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Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RP Exclusive)Date: 06/05/2004
U18 World Junior Championships Player Performance Recaps Part 5: Forwards - Fourth Line (Salnikov - Ogorodnikov - Kulemin)

2004 U18 World Junior ChampionshipsRussia’s fourth line at the U18 World Junior Championships included relative newcomers to the national team. Nikolai Kulemin and Sergei Salnikov have spent some time on the national team earlier this season, but both players primarily skated on the squad’s fourth line and were used in either defensive roles or as spare parts in case one of the top forwards fell to injury. Sergei Ogorodnikov, on the other hand, presented a mystery, as despite a solid season with the High League’s (Russia 2) THK (Tver) he did not receive a single invitation to the national team until the U18 WJC, remaining under the radar for the most of the 2003-04 season. The fourth line enjoyed a bit of break through early in the tournament against the weaker opponents – scoring two of it’s three goals in the first contest against the " mighty" Norway. The unit was used sparingly during the medal round and any offensive production they enjoyed in the early games all but disappeared down the stretch.

Sergei Ogorodnikov C (Grade: B-)
Sergei Ogorodnikov centered Russia’s fourth line, skating between Salnikov and Kulemin. Despite a very limited role, the young center showcased his ability to the scouts present at the tournament. He is a very capable puck handler, not hesitating to carry the puck up the ice from the defensive zone. On the downside, Ogorodnikov is not strongly built and struggled in the games against more physical opponents. He has a good shot, but it was his drive to the net and ability to be at the right place at the right time that earned him his goals at the tournament, as they mostly came off rebounds from the shots of his linemates. The talented forward was first in line for a promotion if one of the squad’s top forwards was knocked out of the game for any reason. In the semifinal game against Canada, he replaced Malkin on the top line when Russia’s best player was eliminated from the game with a 20 minute match penalty. While obviously not as capable as Malkin, Ogorodnikov did not create problems on the top line and seemed to pick up his game when given the additional ice time. Ogorodnikov’s performance at the U18 WJC did not boost his stock to the level promoted by some scouting services, but it did solidify him as a solid prospect and a likely third or fourth round pick.

Sergei Salnikov RW (Grade: C+)
Sergei Salnikov skated the entire U18 WJC on Russia’s fourth line with Sergei Ogorodnikov and Nikolai Kulemin. The young forward filled a primarily defensive role on the Russian squad. He skated on Russia’s third power-kill unit with Nikolai Kulemin. Salnikov showed a strong level of maturity and the ability to read the plays in his own zone. The young forward is a capable puck handler and possesses a good, strong shot. He is also an above average skater, but his top speed is not all that impressive. Overall, Salnikov did not do much to boost or decline his draft potential, remaining a probable selection in the middle or early late rounds of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Nikolai Kulemin LW (Grade C)
Nikolai Kulemin skated left wing on Russia’s fourth line, which was centered by Nikolai Ogorodnikov and with Sergei Salnikov on the other wing. The young forward showed a lot of determination, working really hard throughout the tournament in a very limited role. However, Kulemin’s skill level was unfortunately well below his determination. He did not skate very well and hardly ever contributed on the attack. The young forward did prove very capable physical addition to the Russian squad, effectively using his 6’2 and 200lb frame. Kulemin played well in his own zone and did not commit any significant mistakes, which isn’t saying too much since he hardly saw any ice time and was not very noticeable when he was on the ice. Overall, he did not cause any problems for his team, but at the same time was not a contributor to the team’s success in any way except maybe by providing stability in the defensive zone and a physical presence on the ice. Nikolai Kulemin may be a late-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but his skating and lack of offensive upside may keep the young forward from being selected.

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