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Author: Alessandro Seren Rosso ( 09/16/2007
Super League Round 3: Prospects parade in Kazan - Metallurg Mg. vs. Ak Bars (Kazan) Scouting Analysis

2008 Super League

19 prospects (13 properties of NHL teams, 4 undrafted and 2 2008 elegible) were iced in the Ak Bars - Metallurg contest held in Kazan for the third round of the Superleague. The number could be even greater but injuries have kept Sergei Zinovjev (Boston Bruins) and Vladimir Malenkykh (Pittsburgh Penguins) off of the ice. Additionally, Maxim Mayorov (Columbus Blue Jackets), Anton Glovatsky and Maxim Mamin were all competing for Team Russia in the Super Series.

Tampa Bay's Vasily Koshechkin (Tampa Bay Lightning) is Ak Bars' starter, as the club’s other goalie Mikka Noronen (former Buffalo and Vancouver backup goaltender) was out of action with a broken collar bone. Grigori Shafigulin was Bilyaletdinov's replacement for the injured Zinoviev on the famous ZZM (Zaripov – Zinovjev – Morozov) first line. Vyacheslav Buravchikov and Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens) form the third defensive pairing. It was also interesting to see the fourth unit in action, which was formed of younger players Andrei Zubarev (Atlanta Thrashers) and Mikhail Tulyapkin (Minnesota Wild) on defence, Musatov, Kirill Petrov and Mikhail Zhukov (Edmonton Oilers) as forwards. Regarding Metallurg, Rinat Ibragimov was on the first defensive pairing with Vitaly Atyushov, replacing injured veteran Evgeny Varlamov.

4 min:  After four minutes Atlanta's Ilya Nikulin (Atlanta Thrashers) had a great shift in the offensive zone as his shot created some anxiety in front of Metallurg's net, which lead to a delayed penalty call against Alexei Kaigorodov (Phoenix Coyotes) for boarding Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning).  Alexei Morozov then hits the ice on the power play and after a good move behind the net gives the puck back again to Nikulin.  Ilya tries to release a powerful slap shot but veteran netminder Andrei Mezin was prepared.
5 min: One minute later Shafigulin had a great chance after a great feed from Morozov, but his shot from between the circles is deflected by the young Ibragimov. Shafigulin has however displayed a great hockey sense here, crashing the net and making himself extremely dangerous. At the seventh minute Kaigorodov outskates a defender and sets up nicely Emeleev but the former CSKA player can't convert on the great chance.  
8 min: At 8:30 New York Rangers prospect Jan Marek rushes into the offensive zone and shoots, but Koshechkin goes down and effectively blocks his attempt. Around the tenth minute Bilyaletdinov ices again the youngsters' unit and opponents' second line has easy life against them but an error by Ravil Gusmanov in controlling the puck rescues them from being pressed too much in Kazan’s zone.  Not much later Emelin has a great defensive shift: first he closes very well Emeleev's path into the offensive zone stealing the puck from him and launching a new offensive rush, after that he manages to outmuscle Denis Platonov (Nashville Predators) and thus to rescue the team again. Some seconds later Koshechkin effectively rejects a blast by Nikolai Kulemin from the blue line.
14th min: Zhukov tries to rush into the offensive zone; Ibragimov checks him and forces him to lose the control of the puck. After Zhukov's rush Mezin holds the puck and freezes the time. Youngsters' unit manages to remain in the offensive third but Petrov suffers the physicality of opponent's defence and Ak Bars loses possession of the puck.
19th min: At the nineteenth minute huge defensive effort by Kazionov as he goes down to ice to block a cannon-like slapshot by Slovak Martin Shtrbak, after another great playmaking action by Kaigorodov.  Twenty seconds later a great combo Morozov-Zaripov puts the latter in front of Mezin, Ibragimov actively disturbs the forward helping Mezin in poke checking him away.
1st Period Wrap up: In the first period Ak Bars has played somewhat better and has outshoot the opponents 13-6, but has also suffered a bit Metallurg's major physical presence and face-off dominance. Best prospects on the ice for the first twenty minutes are Ibragimov because of his defensive play and Kaigorodov because of his great playmaking efforts. Not much work for Koshechkin.

22 min: After less than two minutes in second period Mezin makes an ugly error dealing with the puck, serving Petrov. The young forward stickhandles around and passes on the left for Musatov but once again this unit is outmuscled by opponent defence and can't finish anything. At the other end of the ice Tyulyapkin checks hard Sevostyanov over the boards and takes the puck back for Ak Bars. A bit later Platonov skates in the hole created by Tyulyapkin's lapse and has a good chance but Koshechkin closes well the net and denies the opportunity to the Metallurg's forward. The danger for the home team was due to a bad positioning by Minnesota's Tyulyapkin.
24 min: At 4'11" Mezin puts the puck over the glass and the referees whistle a minor penalty for delay of game and Ak Bars goes on a powerplay. Fifty seconds later Nikulin is open in the slot for a slapshot but for some reasons he decides against shooting the puck.  Ibragimov dives down and rejects a shot by Andrei Pervyshin (St. Louis Blues) on the same shift. A handful of seconds later Nikulin tries to power into the zone from the blue line but Mezin blocks easily.
26 min: Teams back at even strength and Platonov uses again his speed to get past Zhukov. He can therefore face Koshechkin and tries to put the puck between his legs but his shot is too high and hits the goalie on the chest.
30 min: Half-way through the second period Metallurg is close to opening the score after Kaigorodov sets up for Gusmanov, whose shot hits Koshechkin in the mask. The referee doesn't halt the game and, between crowd's jeers, the game goes on: Kaigorodov skates through the offensive zone and shoots from between the circles, great glove save by Koshechkin.
34 min: At the fourteen minute finally Ak Bars' fourth line manages to get a shot: Nikulin elegantly exits from the third and makes a long pass towards Musatov. He gets the puck deep into the zone, turns around and shoots, good response by Mezin.
36 min: At the thirty-sixth minute the home team scores: Morozov outplays Ibragimov on the left wing and serves Shafigulin on the center. The young centerman takes it and after two strides releases a backhander that goes in between Mezin's arm and left post. Good effort by Shafigulin but that was an easy shot.
2nd Period Wrap up: During the second period Ibragimov kept playing well even if he was outplayed by Morozov before his assist to Shafigulin. In the second period played quite well also Platonov and the goalscorer Shafigulin himself.

