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Analysis of the 2003 NHL Draft from Red Square in Russia
By Denis Neznanov

The annual NHL Draft is now over. The scouts of all 30 NHL clubs now leave for their summer vacation with different impression of the job done during 02-03 season. Some are quite happy with the work done while others aren't. The draft is always a lottery and there is no guarantee that if you want a given player, he will be available at the point where you ranked him. By the time your turn to pick comes, your favorite may have already gone to another club.

For Russian hockey, the NHL Draft is an absolutely meaningless event and doesnít produce any influence or generate profit to domestic clubs but it generates angry envious looks from general managers and coaches towards lucky youngsters. Those kids who may be potential millionaires in the next 2-3 years or even at their  draft year like wunderkinds Kovalchuk, Chistov, Svitov, etc. For many hockey fans, the draft is a pleasant event which make them proud for the country that annually produces hockey phenoms  (Zherdev, Ovechkin, Malkin) or simply very skilled players. Of course, some hockey representatives of the new generation feel sorry, in the back of their mind, that Russia still can not afford to offer contracts with millions of US$ to 18 year-old players of Ovechkin's calibre and keep them here.

Itís still a very bad Russian mentality, back from the Soviet times, to look into the passport of a player in search for his birthdate and treat him according to his age rather than paying him fairly according to his extra skills and talent if the player is a real producer.

Management of some team prefer to pay 1 000 000 US $ to former overaged NHLers like Sushinsky, Zelepukin, Selivanov, Semak and Khristich. Young players donít need money, according to them. Believe my word that nothing will change to the better in the coming decade. Young players will be trying to leave for the NHL as soon as possible because that is where they are appreciated to their full measure and are playing with veterans who donít feel envious to the young kid and his prospect to become millionaire soon.

Letís have a look at the Russian drafted in 2003 - some of whom may soon join the worldís best league.

CSB

#

Rd

Name

Team

Previous Team

Pos

1

4

1

Zherdev Nikolay

Columbus Blue Jackets

CSKA Moscow

LW

3

10

1

Kostitsyn Andrey

Montreal Canadiens

CSKA Moscow

RW

5

35

2

Glazachev Konstantin

Nashville Predators

Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

LW

37

44

2

Pushkarev Konstantin

Los Angeles Kings

Ust-Kamenogorsk

W

4

48

2

Chernykh Dmitry

New York Islanders

Voskresensk Khimik

RW

8

53

2

Tunik Yevgeny

New York Islanders

Elektrostal Elemash

CE

6

67

2

Mirnov Igor

Ottawa Senators

Dynamo Moscow

RW

11

71

3

Kosmachev Dmitry

Columbus Blue Jackets

CSKA Moscow

D

33

72

3

Joukov Mikhail

Edmonton Oilers

Arboga Sweden

CE

36

80

3

Pestunov Dmitry

Phoenix Coyotes

Magnitogorsk Metallurg

CE

1

84

3

Barulin Konstantin

St. Louis Blues

Tjumen Gazovik

GK

22

93

3

Khomutov Ivan

New Jersey Devils

Elektrostal Elemash

CE

7

98

3

Shafigullin Grigory

Nashville Predators

Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

CE

20

101

3

Zakharov Konstantin

St. Louis Blues

Minsk Junost

CE

21

114

4

Ezhov Denis

Buffalo Sabers

Togliatti Lada

D

14

125

4

Volkov Konstantin

Toronto Maple Leafs

Dynamo Jr. Moscow

RW

12

133

4

Sidikov Rustam

Nashville Predators

CSKA Jr. Moscow

GK

70

134

4

Naurov Alexander

Dallas Stars

Yaroslavl Jr. Lokomotiv

W

27

156

5

Ivanov Alexey

Chicago Black Hawks

Yaroslavl Jr. Lokomotiv

CE

13

161

5

Isakov Evgeny

Pittsburgh Penguins

Cherepovets Severstal

LW

114

166

5

Gimayev Sergey

Ottawa Senators

Cherepovets Severstal

D

28

171

6

Stasyuk Denis

Florida Panthers

Novokuznetsk Metallurg

CE

52

172

6

Voroshin Pavel

Buffalo Sabers

Mississauga (OHL)

