Toronto’s Lost Russians

Andrey Osadchenko is the Nations’ friendly roving Russian reporter who joins us for a look at some Leafs’ picks that haven’t panned out.

You wouldn’t think of the Leafs as of an organization who falls for sexy Russian picks. On the contrary, if they draft a Russian, they tend to do so in a late round. Lower expectations lead to lesser disappointment. Although, if this shot in the dark miraculously turns into something valuable, anybody would take it on any given day.

Need an example? Daniil Markov – drafted in 1995, 9th round, 223rd overall, 538 games in the NHL. Sergei Berezin – drafted in 1994, 10th round, 256th overall, 502 games in the NHL. Nikolai Borschevsky – drafted in 1992, 4th round, 77th overall, 162 games in the NHL.

However, there were more losses than gains for the Leafs with ruskies. Here are the most recent ones.

Dmitri Vorobiev

Age – 25
Position – D
Height – 6’2
Weight – 212
Drafted – 2004 round 5 #157 overall
Current club – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)

Vorobiev may very well have been a steal of the 2004 draft. Alumni of one the best Russian hockey schools – Lada Togliatti – Dmitri made his debut in the RSL at the age of 18. He played 23 games for his hometown team in 2003/2004 and had a goal in one of them. His size was promising him a bright future. The Leafs figured it would be in the NHL. Wrong move.

After winning a silver medal at the 2005 IIHF U20 World Championship, Vorobiev continued to play for national Team Russia and first team of Lada for which he was putting some big numbers for a young defenseman. In a period between 2005 and 2008 he played 141 regular season games in RSL, scored 27 goals and 53 points.

As a cherry on the top he won the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Quebec. Half way through 2008-09 season he signed with Salavat Yulaev – KHL powerhouse. Things looked very bright for him. Unfortunately, on the 13th of October Avangard’s forward and Rangers’ prospect, Alexei Cherepanov, sadly passed away because of heart issues. The KHL made every player under the age of 25 run tests and Vorobiev’s results didn’t come out too good.

He was banned from playing in the KHL for a long period of time – until he confirmed with the doctors that he wasn’t going to have any heart problems. However, after this incident Vorobiev’s career went downhill. He had an ok season with Dynamo Moscow in 2009/10, missed most of the last season and now plays for a modest team from Nizhny Novgorod.

He might be an interesting guy to see at the training camp but chances of him ever coming over to North America are slim to say the least.

Who the Leafs could have drafted instead?

Mike Brown, Patrick Kaleta, Karri Ramo, Andrew Gordon, Troy Brouwer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Campoli, Pekka Rinne, Daniel Winnik, Jannik Hansen.

Konstantin Volkov

Age – 26
Position – RW
Height – 6’0
Weight – 192
Drafted – 2003 round 4 #125 overall
Current club – Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

He was never considered as a guy who would one day a Top-6 forward. Even in his junior career he never played for Team Russia and his stats were average at most. Interestingly enough, even though he was born in St.Petersburg, Volkov is Dynamo Moscow alumni.

Konstantin was always known for his grittiness which was greatly appreciated for three seasons in Vityaz – a team that is usually referred to as ‘all-goon squad’. In 2008 he was unable to sign with any KHL teams and was forced to spend an entire season in a minor Russian league. However, exactly one year after that he was playing in the KHL final series for HC MVD.

The following summer this team merged with Dynamo Moscow and Volkov returned to the club who once gave him a chance to play pro hockey.

To sum it up – very reliable 3rd-liner who wasn’t cut out to play in the NHL.

Who the Leafs could have drafted instead?

Kyle Quincey, Lee Stempniak, Lasse Kukkonen, Brad Richardson, Marc Methot, Drew Miller, Joe Pavelski, Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Shane O’Brien, Matt Moulson, Tanner Glass, Nick Tarnasky, Brian Elliott.

Alexander Shinkar

Age – 30
Position – RW
Height – 6’2
Weight – 198
Drafted – 2000 round 8 #254 overall
Current club – Lada Togliatti (VHL)

When it comes to the 8th-rounders, you deal with a very odd crowd. The majority of players drafted so late never make it to the NHL. Shinkar is another beautiful example of this simple truth. However, one can’t help but raise his eyebrows in this case. Alexander was never considered a top crop player in Russia, but it didn’t change the Leafs’ mind – they wanted him for whatever reason.

He played 12 seasons in RSL/KHL for Severstal, Salavat Yulaev and (mostly) SKA St.Petersburg. His best record is 16 goals and 30 points in 2004-05 season. Last year he received no offers from KHL clubs and signed a very modest contract with Lada Togliatti, which now plays in a Russian equivalent of the American Hockey League.

Do the Leafs need him? Did they ever?

Who the Leafs could have drafted instead?

Micki Dupont, Reinhard Divis, Roman Simicek, Andrej Nedorost, Simon Gamache.