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Author: Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com)Date: 08/05/2007
A Russian Super League rising star: Konstantin Korneev (Montreal Canadiens)

2007 Russian Super League

Konstantin Korneev HC Ak Bars 2006 team photo (Source: HC Ak Bars Press)
Konstantin Korneev (Montreal Canadiens), twenty-three, is a rising Superliga star. Born in Moscow June 5th 1984, he grew up in the Krylja Sovetov hockey system. He has always been a valuable member of the national team of his age group. Growing up as a good two way defender, Korneev's star has started shining during the 2002 World Under 18 Championships, held in Slovakia and won by the USA despite Ovechkin's 14 goals in just 8 games, where he scored seven points leading all Russian defenders in the scoring race. On that occasion he displayed a very good all-around game, even playing at center to replace injured Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning) (Tampa Bay Lightning). 2002 was also his draft year but his name wasn't called until the ninth round, where the Montreal Canadiens drafted him with the 275th pick despite being placed fairly high in the pre-draft rankings. He fell most likely because of his size. The post-draft season was good for Kostantin but not for his team. Moscow's Krylja Sovetov was relegated from the Super League down to the High League (Russia 2) and therefore Kostantin had to find a new home for himself. Additionally, outside the Russian leagues, we must remember that Korneev was a valuable member of the national team U-20 that won the gold medal in Canada.

In the summer of 2003 Korneev left Krylja Sovetov to play for HC Ak Bars from Kazan, following his head coach Sergei Kotov who also moved from Moscow to Kazan. But life there was different. If with his former team Kostantin enjoyed plenty of ice time, with his new team he had to deal with a new situation: the depth of big and wealthy clubs. Even if he didn't play the same amount of minutes, he still played quite well, even earning his first call to represent Russia at the Karjala Cup in Finland, where he played three games.

The following season was tough for him, as with the NHL lockout Russia attracted a number of NHL stars. Ak Bars Kazan signed a big number of NHL players, including Darius Kasparaitis (New York Rangers) and Ruslan Salei among the others. For Korneev finding his path to the ice wasn't easy at all. He finished the regular season with four points in thirty-five games, all of them being assists.

After the lockout season (and Ak Bars' blowout in the playoffs), Korneev kept progressing, playing for the best team in Russia. The 2005/06 season was a triumph for the Kazan team, and the talented young defenseman earned four points in thirty regular season games but was largely left out during Ak Bars' playoff run, concluded with a 3-0 swept of Avangard Omsk. After winning the championship title Korneevís contract expired and he moved on to Vyacheslav Bykov's HC CSKA. This move worked out very well for the blueliner because he proved himself one of the best young defenders, scoring career highs in goals, assists and points. Playing for the national team's head coach helped Korneev to showcase his skills and earn a call-up to the national team during two stages of the Euro Hockey Tour plus the finals against Sweden. He did not play top lines minutes, but was solid in most occasions and his play was so good that he earned the invitation for the national team preliminary camp for the 2007 World Championship. He was the last cut with Mikhnov and Kaigorodov but he managed to keep a spot as a reserve. He played in the Bronze Medal game against Sweden won by Russia 4-1 and was paired with NHL veteran Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh Penguins).

Kostantin Korneev remains an intriguing prospect even if playing for CSKA and the national team headed by the same person makes it a bit harder to get him playing overseas. He is a two way defenseman with good offensive instincts, as well as very good skating and decision-making abilities. His game is built around his skating and his skills, but he may struggle in the more physical North-America style of hockey. He has to work on his strength if he wants to make the jump to the NHL as he has not progressed in this area much since the draft. His ceiling is still interesting and he could develop into a solid NHL player, filling the role of a utility defenseman who could be used in all situation if not asked to carry the team on his shoulders during the penalty killing minutes. He has good leadership traits as well, being selected as assistant captain for CSKA Moscow for the 2007/08 season.

- Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com)

Related Player Profiles: . S.Gonchar D.Kasparaitis D.Kazionov K.Korneev R.Salei
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