When I was a kid, we thought Russia was pretty much the moon. The bad side of the moon. Their women wore men’s clothes and won weightlifting contests and their hit songs had titles like “I Hurt Myself Picking up Heavy Things.” The face of Russia was Leonid Brezhnev, a man who did more to advance the discussion of eyebrows than anyone in history.
To put it simply, we didn’t know Jack Diddly about Russia when I was a kid. They were bad, we were good. Then came the 1972 series (one in which the Canadian side acted more like the neanderthals we suspected the Russians were) and a bird’s eye view of the true beauty of the Russian game. Puck possession, expert passing, team.
I think the modern KHL is being demonized in a way similar to the USSR back in my youth. This week, the idea of drafting a Russian player first overall is taking a beating. That article explains a lot of it, and we know Oilers scouting director Stu MacGregor has spoken about “five” prospects being bunched together at the top of the draft.
I suspect the five are Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk, Grigorenko and Griffin Reinhart. That’s the group I believe Edmonton would be considering, although Morgan Rielly and Filip Forsberg may also be in the mix.
My own personal feeling is this: the KHL is a rival league and they are winning players by paying them more. There’s nothing wrong with that, I think reasonable people would agree that these young men deserve to earn the most money they can in what is a very short career.
However, if you’re the Edmonton Oilers and read these stories? Does it give you pause? Would it impact your decision? Do you well remember the stories of past difficulties in getting these Russian kids over here to stay?
I’ll tell you, this thing is getting more interesting by the day. Maybe they should draft the kid from Milwaukee? Maybe they’ll just take the defenseman number one overall?
Do you think there’s a danger here for the Oilers in taking Yakupov? If they took him and he signed in the KHL would you blame the Oilers or consider it a reasonable risk?