In the first part of this article series I exposed the myth that Russian players coming over to play North American juniors leads to a successful pro career. I provided a detailed look at the last ten years of NHL drafts showing that Russian players that developed in Russia were far more successful than those who played in North American Juniors.
If you look at the data you will see that in the last 10 years every Russian forward who has come to North American Juniors at age 17 has ended up a bust or basically a bust.
Really read that statement and let it sink in. Think about how many top Russian prospects careers have been ruined or fallen way short of their potential. Its downright criminal.
As I have previously explained this practice goes on because the NHL brass wants full control of players development, for better or worse, and Canadian Junior teams loves to have top Russian prospects because it gives them a competitive advantage and makes the league better.
For anyone willing to look at the data and be honest they will see that the LEAST successful career path for a Russian player is to come to North American Juniors at age 17. Being pressured to come over prematurely to play in the AHL is also another bad path.
Despite those career paths being the least successful they are the career paths that NHL leadership and Western fans try to pressure Russian players into taking. Does this make any sense?
It is a very nonsensical dynamic. What good does it do an NHL team to draft a player that will likely be a bust? None obviously. It hurts the player and it hurts the NHL team. The NHL teams though would rather have the occasional bust than have less control over Russian prospects.
In recent months theres been at least some positive developments in this situation. Vladimir Kuznetsov who was the top pick in the Canadian Junior import draft went undrafted in the NHL draft. Dmitry Sokolov who was considered a top ten pick like a year ago fell to the 7th round. Vitali Abramov who had huge goal scoring numbers in Canadian Juniors fell to the 3rd round.
Is this because NHL brass is grudgingly becoming aware that almost every Russian kid that plays Canadian Juniors does not pan out, especially forwards? Perhaps. That is a good development because it will make it harder for predatory agents to convince Russian kids to play in Canadian Juniors if they see other Russians who take this path fall in the draft.
Another positive development is the top Russian prospect in next years draft, Klim Kostin, turned down Canadian Juniors despite being the top pick in the import draft. A few other top Russian prospects like Kirill Slepets also rejected Canadian Juniors.
Sadly though a number of Russians still fell for the North American Juniors trap. Good forward prospects like Ivan Chkhovich, Ivan Kozlov, and Pavel Koltygin. These guys are now on a path where they an almost certain chance of being an NHL bust.
Its the same cycle of BS over and over again. These guys go to Canadian Juniors and put up big numbers against other kids. The fans then think wow this guy is really something. Then over the next few years as they go against higher competition and try to make the NHL team it is exposed just how much they have regressed.
Klim Kostin made a decision that will give him the best chance of being a successful NHL player and what does he get for it, demonized and labeled with “Russian factor” by idiots who run draft guides etc. Meanwhile Russian players who came to Canadian Juniors which will likely cause them to be a bust are praised for their career path. Its mind numbing.
One of the things that makes me most mad about this situation is how especially Canadian fans do everything they can to deflect responsibility for what is being done to these prospects and to try to pin it on “cultural differences” as part of the Russophobic ignorance here.
Because of the constant anti Russian propaganda in the West people have a very fictional view of Russia and think its an ice hell where people are living in gulags. They somehow think their boondock Canadian cities where the nicest architecture is the Tim Hortons is paradise and that Russia is a shit hole.
Lets talk about the big “cultural differences” between Russia and the West. In Russia white Christians aren’t treated like pariahs. In Russia an ultra liberal social agenda isn’t shoved down peoples throats 24/7. In Russia there is less of an obsession with consumerism and gluttony.
None of these things would have any bearing on a hockey players success. And as far as the language barrier, English is taught in Russian schools and English music etc is prevalent in Russian society. This is why Russians pick up English so fast in North America. They know the gist of English but just usually not on a conversational level.
The reason Artemi Panarin’s English was so behind is he studied German instead of English as a second language. And now hes even picking up English pretty fast. Panarin not having a good grasp of English sure didn’t affect his play. He won rookie of the year.
Most people aren’t aware of it but there is numerous Americans and Canadians in Russia’s hockey and basketball leagues. These are people that can’t speak one lick of Russian yet are very successful in Russian sports leagues.
If people want to think that “cultural differences” would prevent a Russian from having success in North America then the opposite should hold true or even more so if Russia is so “backward”.
No, the reality is these foreign players thrive in Russia and the Russian players know enough English to communicate with them.
There is two big logic fails with the “cultural differences” deflection. Firstly, Russian kids that come to North American Juniors have no problem putting up big numbers. Their regression is exposed later when facing higher level competition.
Secondly, the Russian players who are having the most success in the NHL are guys like Panarin, Tarasenko, Kuznetsov who developed in Russia and came to North America with little exposure to North America
As I stated in the first part of this series the reason Russian prospects who play North American Juniors end up as busts is because they leave before mastering the Russian hockey style and then learn a new hockey style which they won’t master either. Its stunting their development.
Here we are at the start of another NHL season and look who the next good Russian players will be. Pavel Buchnevich who resisted tons of pressure to come over sooner and developed in Russia till he was 21. And Nikita Zaitsev who fully developed in Russia and has now come over at age 24.
And lets look at the current status of some Russian players who came to Canadian Juniors around age 17. All these guys failed to make the NHL roster once again. Stan Galiev, Sergei Tolchinsky, Valentin Zykov, Ivan Barbashev, Evgeni Svechnikov, Nikolai Goldobin, Nikita Scherbak, Andrey Pedan.
How is it that a relatively novice hockey fan like myself can fully understand and acknowledge this problem yet the whole North American hockey establishment whitewashes it?
With as obsessed with analytics etc as North American hockey is how could they possibly not notice that almost all the Russians that play North American Juniors end up as busts?
My point is they do know. They know they are ruining a lot of Russian prospects but they aren’t going to acknowledge that because they don’t want the system to change.
What I hope to achieve is to end the absurd myth that coming to North American Juniors helps Russian prospects. I would also like for Canadian Juniors to acknowledge the problem and accept culpability. Canadian Juniors should then look at ways to reform such as reducing the amount of foreign players and stop doing business with predatory agents.
This isn’t rocket science. Russian players should properly develop in the Russian hockey system until at least 20 years old. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt their best path to a successful professional career. This is the best thing for their career. It in turn is then the best thing for the NHL as they will be drafting players that are less likely to be a bust.
The same Russphrenia that exists in Western politics exists in Western hockey. From one side of their mouth they propagandize that Russian hockey leagues are on the verge of collapse. From the other side of their mouth they whine about how Russian teams can throw big amounts of money at Russian players.
NHL teams need to change their approach to Russian prospects. They have stop trying so hard to control and pressure Russian prospects and demonizing them for taking a career path that gives them the best chance of success.
What the NHL is doing to Russian prospects is unethical and immoral. But they aren’t likely to change. This is why its up to regular people like me to point out their misdeeds and make this issue more known in hopes of reform.
Canadian fans also need to stop being so defensive. Pointing out how Russian prospects are being ruined in Canadian Juniors is not an attack on the quality of their system. Its all about changing develop style before mastering the previous style.
Several top Russian hockey prospects are being ruined every year but nobody is accepting responsibility for this. That needs to stop.