Alessandro Seren Rosso, a Russian prospect expert who writes for Russianprospect.com, McKeen's Hockey and Hockeyís Future, sat down to talk to us about the 2010-2013 Russian prospects, currently drafted prospects, as well as the Russian International team and other topics.
Corey Pronman: For the 2010 Draft, I had the Russian prospects ranked as follows:
1. Kabanov, 2. Tarasenko, 3. Kuznetsov, 4. Burmistrov, 5. Galiev, 6. Telegin, 7. Kitsyn, 8. Marchenko, 9. Zaytsev, 10. Dvurechensky
Where in these rankings would you differ and why?
Alessandro Seren Rosso: I would rank them as such based on talent and not on NHL readiness :
- Kabanov: Much was written for his off-ice action than his actual play, but he is undeniably, immensely talented and has great potential.
- Tarasenko: More like a 1B than a 2, heís safer than Kabanov because he has no off-ice troubles and can have a B-plan of playing a checking role if he doesnít develop as planned. He is a great talent as well and outscored Kabanov with the national team.
- Kuznetsov: Heís yet another great talent who can score, dangle, pass, and he is even a bit underrated in my opinion, but he found a great organization in the Capitals which will be patient with him and will allow him to develop at his own pace.
- Burmistrov: He had a stunning first season in North America, but in my opinion heís not on the same level as the other players. He has great hands and all, but heís a little bit inferior to other players, but this doesnít mean that Burmistrov canít develop into a first line player. He also adapted quite well to the more demanding North American game.
- Galiev: Another good talent, already in North America and also with him the Caps will be patient and will give him time. Heís a good playmaker.
- Kitsyn: He was thought of being much more highly touted, but he fell as he didnít deliver in his second KHL season and showed some consistency troubles. If the Kings have the needed patience, they possibly have a sleeper on their hands.
- Telegin: Heís another player who raised his stock due to his move to North America. He is a talented player, but he has to show consistency and the ability to score at the highest level.
- Marchenko: An excellent defenseman who can be a leader on the blue line. He wasnít drafted mostly because North American scouts never had many chances to view him, and he missed the U18s too due to an injury. Heís a great defensive prospect; heís very highly touted back at home in Russia and can play well at both ends of the ice.
- Zaytsev: I thought he was going to be drafted as he showed intentions to cross the pond, but surprisingly he wasnít picked up. He needs to be less shy while playing against men and showcase his talent more. He could have had a better season this year in the KHL.
- Barbashev: I have to leave out Dvurechensky even if heís one of my favorite undrafted prospects because it was evident he wasnít going to be picked up. Barbashev is a quick and smart player, a good passer and an opportunistic winger. I was a bit surprised he wasnít picked up because he had good stats all-around this season.
CP: I didn't even consider Maxim Chudinov as a draft prospect because I had no idea he intended to come over. What were your thoughts on Boston taking him?
ASR: I think his former teammate Yuri Alexandrov (a Bruins prospect) had something to do with that. Regarding Chudinov, he has a good chance to crack the Bruins lineup with time. Heís not the next Sergei Gonchar (also because of the difference in size), but he is a good two way defenseman with good physical play in spite of his relatively small frame. He knows how to share the puck and can even score. He was an extremely solid pick in the late rounds. Chudinov has just signed a new 2-yr deal with Severstal, but Iím rather sure heís going to try to get a spot with the Bruins once itís over and letís remember that heís only 20.
CP: What are your general thoughts on Kirill Kabanov, be it the situation, his ability, or just an overview of your thoughts?
ASR: Well I think enough ink has flown regarding Kabanov. Heís obviously an extremely talented player and now itís all up to him. Heís an NHL drafted player and thus he is a professional now. He has to sit a bit and think whatís best for him. He also needs to make up his mind if itís better for him to show more off the ice than on the ice. Iím sure that the Islanders can turn the situation in their favor and I want to be positive about this guy.
CP: What are your thought on this year's Russia U-18 and U-20 teams? Also, is there any chance Kabanov dons the Russian red despite his run-ins with the national team?
ASR: I donít really think that Kabanov wonít have a spot on the team due to what happened. The U20 head coach is from Spartak Moscow and the two know each other well. I think that Kabanovís participation in the next World Junior Championship depends on where he will play, because if he breaks camp with New York then I doubt that the Islanders will release him. The same is valid for another player who might be very important to the WJC team- Alexander Avtsin. Hopefully the Habs will release him as he should play in the AHL. I think that Russia can ice a good team for the WJC. 1991 (Year player was born) and 1992 are strong years for Russia Ė as shown though the draft Ė and this will definitely help Team Russiaís chances, even if some players might not get a shot at making the roster due to NHL participation. The same canít be said for the born in 1993 Russian class. I consider the1993 class a little weaker than the two precedent ones. The recent Ivan Hlinka Tournamentwas evidence to that. There are some good talents though, like defenseman Vitaly Demakov from Traktor Chelyabinsk, who flew under the radar so far and might get some attention.
CP: What order would you rank the following prospects in and why? Alexander Avtsin (MTL), Evgeny Grachev (NYR) and Kirill Petrov (NYI) .
