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Author: Alessandro Seren RossoDate: 10/08/2009
Interview with Brock Otten

2010 Canadian Junior Leagues



In order to report about CHL Russian players we had an interview with OHL observer and specialist Brock Otten. Brock is one of the most known OHL bloggers out there, and his site can be found at http://ohlprospects.blogspot.com.

Hello Brock. The first question is about two last year players: Andrei Loktionov (Los Angeles Kings) and Evgeni Grachev (New York Rangers). Can you tell our readers the opinion about them on the American side of the pond? And also, what do you think about their chances this season in the pro leagues?

These two guys were a pleasure to watch last year. Grachev is an explosive player who got better and increasingly more dominant as the season progressed. I was also caught off guard by how complete a player he was. Maybe itís stereotyping on my part, but I really didnít expect him to be as good on the penalty kill as he was. Loktionov was a little more inconsistent, but he really put it together in the playoffs. Lotís of skill there. Admittedly, I expected Loktionov to struggle to adapt to the AHL, because of size and inconsistency. But he sure looks alright. Was the AHLís first player of the week. Not bad for your first week of professional hockey. Grachev I expect will have a solid year in the AHL too. Iíd also expect both to see limited time in the NHL as injury call ups. The future is bright for both of these players.

This summer a number of Russian players crossed the Atlantic to play in the OHL. Can you update our readers about how they are doing?

Sure. I can break it down by player if that makes it a little easier on the eyes.

Alexander Burmistrov Ė Came over with high expectations and heís meeting them. Seen him play twice, vastly impressed both times. Great with the puck on his stick, not afraid to go hard to the net, great offensive instincts. Heís an immediate star in the league. Like Grachev, Iíve also been very impressed with his two way game. Heís killing penalties for Barrie and he back checks too. Seems like coming over was the right thing for him to do.

Roman Berdnikov Ė Hasnít played yet as heís still recovering from injury. Iíve been told heís close though. Probably within the next two weeks. I believe heís skating with the team, but not in contact drills. Iím interested to see him play when heís finally ready.

Ramis Sadikov Ė At this point, heís outplaying Shane Owen in Erie and seems to have a good shot of locking down the starting spot (should Jaroslav Janus not return). Janus recently signed an AHL tryout contract, so the chances of him returning are starting to look slimmer. Havenít personally seen Sadikov yet, but Iíve heard good things about the way he uses his size to cover the net.

Stefan Stepanov Ė Not really excelling like I expected him to (or had heard he was capable of). But heís quite young and inexperienced, so I donít think there is any cause for concern. Itís only been 6 games. Iím sure he will get better. Saw him play once, truthfully didnít really notice him. But then again, for a young defenseman that may not be a bad thing. At least at this point, he doesnít seem to be making too many mistakes. With added confidence, his offensive game should start coming around.

Ivan Telegin Ė Havenít seen him play yet, but I really want to. Hoping to get a chance to see Saginaw play in the next month or so. He sure is putting up the stats. Leading Saginaw in goal scoring, and seems to be a large part of their offense. It would appear that your prediction when we talked last, could be correct.

Valeri Knyazev Ė Not sure if heís an OHL caliber player at this point. Iíve seen Brampton play twice already this season, and he was a complete non factor in both games. Heís not getting much ice time either. I canít see him sticking in the league.

Anton Klementyev (New York Islanders) Ė Doesnít appear like heíll be playing in the OHL this year. Signed the contract with the Isles and currently with Bridgeport of the AHL. Always the chance he gets sent back, but itís starting to look like a bit of a long shot at this point. Seems the Isles are taking the Vyacheslav Voynov route with him.

Vadim Guskov Ė Not playing much in Guelph, been a healthy scratch. At this point, seems like a long shot to stick in the league.

In your opinion, what do Canadian teams search for in Russian players?

Good question Alessandro. I think it really depends on the team. A lot of teams use the Import Draft to help fill organizational holes. As for psychological qualities, I think the main thing theyíd probably look for would be stability and maturity. Itís tough for some of these guys to leave home, and if they are going to succeed over here, they are going to have to be flexible and open to learning new things. Theyíve got to adapt to the style of play that their team plays. In all honesty though, I think that a lot of CHL teams choose their Import selections somewhat blindly. Some of the more wealthier teams may have deals in place with players before selection, but I think others may just select a player and hope that they come over, not really knowing what to fully expect out of them.

What do you think about Kirill Kabanov's battle to play with Moncton?

Truthfully, I think itís kind of pathetic. Heís a kid and he just wants to play hockey. Right now the administrators are preventing him from getting on the ice and progressing as a hockey player. I donít understand this fighting over young players. If itís an older veteran whoís trying to break a contract, then I can understand it. But weíre talking about a 17 year old kid who just wants to play in the environment he feels will allow him to succeed. Who cares if he comes over here to play? Itís not a case of national pride, because heíll still develop into an outstanding hockey player who will do his country proud in the future. If a Canadian junior player decided to go to Sweden, or Russia, or Finland to play, I wouldnít hold any animosity towards him. As long as he develops into the player he can be, and returns to do his country proud, it doesnít matter the route he takes to get there. Do you think that in the future the teams will try to get more Russian players than now or that they might think that nowadays it's too risky to pick up a Russian, like it's in the NHL?

The last few years, Russian selections in the Import Draft have gone up considerably. I think thatís due in part to the fact that more Russian players want to come over. If they come over, it gives the illusion to NHL scouts that they are committed to playing in North America and to one day play in the NHL. In a sense, it feels to me like some of these guys are coming over in order to improve their NHL draft ranking after seeing whatís happened in the past few years to the talented players who stayed in Russia for their draft year.

Who was the best Russian player you saw in the CHL in the last few years? (Not necessarily in the OHL)

I really only get a chance to see the OHL, unless a WHL or QMJHL game is broadcast, like the Memorial Cup. As for the OHL, Evgeny Grachev is definitely up there. He completely dominated some games. As far as previous ones, I think youíd have to go back to the late 1990ís and early 2000ís. I remember watching Ivan Novoseltsev (Phoenix Coyotes) play for Sarnia. He had some of the best hands Iíve ever seen at the OHL level. He could have dangled himself out of a phone booth. Alexei Semenov was incredibly dominant as a defenseman for Sudbury. He was so massive and controlled play at both ends of the ice. Before Grachev, I believe he was the last Russian player to win a major OHL award.

In your opinion, can Burmistrov win the rookie of the year award?

Unfortunately he canít. Due to the rule change on the award voting, Burmistrov is no longer eligible for the award. To win the OHL Rookie of the Year Award, players now have to be in their 17 year or younger season. And if they are 17 (1992 born), they have to have only played less than one quarter of their teams games the season prior. This is in effort to try and eliminate 18 and 19 year olds like Evgeni Grachev (New York Rangers) winning the award. I definitely agree with its introduction. That said, that does mean that Ivan Telegin is eligible for the award and at this point, heíd definitely be considered a strong candidate.

What do you think about the upcoming WJC, does Russia have a chance to fight for the gold or not?

Tough to say. I mean, even though they donít have a gold medal in the last five years, they have medaled in five straight (3 silver, 2 bronze). There definitely sounds like there is a lot of talent offensively this year (just like in every year). Depends how they come together as a team, and on the quality of goaltending they get.

Related Player Profiles: . R.Berdnikov A.Burmistrov E.Grachev V.Guskov K.Kabanov A.Klementyev A.Loktionov I.Novoseltsev R.Sadikov A.Semenov S.Stepanov I.Telegin
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