D

Over

200

7

Guskov Alexander

Columbus Blue Jackets

Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

D

48

203

7

Loginov Denis

Atlanta Thrashers

Kazan AkBars-2

CE

60

207

7

Misharin Grigory

Minnesota Wild

Magnitogorsk Metallurg

D

Over

210

7

Mukhachev Andrey

Nashville Predators

CSKA Moscow

D

NR

221

7

Skachkov Evgeny

St. Louis Blues

Kapitan

LW

NR

242

8

Lewandowsky Eduard

Phoenix Coyotes

Koln Germany

FW

Over

246

8

Volkov Igor

New York Islanders

Ufa Salavat Yulayev

RW

57

252

8

Topol Sergey

Vancouver Canucks

Omsk Avangard

FW

44

253

8

Pervyshin Andrey

St. Louis Blues

Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

D

NR

255

8

Danilics Raimonds

Tampa Bay Lightning

Stalkers Latvia

FW

NR

268

9

Darzins Lauris

Nashville Predators

Lukko Finland

FW

Over

273

9

Vishnyakov Albert

Tampa Bay Lightning

Kazan AkBars

D

58

282

9

Bondarev Arseny

New Jersey Devils

Yaroslavl  Jr. Lokomotiv

LW

Nickolay Zherdev is indisputably a future star of NHL. What makes him prominent is that he is a superb magnificent stick-handler with meteor speed when he is with the puck. He manages to avoid every attempt to bodycheck him when he is with a puck. He penetrates into defense zone of his rivals with superb easiness due to his unique mobile skating and takes very original decisions, which usually ends up in a spectacular goal.

Andrey Kostitsyn is a phenomenon raised onto the ashes of Balarus hockey school and traditions of Dynamo Minsk. Team leader for Belarus and its hockey for many coming years. He is a totally different player from Zherdev. Yes, he can skate well and is not afraid to go in the corners and works along the boards. He has an excellent scoring touch and can produce. His size is pretty surprising for a kid of his age. He is real senior with his height and weight. 

Konstantin Glazachev is a very dynamic player with very good skating. He possesses nice inborn understanding of the game. Outstanding scouring touch. Accurate shot with quick release. Big problem with him is that he isnít absolutely a team player. In one word, he is egoist. Also Konstantin isnít big enough for the NHL and simulates often during the game his favorite dives!

Konstantin Pushkarev is a product of well-respected former Soviet hockey school of Ust-Kamenogorsk. He could be a real NHL power in 2 years but not right now. He is an exceptionally skilled player with lightning speed. He has very soft hands and accurate shot. Though he is very skinny and needs to beef up a lot, it doesnít stops him from playing well among seniors in Russian Higher league. What makes this player to stand out of the majority group of players is his original decision making. Example: during under 2003 under 18 WJC, in Yaroslavl, he has produced a hat trick and one amazing assist in the game versus Belarus. He has totally outshined Kostytsynís brothers duo. One of his 3 goals was a beauty when he turned 360 degrees in front of the net and sent the puck in the upper right corner. His goal strongly resembled the one scored by Coloradoís Kamensky in the game versus Florida which NHL TV liked very much and repeated hundreds of times in the programs of best hockey moments. Wait a little bit until the kid will mature and probably it will be another long-time NHLer of Kamensky's calibre. Some scouts compare him to Joe Nieuwendyk.

Dmitry Chernykh is the son of well-known hockey player Alexander Chernykh who is an Olympic Champion in Calgary in 1988 with Soviet Red Machine and also a participant of many Superseries versus NHL clubs with his native club Voskresensk Khimik. Due to serious injuries, the father retired too early but did not leave the hockey world. As a coach he raised his son and some other players. Dmitry Chernykh resembles his father in hockey style and manner to control the game just a little bit and thatís the opinion of Alexanderís former teammates. What makes him distinctive from many others is that he is a real mobile power forward who isnít afraid to crash the net and go into the mess along the boards. He is always at the right place at the proper time. He works hard each shift and all the time you watch him play, it seems you scout another player with growing offensive potential.

Yevgeny Tunik is huge physically and a very strong power forward with surprising good skating for his size and impressive overall skills. His breakaway speed is amazing. He covers the puck well with his body and it is very difficult to remove him from it. Scores goals from various angles and produces timely brilliant assists from inconvenient positions. He gains rivalís zone with easiness. This big kid has already full bagage of experience in Russiaís Higher League playing versus seniors. Real NHLer.

