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March 25, 2001

Lack of 20 to 24 Year-Old Russian Players

Two weeks ago someone contacted me via HockeyZonePlus and asked if I can give them some brief reports on un-drafted 20 to 24 years-old Russians who may draw attention at this year's NHL Entry Draft.

The request made me think hard about the players who now represent Russian hockey in the Superleague and Higher League. It made me realize that the teams of our leagues mainly consist of numerous young skillful players who are eligible for the draft and overagers who missed their chance to make the NHL due to some unknown reasons.

I opened a fresh issue of the leading Russian sporting newspaper and took a look at the list of scoring leaders of the Superleague among forwards.

#	Name		Team			GP	G	A	PTS
1	Razin		Metallurg Magnitogorsk	47	17	32	49
2	Kvartalnov	AkBars Kazan		42	22	21	43
3	Shalamay		Metallurg Novokuznetsk	40	13	27	40
4	Golts		Matallurg Magnitogorsk	45	28	11	39
5	Semak		Salavat Yulayev Ufa	43	17	21	38
6	Kasyanov		Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk	48	15	23	38
7	Koreshkov Alex.	Metallurg Magnitogorsk	47	18	19	37
8	Osipov Sergey	Metallurg Magnitogorsk	46	18	18	36
9	Koreshkov Yevgeny	Metallurg Magnitogorsk	43	16	18	34
10	Gulyavtsev	Molot Prykamye		37	14	20	34
11	Chernov		Metallurg Magnitogorsk	44	15	17	32
12	Kalyuzhny		Metallurg Magnitogorsk	45	9	23	32
13	Kudashov		Dynamo Moscow		44	12	18	30
14	Zatonsky		Avangard Omsk		48	17	12	29
15	Kuznetsov		Metallurg Magnitogorsk	44	16	13	29
16	Savchuk		Molot Prykamye		44	12	17	29
17	Antonenko		Molot Prykamye		44	10	18	28
18	Datsyuk		AkBars			46	9	19	28
19	Afinogenov	Lada Tolyatti		47	11	16	27
20	Romanov		Molot Prykamye		43	16	10	26

The names of former Bruin Dmitry Kvartalnov and Devil Alexander Semak without any doubt are familiar to the North American hockey fans. They are experienced athletes who will soon retire. As for the others, there are only two draftees with chances to reach the NHL: 2000 Dallas' 162 overall choice Artem Chernov and 1998 Detroit's 171 overall pick. Possibly some hockey fans remember 1994 Los Angeles' 241 overall pick Sergey Shalamay and 1991 Toronto's 102 choice Aleksey Kudashov.

What about the rest of the players? The leading scorer Andrey Razin is the member of Team Russia. He is 28 years of age. His teammate Alexander Golts is 29 years of age. Both demonstrate excellent play on the national team and on their club team. There is a possibility that they can be selected by an NHL club at the 2001 Draft. I'm not exaggerating at all. Look at the following example: Alexnander Khavanov of the St. Louis Blues and his former teammate now Tampa's player Alexander Kharitonov. Khavanov is 29 years of age and Kharitonov is 25. Both look good on their NHL team. You might wonder what is my point. My answer is simply that overagers are the best players in current Russian hockey leagues. Russian hockey has an excellent layer of players born at the end of the 60s up to the middle of 70s. 

Name			Birth Date
Andrey Razin		1973
Dmitry Kvartalnov		1966
Sergey Shalamay		1976
Alexander Golts		1972
Alexander Semak		1972
Rinat Kasyanov		1971
Alexander Koreshkov	1968
Sergey Osipov		1967
Yevgeny Koreshkov		1970
Alexander Gulyavtsev	1973
Artem Chernov		1980
Alexey Kalyuzhny		1977
Alexey Kudashov		1971
Dmitry Zatonsky		1971
Yury Kuznetsov		1971
Oleg Savchuk		1980
Oleg Antonenko		1971
Pavel Datsyuk		1978
Denis Afinogenov		1974
Dmitry Romanov		1971

Where are the good players born in 1976 and after? The answer is obvious. They play for NHL teams of their minor leagues affiliates. Oleg Tverdovsky, Maxim Rybin, Maxim Balmochnykh, Vitaly Vishnevsky, Dmitry Vlasenkov, Sergey Samsonov, Max Afinogenov, Dmitry Kalinin etc. Dozens of Russian players left the country for the NHL. The absence of players between age 20 and 24 is evident. Each year, Russian clubs search for good players but in vain because there is not any decent players left in that age group. Good players have been drafted and are preparing to go to North America pretty soon. Solid un-drafted athletes are the rare thing. So Russia has nothing to do but to play junior-aged players as it is. Such a good come back as Kvartalnov's and Semak's is not typical for Russia. Not all former NHLers want to play for the clubs where they have been brought up. If the thing happens, it's a festivity for numerous hockey fans.

It's high time to stop the mass departure of youngsters for NHL clubs. Getting $US 150,000 from NHL teams for each player might be a better compensation instead of the miserable $US 50 000 that they get now. If it happens the renaissance of Russian hockey will happen. 

Denis Neznanov
HockeyZonePlus' Russian Correspondent


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