The 2009 NHL Entry Draft is just a few months away now and this is the first of many posts on the subject. In photo is Alexei Mikhnov who cost the Oilers a first round draft pick and whose bio was so obscure it gave fans a chance to make up a history (Traktor Boy!) some of which can be reviewed by clicking on the label Mikhnov below this post.
Alexei Mikhnov is not completely off the Oiler radar, as I believe they still hold his rights. However, Russia may be gone completely from Edmonton’s final draft list as the lack of a transfer agreement combined with minimal success in this area suggest they look elsewhere for their prospects.
It’s probably a mistake.
There’s a gentleman who posts over at HF I’ve been reading for a couple of years now who is employed in a scouting capacity by an NHL team. The exact level of employment is unknown to me but his verbal is compelling enough for me to believe he does indeed have a connection to the scouting community in some way.
I find what he says about the Russian kids in the draft to be incredibly interesting: There is a greater disparity among scouts when ranking Russian players than with any other country. Until June, and even after, it can be hard to get a half-decently accurate grasp of how they rate. Even among Russian scouts, the disagreements about Russian players’ worth and potential are almost legendary- they tend to vary far more than the scouts and players of any other country or league.
Why would that be? Obvious reasons include lack of exposure on the international stage (U-17, that Russian touring team that gets their ass handed to them on a plate by CHL teams every winter, there aren’t many) and playing their own league games in faraway places in the Russian hinterlands.
I’m not certain but it’s likely a team that is mining the Russian juniors effectively will end up with a drafted list superior to a team that looks the other way. Even with the lack of a transfer agreement an NHL team should be looking to Russia because at some point the hockey men of the world will get together and sign off on something (the crumbling KHL may hurry this along) and the fact is that if you’re drafting a player with first round ability at 125 overall that can only be a good thing.
Since 2005, Edmonton has drafted 1 Russian in their 24 selections. Alexander Bumagin was a late pick who has certainly covered his draft bet (170th overall in 2006) by playing a regular shift in the KHL.
In 2008, the top Russians drafted were Nikita Filatov, Viktor Tikhnov and Slava Vojnov. All three are playing in North America and the first two are in the NHL at this time. It’s the Russians who are staying in Russia that are the concern and it’s my opinion that the best bargains available later in the draft will come from this talent pool.
NHL teams must fish where the fish are when it comes to drafting prospects. But if you can fish where the fish are ALONE is that not worth a try?
The Oilers built their dynasty in part by being the first to Finland at the draft. The Red Wings helped their cause by being far superior in Sweden and Russia and acquiring impact talents later than their talent level warranted. The next Fedorov may not be scouted by a dozen NHL teams. I don’t believe the Oilers are going to get him because they don’t have a line in the water.
I’m reminded of the day in 1981 when I first saw Fernando Valenzuela. Vin Scully told me the Dodgers found him so far back in Mexico the scout reported he’d stepped back in time 100 years when entering the village and the major problem for the young lefty was going to be culture shock.
The talented Russian kids who stay at home are a scouting “perfect storm” and it would be a good idea to have Frank Musil grab his tackle box and hit the water.