Igor Mirnov is an experienced player with two good seasons in the Russiaís Superleague among seniors. Though his skating ability is quite OK he isnít that spectacular a forward as traditionally many other Russians are but he can be a real workaholic who brings profit and makes good result onto any team. Can play both as a winger and center.

Dmitry  Kosmachev doesnít resemble any typical North American model of defenseman who may hit hard and easily drive someone into the boards. His huge height and impressive weight is amazing but he doesnít utilize it to clean the crease well. Instead, he tries to outplay his opponents by his reach of long soft hands. Defenseman who doesnít like to push in front of his own net and isnít much of a help to the goalkeeper. His strongest side of hockey education is that he is well-coached tactically and takes right position onto the ice each shift. He is calm and typical a stay at home defenseman who isnít much of a help to the offense. Needs to be more aggressive. Only his size gives an indication that his will develop into NHL defenseman. He is still raw material. 2-3 years away from worldís best league action. Good for him that he is working with experienced coach of CSKA Moscow Viktor Tikhonov.

Dmitry Pestunov is the classic smallish type Russian center with speed, hands understanding of the game and scoring touch but size is the main concern which will not allow him to play in the NHL. Nothing special in this player to be admired.

Konstantin Barulin is the last hope of Russiaís national team program to keep its net safe. For the recent decade, Russia hasnít produced much strong goalkeepers with work ethic and real skill to stop the puck. Progresses each year.

Ivan Khomutov is a very raw material. Whatís the hype about this towering center forward in the beginning of 02-03 season? Difficult to understand his style of play because he simply wastes his time onto the ice. Typical lazy-bone. He skates circles around the rink without the puck and doesnít open himself in right positions when needed to receive a pass. Switches out of the game very often. Itís easy to knock him of the puck. Weak legs. Falls onto the ice too much during the game. Doesnít utilize properly his height and weight.

Grigory Shafigullin is a big towering center forward who isnít afraid to go into the corners and work along the boards. His skating isnít that good but itís quite typical to the players of his giant height. He can become a real nasty guy who gets under the skin of his rivals. Itís very difficult to remove him from the puck. He uses his size very well. The accuracy of his wrist shots is not bad. Works a lot and projects into very good power center that loves to push a lot.

Denis Ezhov isnít a big defenseman. He hash good skating and choice of position. Sometimes quite unexplainably, he switches out of the game and loses control of the play. Denis is an offensive defenseman with good first assist. He can be a team leader. By the end of the 2002-03 season, it was still very difficult to see him as a real NHL prospect.

Konstantin Volkov isnít a very well known player in the scouting community. Konstantin has never been invited to under-18 national team of Russia and did not play with the farm team of Dynamo Moscow but rather with the junior Dynamo squad one year younger then his 1986 birthdates. In any case, he is a very quick winger with good skating and magnificent puck control. What differienciates him from the majority of the Russians drafted in 2003 is his hockey vision. After sudden stop in rivalís side, he perfectly takes decisions and makes killing pauses going on to control the puck before producing tape-to-tape passes or quick release by himself onto the net. Someone from Toronto staff said he reminds him of Igor Larionov. Thatís true. The only question is how this kid will look like at the senior level in the Dynamo organization. He has skills but he is still skinny and needs to beef up to turn into a real NHL prospect.

For now itís quite understandable that Columbus has caught a real luck selecting three worthy prospects in winger Zherdev, defenseman Kosmachev and scoring leader of Rusiian Superleague among defensemen in overaged Guskov Alexander. NYI has also got worthy picks in winger Chernykh, center Tunik and overaged winger Volkov Igor. Nashville has also done not so bad by picking winger Glazachev, center Shafigullin, and undoubtful surprise overestimated goalkeeper Sidikov in pair with overaged CSKA defenseman Mukhachev Andrey.

Overall, 36 Russians were chosen at the 2003 NHL Draft ceremony. Lots of picks spent on Russian players does not always guarantee quick success within 2-3 years. Some teams choose only one kid who turns into a real NHL threat after just one year in the minors. Letís hope that Los Angeles' pick #44 (Pushkarev) and Toronto's #125 (Volkov) are such cases. Some other prospects just remain prospects for many years. Though who knowsÖmaybeÖmaybeÖ Scouting business is a big lottery!

Now, it's time for a short pause for the summer and then again 200-300 games per year scouting leagues of various levels and different countries. Thatís the specialty of the jobÖ planes, cars, hotels, ice rinks and brief interviews with players!




 

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