|Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RP Exclusive)||Date: 07/01/2004
|RussianProspects 2004 NHL Entry Draft Recap: Round 1|
|There was hardly any question who the top two picks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft
were going to be. Evgei Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin have been the favorites
to take those two coveted spots all year long. Some speculation did circulate
that Malkin had a chance to surpass his countryman and be selected first overall,
but that seemed quite unlikely and turned out to be untrue, as the Capitals
used their pick to select Alexandrer Ovechkin with the and the Pittsburgh Penguins
picked up Evgeni Malkin second overall.
ALEXANDER OVECHKIN - Round 1 (1st overall)
Alexander Ovechkin may be the best player playing outside the NHL right now.
His selection at the first overall spot is no surprise, and barring a lockout
this coming season, Ovechkin will be in the Capitals uniform within months.
Unlike his fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin, who is almost a year younger, Ovechkin
has already developed well physically and after three pro seasons in Russia,
he can effectively stand up to the rigors of a NHL season. In addition to his
on ice preparedness, Ovechkin’s transition to the American culture should
be equally smooth, as he already has a solid grasp of the English language and
appears not to be phased by all the scrutiny he has been receiving. If a NHL
lockout happens, Ovechkin will likely return to Russia and continue his career
with Dynamo Moscow, where he has been one of the leading forwards this past
season. Due to the impending expiration of the transfer fee agreement between
the NHL and the IIHF, the Capitals will likely sign the young forward to a rookie
contract before his departure for Russia. Such deal would guaranty his arrival
to the NHL once a new CBA is signed and the 2004-05 season gets underway.
Rumor has it that the Capitals were offered a lot for Ovechkin by several clubs
including Boston and Chicago. According to the rumors, Boston offered the Caps
two high selections in the draft and two players: Sergei Gonchar and Sergei
Samsonov. The offer was not all that sweet, since Gonchar is now an unrestricted
free agent and Sergei Samsonov is currently a restricted free agent. The most
tempting offer came from Chicago, who reportedly offered three picks and two
players for the coveted pick. In the end, the Capitals declined all the offers
and chose the young budding super star.
EVGENI MALKIN - Round 1 (2nd overall)
It was not much of a surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Evgeni Malkin
with the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft after Alexander Ovechkin
was put on the board by the Washington Capitals. It is very difficult to compare
the two talented Russian forwards, as Malkin is a center and Ovechkin is a left
wing. Malkin is known for his hockey sense, soft hands and playmaking, while
Ovechkin is a high energy finisher with a great burst of speed. However, while
Ovechkin may have a stronger initial impact in the NHL, Malkin is almost a full
year younger than Ovechkin and shows a lot of promise. In four or five years,
he may even surpass Washington’s pick in his impact on the game hockey
and the value he presents to his club.
To some extent, Pittsburgh should have been happy to pick second, as they didn’t
have to make the difficult choice made by Washington. The talented young center
is a dynamic playmaker, who sees the ice very well. He has great size, but will
need at least another season to fill in his frame and become a more potent physical
force. During the post draft interviews, Malkin stated that he expects to make
the jump to the NHL during the summer of ’05, remaining in Russia with
his Super League (Russia 1) club Metallurg Magnitogorsk for the 2004-05 season.
With a NHL lockout looming, Malkin’s choice to return to Russia will likely
be the wise one, as he will continue to get plenty of ice time and experience
with Metallurg in the second best hockey league in the world. In addition to
developing on the ice, the talented Russian forward has made his intentions
clear to learn the English language, so that he would be prepared to adjust
to the North American culture next summer. As is the case with Ovechkin, he
will also likely sign a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins before returning to
ALEXANDER RADULOV - Round 1 (15th overall)
Alexander Radulov was widely expected to be the third Russian selected at the
2004 NHL Entry Draft. The young forward has put together an impressive season
in Russia in 2003-04. He performed well against professional players while with
THK Tver in the High League (Russia 2) and his line (Radulov – Yunkov
– Voloshenko) dominated international competition at every U18 tournament.
Radulov’s high skill level, scoring ability and hockey sense made him
a very attractive package to the NHL clubs. Some scouts described Radulov as
an emotional player, referring to the trait as a positive quality, but it is
actually a double edged sword. Radulov’s emotional play shows that he
cares about winning, but it may also indicate some mental instability and that
there are worse things to come. Regardless, it seems that the young forward
has matured as the 2003-04 season came to a close and hopefully the incidents
of him talking back to the referees and THK Tver’s coach are now far behind
RussianProspects estimated Radulov to be picked later in the first round, but
we slightly overestimated the depth of the players available in the draft from
other nations, and the young winger was selected 15th overall by the Nashville
Predators. Nashville’s selection of Radulov appeared to be a logical one,
as the club appears to have become one of the biggest backers of Russia’s
top talent, drafting Konstantin Glazachev and Grigory Shafigullin in the second
and third rounds respectively of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Nashville has struggled
to boost the club’s scoring throughout the 2003-04 season and after several
unsuccessful attempts to import snipers from other NHL clubs via trades, the
Predators chose Radulov, hoping he could step and consistently score at the
NHL level within one or two seasons.
Another factor that made Radulov an attractive selection midway through the
first round was his free agent status in Russia, which exempts him from the
transfer fee concerns between the NHL and Russia that have likely dropped many
Russians in the draft and caused many others to go the entire nine rounds unselected.
He fought hard for his free agency and may now reap the benefits by controlling
his own destiny and vie for a NHL contract. Radulov has recently been selected
by Quebec in the CHL Import Draft, which opens up a door for his arrival to
North American. It is still unclear whether the young winger will choose to
remain in Russia and sign a one year deal, or make his way to the NHL. Considering
the vast salary difference between the Russian Super League and the juniors,
for Radulov to come and play in the QMJHL, he will likely need to be first signed
by the Predators, so that the young forward and his family could make use of
his signing bonus while he plays for virtually nothing in the Q.
Related Player Profiles: . E.Malkin A.Ovechkin A.Radulov
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