a Russian player – his name was Sergei Priakhin. He played just 46 games in the NHL and scored 3 goals but nevertheless has written himself in hockey history. Other than him, the Flames hardly can brag about big Russian players in their own history. Andrei Trefilov, German Titov and Oleg Saprykin are the only names that come to mind (and, of course, Sergei Makarov – ed.).

They haven’t even drafted any of Priakhin’s compatriots since 2002 and currently have none of the ruskies in their system. However, at the beginning of the century the Flames were quite fond of drafting players from the Motherland. Were there any good picks? Let’s find out.

Yuri Artemenkov

Age – 27

Position – RW

Height – 6’0

Weight – 176

Drafted – 2002 round 4 #112 overall

Current club – Retired

A very strange pick indeed. Nobody ever expected Artemenkov to turn any heads in the world of pro hockey. The year he was drafted by the Flames he was playing for the farm-club of Krylia Sovetov. True, he had 24+18=42 points in 32 games but in a second tier Russian league. Not to mention the fact, it was 9 years ago and all the best Russian players were either already in the NHL or fighting their way there in the minors.

Artemenkov never played for neither U18 nor U20 Team Russia. He has only 3 games in the RSL under his belt and spent most of his career in minor Russian leagues. Yuri finished his pro career in 2006, although he plays in one of the amateur leagues in his hometown of Moscow. The question is not even if the Flames should sign him, rather than we did they draft him in the first place?

Who could the Flames have drafted instead of him?

Cam Janssen, Tom Gilbert, James Wisniewski, Paul Ranger, Ian White, Derek Meech, Maxime Talbot, Dennis Wideman, Petr Prucha, Jonathan Ericsson.

Viktor Bobrov

Age – 27

Position – LW

Height – 6’2

Weight – 194

Drafted – 2002 round 5 #146 overall

Current club – Atlant (KHL)

Another draftpick that obviously hasn’t been given too much thought. Back in 2002 Bobrov was in CSKA system playing for a junior team. He had 11 goals and 27 points in 36 games in a league it is not uncommon for an average player to get 50+ points. Obviously enough, Viktor has never played for Team Russia at any level.

Bobrov isn’t expected to be a leader on the team but he does his best to be a 20+ points guy. He has 3 KHL seasons under his belt during which he played 151 games, scored 24 goals and 57 points. Never in his career did he play in the play-offs.

It’s a no-brainer – he’s never going to come over to North America. The ultimate question still prevails – why would you draft that guy…ever?

Who could the Flames have drafted instead of him?

James Wisniewski, Paul Ranger, Ian White, Derek Meech, Maxime Talbot, Dennis Wideman, Petr Prucha, Jonathan Ericsson.

Andrei Taratukhin

Age – 28

Position – C

Height – 6’0

Weight – 203

Drafted – 2001 round 2 #41 overall

Current club – Salavat Yulaev (KHL)

Believe it or not, but Taratukhin might very well be one of the best Flames’ picks in recent years. Before he was drafted he already had won gold medals at U18 and U20 IIHF World Championships. The next season he played a solid total of 21 games for Avangard in RSL and won yet another gold medal at the World Juniors. What’s not to like?

He finally decided to try cracking Flames’ line-up in 2006 – the year he played for Team Russia at the Olympics in Torino, Italy. However, he couldn’t make the cut out of the training camp and spent the entire season in the AHL where he scored 17 goals and 60 points in 80 games for the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

Unfortunately, back then the Flames had 5 players with one-way contracts and Taratukhin didn’t like the whole instability of the situation. Besides, he already had a wife and two kids which he missed a lot. Under these circumstances, he decided it’d be for the best if he came back to Russia.

He is a 2-time RSL champion and a current Gagarin Cup holder.

Should the Flames bother trying to bring him back? Well, there’s hardly any doubt that Taratukhin is an NHL-calibre player. Although, the franchise has to be very generous and persuasive so this would work-out. Can they do this? It’s unlikely.

Who could the Flames have drafted instead of him?

Mike Zigomanis, Mike Cammalleri, Jason Pominville, Peter Budaj, Tomas Plekanec, Craig Anderson, Stephane Veilleux, Patrick Sharp, Jordin Tootoo, Ray Emery, Christian Ehrhoff, Christoph Schubert, Jussi Markkanen, Kyle Wellwood, Cody McCormick, Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Clowe, Andrew Alberts, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Laich, Derek Boogaard, Johnny Oduya, Martin Gerber, Milan Jurcina.

