Just looking down the list of draftees, the number of Russians selected is rather striking, as is the number that were complete busts for the teams taking them. Does anyone have some data or inside info on what motivated this trend and why it ended so badly? Granted, there are a few good picks and this wasn't a particularly deep draft, but the proportion of Russians seems to indicate that scouts thought there was something there that obviously wasn't.
Here's a run-down of the first three rounds...
8. Tampa Bay: Nikita Alexeev (played juniors in OHL)
10. Chicago: Mikhail Yakubov
11. Chicago: Pavel Vorobiev
12. Anaheim: Alexei Smirnov
15. Buffalo: Artem Kryukov
17. Edmonton: Alexei Mikhnov
20. Los Angeles: Alexander Frolov (a couple of 30+ goal seasons before leaving for KHL)
21. Ottawa: Anton Volchenkov
31. Atlanta: Ilja Nikulin (solid d-man in KHL)
34. Tampa Bay: Ruslan Zaynullin
44. Anaheim: Ilya Bryzgalov
50. Colorado: Sergei Soin
53. Pheonix: Alexander Tatarinov
56. New Jersey: Alexander Suglobov
58. Florida: Vladimir Sapozhnikov
73. Boston: Sergei Zinovjev (a top offensive talent in KHL)
74. Chicago: Igor Radulov
81. Tampa Bay: Alexander Kharitonov
83. Edmonton: Alexander Lyubimov
91. Dallas: Alexei Tereshenko
92. Colorado: Sergei Klyazmin
94. Philadelphia: Alexander Drozdetsky
Last edited by ForsbergForever: 11-28-2012 at 05:58 PM.
My thoughts on the number of early Russians/Europeans has to do with the NHL Lockout in 1995. My thought is (and its unproven) that the best of the best in adolescence play multiple sports. 1999 and 2000 draftees were 13, 14, 15 years old when the lockout hit in North America - and for those kids, when they had to "pick" a sport to go further in, they chose something else...baseball, for instance...some influx of talent into European leagues springing interest and participation in hockey abroad, the fall of communism perhaps opening up a younger generation to the world, the as-of-yet unforeseen death of offense (?), the semi-takeover of European stars in the NHL (1998: top-3 goal scorers in the NHL were European, 4 of top 5; top-3 leading point-getters as well; 1999: 3 of top 4 goal scorers, 3 of 4 top point-getters and 7 of 12 plus Nicklas Lidstrom was a 1st team all-star each year, Dominik Hasek was the best goalie in the game...the game had a heavy international influence...didn't the All-Star game switch to North America vs. World at around this time as well? lots of factors).
I remember very vividly the 2000 draft. 1999 was a year of heavy European influence as well and we didn't realize just how bad of a draft it was going to be at that time yet. Same with 2000. Not a very good all-time draft. But there were lots of Russians/Europeans in general taken and my first thought was how hard it was going to be to win in the World Juniors because of this. And for a while, Canada was always on the losing end of the Russian games.
Did you look at World Junior Performance at all? I didn't but maybe something there though it seems like a fad the same as picking huge sized players due to the Lindros factor (which was more of an unfortunate trend leading to less talent in the league around 2001-04 once they failed to hit their peaks). Maybe there was an advancement in scouting of Russian players such as the country being opened up more to allow for easier scouting or teams increasing their scouting budgets.
Scouts are really interesting people in the world of hockey but it's a shame that they don't have much of an internet presence, they aren't exactly young but I bet they'd have some good stories on this. I'd also be curious as to how the Russian/KHL careers of those players turned out. Did the ones who bust in the NHL after trying to make it through the AHL route lose development years and bust in Europe as well or did they go on to be good players elsewhere.
I see Zinovjev and Nikulin as two stand-out RSLers/KHLers at the very least...it's not like talent wasn't drafted certainly...2000 draft picks aren't going to be ready til 2003, 2004, 2005...we all know what happened in 2005 and the league wasn't exactly a delicate butterfly of the utmost technical precision in 2003 and 2004...