|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
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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