2019 NHL Draft: Russian Prospects

Let's face it, Podkolzin is a tier of his own here. Everything has been already said and done about him, not sure if I should repeat it. In short:...
By Caser · Jun 6, 2019 · Updated Jun 7, 2019
  1. Caser
    It's already June and I still didn't post any pre-draft write-up, let's fix that.
    Mood: running out of time.
    Concept: "Less is more" by Mies; 'Tiered ranking' by Steve Dangle.
    Soundtrack: Tiesto_&_Jonas_Blue_feat_Rita_Ora_-_Ritual.

    Tier 1 aka "The Pod"

    1. W Vasiliy Podkolzin

    Let's face it, Podkolzin is a tier of his own here. Everything has been already said and done about him, not sure if I should repeat it. In short: while it is possible to question his offensive upside due to some flaws (possibly fixable ones though), he is a winner. Despite all the Russian factor talks about him, it's hard to imagine both Joe and SteveY passing on him, so I don't think he will fall down too much.

    Tier 2 aka "Top50 guys"

    2. RW Pavel Dorofeyev
    3. C Yegor Spiridonov
    4. C Ilya Nikolayev
    5. LHD Roman Bychkov
    6. W/C Yegor Afanasyev

    Again, probably pretty self-descriptive name for this tier: to me those players are legit candidates for the Top50 draft position and I totally won't be surprised if they even jump into the first round. Dorofeyev can create a scoring chance out of nothing, got all the tools in the attacking area, biggest concern is about the translation of his "east-west" playing style to the pros. With Spiridonov what you get is what you see — a big quality two-way center with a heavy right-handed shot, but he is no "first violin". Similar case is Nikolayev, minus the big frame, but with some more skill and playmaking. I like how Roman Bychkov understands the game, I thing GMs would be willing to spend a rather high pick on that. Limited viewings is the reason I can't really place Afanasyev higher, but from what I've seen there might be that valuable offense generating ability.

    Tier 3 aka "The Raw Talent"

    7. LHD Artemiy Knyazev
    8. GK Pyotr Kochetkov
    9. C/W Matvei Guskov
    10. C Mikhail Abramov

    As the title says, there's some talent here in this tier, but that talent needs quite some refinement. With Knyazev it is the puckmoving talent (in a broad sense of it), but, while he sure got stronger during this season, it's still a long way to go for him. Kochetkov got that size and mobility combination that you want to see in your future starter, but he still needs to find more consistency (also there is an additional concern about his health, as he already had a groin surgery last year). You can easily see that Guskov-sr. was a pro hockey player, as Matvei inherited both athletic body and hard working approach from him, yet it is really hard to rate him when he almost wasn't used at his primary center position this season. Abramov's natural talent might be not that obvious from the first sight, but he is a natural playmaker —there's some perfect timing on his passes and you can't really teach that, still that modest size raises questions (yet he isn't weak at all).

    Tier 4 aka "It's All in Your Head"

    11. GK Ilya Konovalov
    12. LW Arseniy Gritsyuk
    13. LHD Daniil Misyul

    Not exactly easy to describe this small tier, but I'd say here are the players, whose mental attributes I value more than their physical talents. With Konovalov it is all about being a hard worker: while not being very naturally gifted goalie, he had been showing progress year after year and was able to refine his technique to the level of setting some records in the KHL; not that easy to tell if there's NHL starter potential, as goalies are hard to predict, but with that kind of work and progress I won't be surprised if it is there. Gritsyuk might not seem very special at the first sight, but I think he has good overall skillset and very well knows when and how to use it, in that way there's something Kaprizov-like about him. With Misyul it might be totally unobvious why I'd put him in this tier, as he is quite a physical beast, but it just isn't what impressed me as much as his confidence, when he was called up to the KHL at the end of the season and started physically dominating KHL pros like it's no big deal; additionally judging by recent U20 NT games there might be something good in terms of puckmoving too.

    Tier 5 aka "The Misunderstood Talent"

    14. RW Yegor Chinakhov
    15. LHD Nikita Okhotyuk
    16. LHD Semyon Chistyakov
    17. W Vladislav Firstov
    18. C Oleg Zaitsev
    19. LHD Ilya Mironov
    20. RW Kirill Slepets
    21. LW Daniil Gutik
    22. RW Yegor Serdyuk

    All these players sure got some talent, but I kind of failed to understand them properly in a way if I like what they got enough to overweigh my concerns about them. Let me describe what my "lovehate" is in brief. Chinakhov: one of the best wristers here, it is really impressive how he finds those top corners, yet too many times he is just invisible. Okhotyuk: he is totally fine as a physical stay-at-home, but I was really hoping that there is some puckmoving talent too. Chistyakov: I like how he hits hard, I don't like that his modest height might be a showstopper for that at the pro level; I like how he is able to carry that puck through the neutral zone, but I don't like how he distributes that puck in the attacking zone. Firstov: maybe my limited viewing are to blame, but I have an impression that while having a good shot and creativity, he is not exactly the most consistent performer. Zaitsev: solid all-around game, but I totally didn't get the impression that he got the upside to be something more than bottom-six center. Mironov: all the tools, but not able to get them in a toolbox yet. Slepets: was looking very motivated at the WJC where he showed great skill and wheels, but he has gathered really a lot of red flags over the years. Gutik: great hands and frame, but sometimes you really wondering what is going on in his head when he's on the ice (if anything at all). Serdyuk: can't deny that he can put that puck in the net, but the overall level of his athleticism seems subpar to me.

    Tier 6 aka "The Sleeper Picks"

    23. C Alexei Tsyplakov
    24. LW Dmitriy Sheshin
    25. LHD Grigoriy Dronov
    26. C/W Georgiy Ivanov
    27. C Dmitriy Voronkov
    28. RW Nikita Shashkov
    29. RHD Andrei Pribylskiy
    30. RW Yegor Chizhikov

    My favorite tier — guys, who don't get a lot of pre-draft attention, but who, in my opinion, can have a very good value as a late-round picks. Tsyplakov lacks proper exposure, but aside from that I don't think there are a lot flaws in his game, a quality all-around center. Sheshin got enough of exposure and basically of everything, except height — 5'7" is 5'7" even in the modern hockey. When healthy Dronov is playing at the KHL top-pairing level, I think it shows the potential there high enough to cover the risks related to the missing time due to injuries. Ivanov had a great season, playing on the same line with already drafted prospects Kayumov and Kovalenko and, imo, was the best on that line. Voronkov has been extremely noticeable at the U20 tournaments recently, he is a big gritty center with good hands and mobility. Shashkov is a classical hard-hitting power forward with a good nose for the net. Pribylskiy found himself in KHL team's line-up this season when he wasn't even 18 and was able to carry that load decently, him being right-handed also adds some value. Finally, Chizhikov is a lesser known name here, but I really liked what I saw from him in the MHL, good combination of skill and responsible game, likely a long-shot though.

    While I understand that some of you might be disappointed by the lack of depth and details in my write-up this year, I had to choose this style due to lack of time resources. Still, if any of you will have interest in something more specific, we can discuss it and go into details right here in this thread, since no write-up can be worth as much as a quality live discussion.

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