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Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RussianProspects Exclusive)Date: 07/15/2006
2006 NHL Entry Draft Russian Player Review - Part 2

Alexei Shirokov (2005 NHL Entry Draft) at the U20 WJC (Photo: Exclusive)
After the first three rounds, the drafting of Russian players slowed significantly. This was predictable, as due to the new NHL-NHLPA agreement that limits European player rights to just two years, the practice of drafting European ‘projects’ late in the draft with hope that they will some day bud into starts was bound to cease. Accordingly, there were 10 Russian players selected in the first three rounds, and then just 5 in the remaining 4 rounds. In this article we will provide coverage in regards to the final 9 Russian players selected in from the late second round through the conclusion of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

55 Denis BODROV (defenseman) Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s selection of Bodrov and this early in the draft was surprising. The young player has competed on Russia’s U20 squad and spent time in the Super League, but his level of play did not merit a second round selection. He did his job, but did not particularly stand out during the U20 World Championships. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make his second round selection a surprise. Bodrov will likely sign with Philadelphia soon, and probably already had contact with the team before the draft in addition to the standard interviews. Philadelphia must see something in this blue liner that other scouts don’t and may have found a diamond in the rough.

58 Aleksandr VASYUNOV (forward) New Jersey
Vasyunov drop to late second round is a bit surprising, but not by any means shocking after his sub par performance at the U18 WJC. The young forward has loads of potential, but he failed to establish himself and the preeminent scorer that everyone believes he can be. A pure sniper, Vasyunov in some regards reminds of young Alexander Suglobov, who also fittingly went as late in the second round as Vasyunov and fittingly also to New Jersey. A great sniper at the junior level, Vasyunov will hopefully be able to raise his game to the Super League (Russia 1) level during the 2006-07 season with HC Lokomotiv.

67 Kirill TULUPOV (defenseman) New Jersey
New Jersey drafted another Russian with the 67th pick, selecting towering blue liner Kirill Tulupov. The NHL club has a long history of drafted big Russian defensemen and Tulupov simply perpetuated the trend. Already assimilated to North America, Tulupov has a strong work ethic and likes to play physical hockey and use his impressive frame. His skill level and skating will hopefully continue to improve. The move from North America back to Russia was a good one for him last summer, as it allowed him an opportunity to make his professional debut in the High League (Russia 2), and earn a spot on Russia’s U18 squad, which really boosted his draft stock.

77 Vladimir ZHARKOV (forward) New Jersey
New Jersey made it three Russians in a row by drafting Zharkov in the third round. Zharkov was highly touted as one of the top Russians available in the draft. While he did not go as high as projected, the young forward was picked where we projected him. Zharkov splashed onto the scene this season with a good performance for Russia’s U18 squad and his strong debut in the Super League (Russia 1) with HC CSKA. Zharkov did, however, deliver a poor showing at the U18 World Junior Championships, which impacted his draft stock. The young forward possesses good size, above average skating ability and an impressive ability to compete in traffic. He is not a pure sniper, but does have a very good goal scoring sense. Despite his significant upside, Zharkov is a project selection with whom New Jersey will have to be patient.

139 Pavel VALENTENKO (defenseman) Montreal
Valentenko was a surprising selection by Montreal late in the draft. Montreal must have really loved the young prospect during the Big Prize U20 tournament in St. Petersburg, which was the inaugural tournament of the 87 born U20 team. There he was one of Russia’s most productive defensemen, even managing to score a couple of tallies from the blue line. He also must have impressed them while with Russia’s U20 squad that skated against the top Canadian junior players during the ADT Canada Russia Challenge. There, however, the young prospect did not impress our scouts and did not significantly stand out amongst Russia’s mediocre defensive corps. Montreal’s scouts may have also seen him in Russia’s juniors, but he continues to be unproven at the Super League (Russia 1) level, as he only skated in two games last season.

163 Sergey SHIROKOV (forward) Vancouver
Finally after two years of eligibility, Shirokov has been drafted by an NHL club. During those two seasons the young forward consistently played well on the international level, but the difference maker this year was that he added a strong Super League (Russia 1) performance with HC CSKA in addition to his impressive play for U20 Team Russia in Vancouver. The young forward fights hard at the boards despite his slightly below average frame. He is skilled and possesses an impressive scoring touch.

170 Aleksandr BUMAGIN (forward) Edmonton
Another one of Russian overage players who was overlooked during the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The highly rated and regarded Bumagin was finally selected a year later by Edmonton after establishing himself as not only a full fledged Super League player, but also as a club leader with HC Lada during the club’s financial crisis that ensued in November and caused a large number of veterans to flee. Like Shirokov, Bumagin is not big, but he has an above average speed, a great vision of the ice and an impressive scoring touch. His absence from the U20 squad at the U20 WJC in Vancouver was quite a surprise to some, but the young forward was recovering from a serious injury he suffered in October and was not 100% yet.

198 Denis KAZIONOV (forward) Tampa Bay
Denis Kazionov was highly rated by a number of scouts coming into the draft and while he did impress a bit with his performance in the Super League this past season, he is a project pick with a limited upside. He does have impressive size and a good skill set, but has yet to prove himself as a productive forward, really at any level. It was surprising that Tampa Bay picked him after largely avoiding Russian players during the past several drafts. Still, a lot is still unknown about this player and he will get ample chance to prove himself with HC MVD this coming season in the Russian Super League (Russia 2), and may also earn a spot on Russia’s 87 born U20 squad.

205 Andrey POPOV (forward) Philadelphia
Popov’s selection so late in the draft was very surprising. Granted, the young prospect did not go out of his way to fulfill the hefty expectations with a mediocre and uninspiring U18 World Junior Championships performance, but he did show glimpse of great potential and also played well during his professional debut in the High League (Russia 2) with HC Traktor. Popov has impressive size, strong puckhandling ability, but needs to improve his skating and while he sees the ice well, he tends to take on too much onto himself, not using his linemates a lot. This young prospect has the most upside out of any Russians in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and Philadelphia got a steal so late in the draft, though he still is a project pick.

Related Player Profiles: . D.Bodrov A.Bumagin D.Kazionov A.Popov S.Shirokov K.Tulupov P.Valentenko A.Vasyunov V.Zharkov
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