40 min: Thirty seconds into the third and last period and Shafigulin builds another goal chance for himself by getting in the zone and quickly shooting but Mezin blocks.
42 min: Two minutes later is the youngsters' line, improving with the time, to generate some trouble in Metallurg's defence: Musatov on the left wing skates around then goes to the center and shoots, Mezin gloves it nicely.
43 min: One minute later finally Kulemin is dangerous and after a good rush by Marek skates past Medvedev and tries to beat Koshechkin but his shot is taken from a position too exterior and it's impossible to beat a goalkeeper of the size of Koshechkin with such shoots.
46 min: At the sixth minute Metallurg keeps attacking and after a great pass by Marek to Kaigorodov has a clean point shot that Koshechkin rejects with a nice blocker save. Very good game by Koshechkin so far, and also against a strong team. A bit later Kaigorodov hooks Morozov and he's sent to the penalty box for two minutes. Kulemin and Platonov are iced by Kanareikin to kill the penalty, Bilyaletdinov replies with the first unit. Not much happens during this penalty, a part two nice saves by Mezin on Shafigulin and Pervyshin.
52 min: Metallurg's effort is rewarded at 12th minute: after a faceoff scramble in the offensive zone, Atyushov gets the puck faced by Kazionov, but the Tampa draftee slips down to the ice and for the experienced defender, drafted by Ottawa back in 2002 it is easy to skate ahead and shoot, beating Koshechkin with a very strong wrister on blocker side with the help of an active screen by Kulemin.
54 min: At 14:30 Savin tries the surprise shot from the red line but Koshechkin is ready and rejects with the pads. Same shift later Pervyshin gets in trouble because of Kudermetov's vivacity but nothing dangerous happens. The game becomes disorganized in the latter minutes as both teams want to win and the schemes tend not to be respected.
59 min: At 19'40" Metallurg gets very very close to score with a great combination by Marek and Kaigorodov. The Czech gets in front of Koshechkin and shots but the giant goalkeeper goes down and with the pads makes the save of the game and sends the game to the overtime.

62 min: After two minutes good effort by Platonov that skates down to the right side and centers it but no one gets the puck in the slot. Some seconds later Platonov is sent to the penalty box and Ak Bars goes four-on-three. After a couple of big shots by Medvedev were well handled by Mezin, Zaripov gets a penalty for tripping and makes his team short handed. Metallurg manages to keep the opponent pressured and in the very last seconds of the game Kulemin has a great chance but his shot is wide and the games go to the shootout relay.

The first shootout is for Denis Arkhipov, Mezin keeps the position and the forward can't even hit the net. Metallurg replies with Kudrna that scores with a fancy move shooting the puck with the stick between the legs. Second round for Ak Bars is made by Kazionov that at first seems to be able to deke the goalie out but Mezin, right after Kazionov's shot, slides the right pad and saves. Metallurg wins if Marek scores and the Czech manages to put the puck between Koshechkin's pads for the win.

Very interesting game, maybe not the best played by the two teams but with some good points. I have to admit that I am really surprised by the good game of Ibragimov, who played very well for the entire game mainly in his defensive zone. A good show was also put by former Lokomotiv center Shafigulin, capable to become perhaps the best player on the ice after a slow start. Kulemin played an average game, but he could and should have done more. Interesting to see also Ak Bars' youngsters line. After a slow start, just like Shafigulin, its players managed to be active and dangerous in the offensive zone, especially with Musatov.

Alessandro's prospect of the game: Rinat Ibragimov. Playing a solid defensive game, has showed flashes of good defensive play among with a bit of physicality. Can still improve on positioning and overall play but this is the way to go. Honourable mentions for Grigori Shafigulin, Denis Platonov and Aleksei Kaigorodov.
Alessandro's worse prospect of the game: Mikhail Tyulyapkin. His team suffered due to his inability to throw the body in the defensive zone and also he didn't support the attack in the needed way.  Tulyapkin displayed some talent but the 84 born defenseman  must gain more confidence and experience.

Related Player Profiles: . D.Arkhipov A.Emelin R.Ibragimov A.Kaigorodov D.Kazionov V.Koshechkin V.Malenkykh M.Mamin M.Mayorov I.Nikulin A.Pervyshin K.Petrov D.Platonov M.Tulyapkin E.Varlamov M.Zhukov S.Zinovjev A.Zubarev
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