A fairly quiet night in the NHL with only 1 game on the schedule…San Jose at Winnipeg in a battle of WC wild card teams.
I thought it might be a good opportunity to update the performance thus far of the Russian players in the NHL since a few of them are having spectacular seasons and at least one is on a fast track to nowhere.
1) Evgeni Malkin is, as you might expect, leading the way with 17G and 43 points which for him is an average season.
2) Following very close on Malkin’s heels is budding superstar Vladimir Tarasenko whose 22 goals puts him on pace for 56. The 16th overall pick in the 2010 draft is looking like he might change the post-mortem of that draft, now 5 seasons in, by season’s end.
3) Another revelation sitting in 3rd spot is Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning with 17 goals and 39 points. That Kucherov was drafted 58th overall in 2011, makes the 29 other NHL teams look a little silly. Interestingly, Tampa used its first 3 picks in that draft on Russians, also picking up Vladimir Namestnikov in the 1st round and D Nikita Nesterov in the 3rd round. Namestnikov has 3 goals and 7 points this season while Nesterov has also played 2 NHL games this season. and, by the way, yhe Lightning also picked up Andrej Palat in that 2011 draft…all he has done is score 93 points in 122 NHL games. Wow, what a draft.
4) Alex Ovechkin seems to have needed a bit of time getting used to the new coaching regime in Washington but has been coming on lately with a total of 19 goals and 34 points. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if a strong second half sees him come close to 50 goals.
5) Pavel Datsyuk makes #5 on this despite only playing 28 games due to injury. His 13 goals and 28 points in those 28 games is testament to his sublime skills.
6) Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov comes in at # 6 on this list with 5 goals and 19 points which is a pretty average season for him.
7) Veteran checking winger Nikolai Kulemin has helped propel the New York Islanders to near the top of the EC standings although at 6 goals and 14 points is a far cry from the 30 goal 57 point season he recored with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2010/11
8) 22 year old centre Evgeny Kuznetsov might be deemed a slight disappointment here with only 4 goals and 14 points. But the former 1st round pick is not playing a feature role with the Washington Capitals so perhaps there is still some hope he can break out.
9/10) 2 defensemen, Dimitri Kulikov and Alexei Emelin round out the top 10 with identical 1 goal 11 point seasons.
There are 4 Russian players in the NHL this season who must be considered disappointments. Slava Voynov remains suspended while facing domestic assault charges, Alex Semin, with his 7 million dollar contract has managed to produce all of 1 goal and 4 points in his 22 GP, while Valeri Nichushkin has missed all but 4 games due to injury.
The 4th disappointment has to be former 1st overall pick Nail Yakupov who continues to fly around the ice with wild abandon accomplishing almost nothing…managing to post only 4 goals, 9 points and a league worst -19.
As an upcoming RFA, I would imagine there’s a better than even chance that Yakov is traded but the Edmonton Oilers for a used tissue or returns to play in Russia.
The last 1st overall pick who failed in such spectacular fashion was Patrik Stefan who scored 7 goals and 23 points in his 3rd season after being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. He would top out in the NHL in 2003/04 scoring 14 goals and 41 points for the Thrashers and finished his career with Bern in the Swiss league in 2007/08.