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Author: Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com)Date: 07/31/2007
Five reasons to consider Pavel Valentenko (Montreal Canadiens) a promising NHL prospect

Pavel Valentenko (Montreal Canadiens) is a young Russian prospect drafted by Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the past several seasons in the Russian leagues and has made the decision to make the jump to North America. The following five reasons outline why he is a strong NHL prospect with interesting potential.

1) His play in the national team.

Valentenko's play with the national junior team in the 2007 WJC has been very good. Scoring three points in six games, Pavel was one of the most valuable players of the tournament for Russia. His frame and his defensive play were excellent in the occasion and he was even named the best player on ice for Team Russia in the final match against Canada, unfortunately lost with the score of 2 4. In this game Pavel scored the 1 - 4 goal on a powerplay, with a quick wristshot from the blue line that surprised Canadien goalie Corey Price in the traffic. His other goal in the tournament was a very nice rush in the offensive zone, finished with another quick slapshot, in the qualification round game against Belarus, won by Russia 6 1.

Valentenko hasn't played much with the national team, also because being from a non-traditional city like Nizhnekamsk doesn't help in being spotted and noticed by coaches. His national team performances feature, other than the last WJC, one CHL Russia Challenge in 2005, one Big Prize St. Petersburg tournament and one Four Nations tournament, the 2006 edition in Czech Republic. He was also invited in the preliminary camp prior of the last World Championship but he had to give up because of an injury.

2) His play in the Russian Super League

Valentenko, though, wasn't good only at the junior level. He also demonstrated that he can play against men. Tough and in possess of a good, strong shot, Pavel has debuted with the Neftekhimik jersey in the 2005/06 season, at the age of eighteen. He turned pretty quickly into one of the most important players in his team, despite the only two games played in his debut season, thanks to his physical play, sometimes a bit too rough, and his ability to read the game in its defensive part. A decent-to-good skater, Pavel could improve his speed and acceleration but he has a good balance on feet to battle along the boards. A reliable defenseman, Valentenko could develop into a regular NHL player if he manages to find his way in a different country, a challenge that was hard for a lot of higher-touted prospects. He's from Nizhnekamsk, a whole another world than America, and also his knowledge of English is not very good, having been overseas only once.

3) His playing style

Pavel Valentenko is a reliable, good-sized, defensive defenseman. His frame is very good, standing at 6'2, 202 lbs (188 cms, 92 kgs). He likes to play physical and is not afraid to protect his teammates and his goalkeeper. Valentenko can also effectively deliver some big, clean hits when necessary, abilities that was shown very nicely at the WJC, also in the final match against Canada. Pavel also has a good shot from the point, strong and with a quick release that can be very useful in the powerplay at any level. His point production in the Russian Super League was almost un-existent, two points in fifty games, that means that he has to educate his offensive skills, but his shot and his skating goodness are undeniable. Being a tough player with good pace and an effective shot, Valentenko could fit well the North American style of hockey.

4) Montreal's belief in Russian players

He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, a team that has always believed in Russian players. In Montreal's roster we can find Aleksei Kovalev and Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens), two persons that can help him in adjusting to American lifestyle. In the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal's farm team) roster there are also Mikhail Grabovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and the Kostitsyn brothers, other players that can help Pavel to communicate better.

It's clear that Montreal likes Russians and this will help Pavel to gain the necessary confidence to make the big jump overseas. Bear in mind that the Habs have in their system other two interesting Russian defensive prospects in former Lada Togliatti player Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens), now playing for Ak Bars Kazan, and CSKA's Konstantin Korneev (Montreal Canadiens).

Seeing things in this light it's almost certain that the Montreal Canadiens organization seems to be a safer place than others to make such a big step for Russian hockey players' career and life.

5) Valentenko's actual presence in North America

The fifth and last point is something that shouldn't be underrated. Pavel's countrymate Aleksei Emelin was highly believed to play overseas but then Ak Bars offered him a good contract and he opted to remain in Russia for almost another year. This is a very common story in today's Russian hockey and therefore Pavel's presence in Montreal is very important in this point of view.

Valentenko has took part to Montreal's development camp in mid July playing very well and even impressing the TSN (Total Sport Network, a major canadian cable network) reporters with his size, skating and skills. Most likely he will spend most of the season playing in the AHL, in the Hamilton Bulldogs' line-up, and can reach the NHL regular status in a couple of years.

- Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com)

Related Player Profiles: . A.Emelin M.Grabovsky K.Korneev A.Markov P.Valentenko
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