We make our seventh and final stop on the NHL Draft Scout Series in Mother Russia, home of enigmatic hockey players and shady Olympics.
To discuss Russian prospects to look out for at the 2016 NHL Draft, I’m joined by RSport.ru writer Roman Solovyov.
CR: Without a truly elite prospect eligible for this year’s NHL draft, how do you categorize this draft class for Russia? Is it mostly depth and support players, or are there a few potential stars available?
RS: Probably this draft class is the most undiscovered yet and very difficult to evaluate its true potential. I’m not talking about kids that played overseas, I mean players from Russia. The main reason is very few U18 kids played in the main junior hockey league MHL. (Christian’s note: The Russian content not playing overseas is an unknown since most Russian talent that play in big international tournaments come from the CHL and USHL.)
CR: German Rubtsov is the consensus number one ranked Russian not playing in the CHL for the 2016 NHL Draft. What type of player is he and what potential do you see in him?
RS: Rubtsov had a few good international tournaments, but on the local level he didn’t show too much. Maybe I could compare him with Valery Nichushkin at this time, but he’s not so big as Nichushkin, but with better hands.
CR: Outside of Rubtsov, there aren’t many names that stand out in the Russian draft eligible class. What are some other Russian eligibles you like? (and describe what kind of players they are)
RS: Rubtsov in U18 played on a line with Artur Kayumov who attended the NHL Draft Combine and mostly with Ivan Kosorenkov. Kayumov was the best player in the season at this year. He’s a skill guy. One main tip: in the last pre-game before WJC (where this team hasn’t been), guys knew that it was the last game of the year, they didn’t want to play, but in the end Kayumov showed some skills, showed his character and scored a lonely goal for this team. Kosorenkov is a very hard working kid, finished checks, finished plays, some kind of “get under your skin” player, could be compared with a Nikita Soshnikov type.
CR: Russia has produced some excellent goaltending prospects in the past few years (Vasilevskiy and Samsonov, to name a few). Are there any Russian goaltenders to keep an eye out for at the 2016 NHL Draft?
RS: And more coming, as we saw at U18 there are two more potentially top-goalies: Mikhail Berdin and Vladislav Sukhachyov. Sukhachyov shined at Hlinka Memorial; both had so-so season afterwards. Hlinka Memorial was in August and it’s difficult to evaluate their progress in this project. Berdin is talented but sometimes faced with disciplinary sanctions from coaching staff. But some could say talented people usually don’t have a kind character.
CR: Who has been your biggest surprise this season?
RS: Yegor Rykov, he was undrafted last year, but this season he made a huge step forward. He was the lonely guy for Russia U20 at the World Juniors from the MHL. Then he made a debut in the KHL for SKA. He tries to play simple when it’s needed.
CR: Who has been your biggest disapointment?
RS: The biggest Russian dissapoitment for sure is Dmitry Sokolov from Sudbury. Last February at Five Nations U18 he became the top sniper, raised his stock to top 10 of the next draft. And from this point his falling starts. He had problems with weight, his fat, got to teams with a lot problems, played with injury this season. I won’t be surprised if nobody chooses him at draft.
CR: If you had to choose a most overrated and most underrated prospect for this year’s draft from the Russian draft class, who would they be?
RS: Difficult to name an overrated player at this draft. But a lot of underrated, mostly it concerns overagers. I named Rykov; we still have Andrei Svetlakov and Yegor Korshkov who shined at WJC in Finland. It seemed to be common that a lot of overagers could be drafted from Russia. From guys born in 1995 Anatoly Golyshev, who scored 20+ goals in the KHL, could be a steal, as could Vyacheslav Leshenko, whom you could remember from WJC 2015 in Toronto. In 2014 Vancouver decided to use one pick for Nikita Tryamkin, who’s here in North America. Some clubs decided not to waste their pick on Artemi Panarin and Chicago won a jackpot. So, it could change.
CR: Lastly, who’s your favourite Russian draft eligible and why?
RS: Hard to say, of course I liked more overagers who could be picked, I was connected with them more times. From 1998 year of birth group I would name Mikhail Sergachyov; he’s a smart guy also off the ice, knowing where’s he going.
Looks like a pretty thin crop overall for the Russians. That is a country that just hasn’t produced the level of prospect depth that other nations have over the past few years, and one wonders when it starts to hurt them on the big, international stage.
It was interesting of Roman to note that the overage crop of Russian prospects might be better than the first year eligibles. That’s certainly something to keep an eye on Friday and Saturday. Much thanks to Roman for joining us again this year, you can follow his excellent anglo-russian Twitter feed here.
So with that, the NHL Draft Scout Series wraps up for another year. Thank you to everyone who joined us to talk 2016 NHL Draft, and to everyone who read and followed along. It was another fun year of learning in depth about the different regions supplying the NHL Draft, and I hope you all felt the same reading these pieces the last few weeks. Let’s get our draft on!