Andrei Medvedev

Age – 28

Position – G

Height – 6’1

Weight – 249

Drafted – 2001 round 2 #56 overall

Current club – Retired

He looked like a very promising pick. Prior to the draft Medvedev had won U17 World Challenge as well as U18 and U20 IIHF World Championships. A year after that – another gold medal at the World Juniors. He played his first game in the RSL when he was only 16 years old. However, what should have been a wonderful start of a long and successful career was the pinnacle of it instead.

Andrei started having weight issues and according to some rumours a drinking problem. Whether or not this is true Medvedev finished his pro career in 2005. He now occasionally plays recreational hockey.

Good pick – tough luck.

Who could the Flames have drafted instead of him?

Peter Budaj, Tomas Plekanec, Craig Anderson, Stephane Veilleux, Patrick Sharp, Jordin Tootoo, Ray Emery, Christian Ehrhoff, Christoph Schubert, Jussi Markkanen, Kyle Wellwood, Cody McCormick, Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Clowe, Andrew Alberts, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Laich, Derek Boogaard, Johnny Oduya, Martin Gerber, Milan Jurcina.

Yegor Shastin

Age – 29

Position – LW

Height – 5’9

Weight – 176

Drafted – 2001 round 4 #124 overall

Current club – Viktoria (amateur)

Shastin developed at a young age. In his draft season he was already playing in the RSL for Avangard. He scored 3 goals and 11 points in 35 games. In the previous season he’d had 2+4=6 points in 28 games as an 18-year-old. Seems like a good deal to draft a guy like this in the 4th round.

Unfortunately, Shastin’s progression stopped shortly after that. He changed a number of clubs over his career and finally ended up playing for Torpedo. He played for this team since 2005. Last season he had 4+9=13 points in 39 games. His best season in the KHL was 2008/09 when he scored 19 goals and 41 points in 56 games.

As for the time being he Shastin can’t find a team to play for ever since Torpedo released him from his contract. He’s still looking for a pro team but at the same time plays for amateur team Viktoria in his hometown of Omsk. It’s obvious that he wasn’t cut out to play in the NHL and therefore the Flames will never sign him.

Who could the Flames have drafted instead of him?

Christoph Schubert, Jussi Markkanen, Kyle Wellwood, Cody McCormick, Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Clowe, Andrew Alberts, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Laich, Derek Boogaard, Johnny Oduya, Martin Gerber, Milan Jurcina.

Yuri Trubachev

Age – 28

Position – C

Height – 5’10

Weight – 187

Drafted – 2001 round 5 #164 overall

Current club – Salavat Yulaev (KHL)

In 2002 Team Russia won the World Juniors so it’s only logical that the Flames tried to draft as many players from that team as possible. In the 5th round they were lucky enough to pick Trubachev who already had three gold medals from U17, U18 and U20 World Championships. Besides, he was had the most assists at U18 IIHF World Championship.

Back then he was already playing in the RSL for Severstal. In the following years he proved that he can be a 30+ point scorer in the Russian league. However, he never had an intention of coming over to North America.

Should the Flames be disappointed he didn’t mae it across the pond? Hardly. It’s very doubtful that he could have made to the NHL.

Who the Flames could have drafted instead of him?

Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Clowe, Andrew Alberts, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Laich, Derek Boogaard, Johnny Oduya, Martin Gerber, Milan Jurcina.

Check out Lost Russians for Jets Nation and Canucks Army as well.

  • RexLibris

    Good read, KW (and Andrey Osadchenko). There aren’t many teams that could boast success in drafting Russians. Detroit and Washington are two examples (past and present) but there have been far more misses than hits. I would say that the real mistake the Flames made was in drafting them too soon rather than taking them in later rounds when you can afford a greater risk-reward ratio.

    As I’ve said before, I think the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game of drafting doesn’t help. Every team has regrets when it comes to the draft.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I remember Darryl Sutter being very upset because Taratukhin refused to come to camp and went home to Russia instead. I found it odd at the time, but there wasn’t much of an explanation. The 5 one-way contacts at center in 2006 were: Langkow, Lombardi, Primeau, Lundmark and Yelle, plus Boyd and Richie were on 2-ways. Later that season Lundmark and 2 draft picks were sent to LA to re-acquire Conroy. Looking at roster now makes me depressed, since that team became the template of all future Darryl teams to come. Big, predominantly Western Canadian, grinding, un-skilled players. If Taratukhin did come I doubt he would have made the team anyway. He probably made the best decision for him and his family.