If the Edmonton Oilers are looking for a "bookend talent" to pair with Nail Yakupov, Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff might want to check out Valeri Nichushkin. He leads a strong group of 2013 draft eligibles from Russia on the road to Ufa for the 2013 World Junior Championships.
- F Valeri Nichushkin, Chelmet Chelyabinsk (KHL): Top Russian for the draft is a big W (6.03, 176) who is listed as both a RW and LW depending on which online source you’re reading. He is a KHL player at 17–no easy feat–and is 8, 0-2-2 +3 after starting the season a couple of rungs below Russia’s top league. Goran Stubb, Central Scouting Director for Europe: "He’s your classic Russian forward with speed, talent and skills. He’s very good with the puck and is very fast. He creates a lot of scoring chances with quick, surprising moves around the net."
- L Anton Slepyshev Metallurg Novokuznetsk (RSL): I’m delighted this player is in the WJ’s and as a draft eligible (he didn’t get selected last season) has an exceptional chance to improve his draft stock. Corey Pronman: Slepyshev is an above-average skater who is tremendously agile and is also able to get up to a notable top gear. When you combine his great agility with the fact he has high-end puck skills, he really is a nuisance to check. Slepyshev is very effective at dodging opponents and creating space for himself. I’ve seen times on penalty kills where he would dance around the opposing zone for 15-25 seconds because several opponents keep missing him. Slepyshev has a plus if not near that shot and he knows it, as he has a shoot-first mentality with the ability to score from way out.
- G Patrik Bartosak, Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Big goalie getting results in the WHL (.931 SP) down the QE2. WHL From Above: Bartosak is a big goaltender with a bit of an odd playing style. Needs some refinement and plays pretty raw, but would make a good project.
- D Marek Hrbas Kamloops Blazers (WHL): In a down period for the Czechs, Hrbas played well enough to get some notice at last year’s WJs and may duplicate it this Christmas.
- D Tomas Pavelka P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL): He hasn’t gotten a lot of attention when discussing the 2013 draft, but he’s 29, 6-20-26 for the Rocket and those are good numbers. Redline Report scout Radim Jelinek once called him a "hardworking, character defenceman" so there may be something there.
- D Tim Bender, Jungadler Mannheim U18: I’m cheating a little here, as Bender is not listed on the tsn German roster, so he may be injured or didn’t make the team (which seems like a stretch). Either way, he’s definitely an interesting player. Thomas Roost, NHL.com: "Tim Bender is a smart, puck-moving defender who joins the rush, has good play-making instincts, good vision and a very good passing game. His skating is decent to good, good mobility. He has the tools to become an offensive defenseman. On the downside he is just not physical, not strong enough yet, he has to work on that and also on intensity, but overall I like his smartness and his offensive tools."
- R Marko Dano HC Slovan Bratislava (KHL): Pronman: Dano is one of the more talented young players Slovakia has produced in recent years. He’s a gifted skater with good speed and agility, a high amount of skill and creativity to go along with good offensive awareness. He measures in at 5-foot-11′ though.Dano is playing in the KHL and will be a player to watch at the WJs.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
For one reason or another, the Russians, Czechs, Germans and Slovaks do not get the love from NHL teams come draft day UNLESS they’re playing in Canada or the USA. Part of it is the worry over players not signing (read: control) and I do think at times there remains a bias (Slepyshev might be an example) about the Russian player.
Either way, at this early stage of the 2013 entry draft follow, there appears to be a large number of kids at the World Juniors. What does that mean? A strong, strong draft is brewing.
There’s only 2 more shopping days until Christmas. Make sure to spoil the ones you love. This outfit is available at Victoria’s Secret, I am told.