ASR: Given that they are all three very good prospects, my ranking would be Avtsin first, followed by Petrov, with Grachev last. Avtsin is a GMís dream: a sized player with ďRussianĒ skills and a desire to play in the NHL. What more would you want from a prospect? He had a good season in the KHL, even if he didnít receive enough much ice-time and an injury ended his season early. But in my opinion he has that something more you need to become a very good NHL player. Avtsin is probably my favorite prospect right now and I am really eager to see him in action in North America. I definitely hope that the Habs will give him a true chance to showcase his skills in the NHL, given that he needs some AHL seasoning. I think that the Habs are a good team to develop with and Avtsin is in a better situation than other prospects.
Regarding Petrov, heís a very good player with good size and soft hands. I think he can win a spot with the Islanders right away even if we know that NHL teams are a bit reluctant to give Russians a straight shot with the big league club. He also has to deal with the linguistic barrier, but I have no doubt that he can become a very good player for the Islanders.
Iím sorry to put Grachev at the bottom, but he deserves to stay there. He had a disappointing season in the AHL and it showed that heís not ready yet. Maybe he should have stayed in Russia one year more even if he didnít have a chance to play at Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which was run by Coach Kari Heikkila, who is known for not playing youngsters. He also doesnít have the same level of technique and skating of Avtsin and Petrov, even if he might have an edge in size.
CP: Give me some brief thoughts on the 2011 Russian prospects and tell me who you think is the best one?
ASR: Right now itís a toss between Vladislav Namestnikov and Alexander Khokhlachev for the #1 position among Russians. I know that Namestnikov is higher touted in North America, but I personally prefer Khokhlachev and I know that most of the time itís just a matter of taste. They are two excellent prospects, though Namestnikov is more of a goal scorer and more of a dangler, while Khokhlachev is more of a playmaker and is a better passer.
Anton Zlobin is a very good scorer who will play in North America next year and Iím sure many will be surprised by his scoring touch. He is a very good skater as well.
Maxim Shulanov is a very good scorer, he knows when to jump on chances and how to put the biscuit in the basket but heís going to stay in Russia and thus his stock will likely be penalized on draft day.
The top two defensemen for 2011 are Zakhar Arzamastsev and Nikita Nesterov. Nesterov is a good two way defenseman with a very good shot. Arzamastsev is a solid, reliable defenseman but right now he might risk repeating the path of Nikita Zaytsev- good player, solid potential, got NHL interest, but no one picked him up because he was playing in Russia.
Maxim Kazakov is another player whoíll play in the CHL next year and heís a very good scorer and skater as well.
CP: Who right now is the top 2012 Russian prospect?
ASR: Itís obvious that right now Nail Yakupov is the #1 prospect for the 2012 draft and playing in the OHL next year is definitely going to help. Heís a stud, a player which can make spectators jump to their feet during a game if he gets on a breakaway. Heís one of those players who if they get the puck on the blade, you know they are going to score by deking out two defensemen and the goalie. Heís just that kind of player and he has NHL first line potential. Grigorenko on the other hand looked to me like the better prospect, but heís going to play in Russia next season (heís Ď94 born, Yakupov is a late Ď93) and this will harm his position a bit. Grigorenko is less exciting than Yakupov, but he is a center with the ability to control the game. He needs to be more responsible in the defensive zone, though, whereas a winger like Yakupov can afford waiting for the puck to reach his blade; a center must play tougher back in the zone. Whereas a player like Burmistrov is at least a decent ďdefenderĒ, Grigorenko right now has a long ways to go in improving his defensive play.
CP: For 2013 and beyond, any elite prospects you want to alert people to?
ASR: Well, I think itís a bit too much talking about fifteen years olds, but there is one guy I want to talk about: Valeri Nichushkin. This kid will be the number one prospect in Russia for 2013 and he already played with the Ď94-born national team. Heís a great talent and can score like a crazyman, but heís also rather big and thus it might be just a case of physical dominance. However 127 points in 35 games are great numbers in any league and thus heís a legit prospect.
CP: What are your thoughts on Andrei Kuchkin? Is his career in jeopardy or could he be a pro?
ASR: Well, firstly and more importantly I donít think any player can be done at 19 no matter what his nationality is or what league he plays in. That being said, Kuchinís career was on a very dangerous downhill track and he was lucky to find a very good agent and a team (the Chicago Steel of the USHL) that allowed him to get back on track. Kuchin is a great talent who definitely has NHL potential and Iím sure that next year he will be drafted or he will be signed as free agent in 2012 because heís really too good to not get a chance. Anyone who has seen him on the ice can confirm this. Heís a true puck magician and he is an exceptional offensive player.
CP: The Russian Factor at the NHL Draft: True, false or somewhere in between?
ASR: The Russian factor is hyperbole, as almost all of the Russian prospects picked in the first three rounds of the last four or five drafts reported to North America.
Follow Corey on Twitter at @coreypronman.
Corey Pronman is an author of Puck Prospectus, runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project and is the President of Premium Scouting. You can contact him at CPronman@gmail.com.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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