Lost Russians: Winnipeg Jets



(Editors Note: Andrey Osadchenko is the senior Russian Correspondent at the Nations Network. He writes regularly in Russian at allhockey.ru, and has a series of web videos called "Joining the Rush" with Steve Dangle. Today Andrey catches up with some of the former Russian-born draft picks of the Jets organization. The piece underscores why drafting Russian-born players has gone somewhat out of style; simply put, it’s a risky proposition.)

By: Andrey Osadchenko

Technically the Jets are a very young organization and almost every project they are stuck with isn’t their fault but the Thrashers’. And while one can fairly point out that the Georgia-based team made it to the play-offs only once in their history, they still managed to pick arguably the best Russian player in the league a decade ago – Ilya Kovalchuk.

However, along with Kovy the Thrashers made a few questionable decisions when it came to his compatriots. Let’s have a look on their Ruskies List.

Yuri Dobryshkin

  • Age – 32
  • Position – LW
  • Height – 6’0
  • Weight – 187
  • Drafted – 1999 round 6 #159
  • Current club – Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

Thrashers drafted him shortly after 1999 World Juniors that Team Russia won. Ironically enough, the tournament was held in Winnipeg. As for Dobryshkin, he scored 5 goals and 7 points in 7 games. Not a bad guy to pick in the 6th round, eh? Or so it seemed.

Right after the World Juniors Dobryshkin signed with Ak Bars – one of the best clubs in the RSL. He was unable to compete with more experienced players for a spot on in the Top-6 and his productivity wasn’t great at all. Over the next few years he bounced between quite a few teams, but the points production simply wasn’t his biggest asset.

His biggest success was in 2002/03 when he managed to score 19 goals and 26 points in 49 regular season games for Severstal. Later on he picked up 5+2=7 points in 12 play-off games. Dobryshkin currently plays for one the most ambitious KHL clubs – Dynamo Moscow.

Is there a chance he would come over to play in North America? Absolutely none. When you’re 32 the last thing you want in your life is a big change with a vague outcome.

Who the Thrashers/Jets could have drafted instead of him?

Michael Leighton, Martin Erat, Tom Kostopoulos, Henrik Zetterberg, Radim Vrbata, Garnet Exelby, George Parros, Radek Martinek, Douglas Murray.

Denis Loginov

  • Age – 26
  • Position – Centre
  • Height – 6’2
  • Weight – 225
  • Drafted – 2003 round 7 #203 overall
  • Current club – Ertis Pavlodar (Kazakhstan)

It looked like the Thrashers got a steal in the 7th round. A Russian centre who is able to play physical? Is there anything better? The idea was there. The scouting, however, was poor.

After having played for Team Russia at the U18 IIHF World Championship Loginov played 16 games and scored 2 goals in the RSL for his hometown team – Ak Bars. Not too shabby for an 18-year-old. Unfortunately, that was the biggest season of his career so far.

He was unable to get a permanent spot on Ak Bars’ roster and went on playing in a second tier Russian league. 2 years ago he signed in Kazakhstan with Ertis Pavlodar. Should the Jets even bother calling him up for a try-out?

Who the Thrashers/Jets could have drafted instead of him?

Joe Pavelski, Kyle Brodziak, Jeremy Williams, Dustin Byfuglien, Shane O’Brien, Matt Moulson, Tanner Glass, Jaroslav Halak.

Ivan Telegin

  • Age – 19
  • Position – Centre
  • Height – 6’3
  • Weight – 194
  • Drafted – 2010 round 4 #101 overall
  • Current club – Barrie Colts (OHL)

Ok, this kid doesn’t exactly fall under the category of the lost draftpicks. After all, he bought out his KHL contract a few seasons ago, came to play in North America and was hands down terrific. Giving how big his body is, his willingness to build his career on this side of the Atlantic and his recent signing with the Jets, it wouldn’t come as a big surprise if he’s going to play in Winnipeg.

While he’s still obviously a young player, Telgin has already shown some signs of him being NHL-bound. He also scored for the Jets earlier this pre-season. The only problem that might spring up here is if one of the KHL clubs offers him big rubles to come back home. Money and family against the dream. Tough choice.

Who the Thrashers/Jets could have drafted instead of him?

Teemu Pulkkinen, Philipp Grubauer, Rob Flick, Troy Rutkowski, Petr Mrazek, Maxim Chudinov.

Ilya Nikulin

  • Age – 29
  • Position – D
  • Height – 6’3
  • Weight – 223
  • Drafted – 2000 round 2 #31 overall
  • Current club – Ak Bars (KHL)

Rumours about Nikulin coming over to play overseas spring up almost every summer. It has been reported that he was unbelievably close to signing with the Thrashers 2 years ago. However, having thought about the pros and cons, Ilya decided to stay in Russia.

One of the major factors in this decision was the fact that he is married and has kids. It has to be mentioned, though, that he is an NHL-calibre player for sure. If the Jets wanted to bring somebody from Europe to their blue line – Nikulin is definitely the guy. He is a 2-time RSL, KHL and IIHF World Championship winner. He’s got everything you want out of your d-man – skill, size, shot, positioning.

Should the Jets try to bring him over? They might try, but Ilya has some serious reasons to play in Russia.

Who the Thrashers/Jets could have drafted instead of him?

Nick Schultz, Brad Winchester, Tomas Kopecky, Kurtis Foster, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jarret Stoll, Andreas Lilja, Antoine Vermette, Paul Martin, Kurt Sauer, Michael Rupp, Niclas Wallin, Lubomir Visnovsky, John-Michael Liles, Travis Moen, Darcy Hordichuk.

  • Robert Cleave

    If Scheifele heads back to junior, he and Telegin might well be line mates. He has nice size, but like most kids, there’s a bit of work left for him in terms of play without the puck before he’s ready to be a pro.

    The others? Perils of drafting Russians, I guess. That noted, Atlanta didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with their drafting in general, so the fact that they busted with a few Russians is likely just a symptom of the broader organizational incompetence.

  • Always perilous drafting Russian players. It’s either a home run or not as you eluded to with all these examples of busts.

    Kovalchuk, Malkin, and Ovechkin are the best to come out of there lately, but aside from that, not many late rounder Russians seem to make much of any noise, NHL or not.

    And, as Robert mentioned, Atlanta scouts weren’t exactly the gods of draft floor either.

  • RexLibris

    Wow, that draft record is worse than the Flames. Sorry, Kent, I couldn’t resist.

    Seriously, I think the franchise may have decided on a high-risk, high-reward philosophy when drafting and believed that the often-flashy play of Russian forwards would help grow the fan base in a non-traditional hockey market. Unfortunately, they Flamed out (these Atlanta puns are great!). The Oilers have had a mixed record with their European picks as well. It seems for every Kurri there were two Jani Ritas or an Alexei Mikhnov. That being said there have been a lot of teams that have swung and missed on overseas talent early in the draft. One of the best measures for a scouting department is the consistency and quality with which they can scout and procure European talent (the reason Detroit’s scouting record is often used as an example).

    I don’t think it’s always helpful to play the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game when it comes to drafting. Just today I was looking at the ’07 draft and wondering why the Oilers traded up to get Alex Plante (#15) when P.K. Subban was just sitting there at #43. Hindsight is 20/20. Unless you’re Brian Burke, then you were always right and nothing will ever change that.