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The Norsemen Suck at Drafting Russians

by Matt MacInnis | April 6, 2018, 6:39 PM ET

 

The ‘Russian question’ has been an ongoing topic in draft circles basically dating back to when Soviet players were permitted to play outside of Russia, but it has ratcheted up over the past decade. Today teams seemingly blindly swing for the fences when they use valuable draft picks on Russian players. One team, the Vancouver Island Norsemen, have a particularly sordid and humiliating track record. This analysis reviews every draft pick of a Russian player (actually, for simplicity’s sake we’ve included anyone from a ‘Russian block’ country) made by GM MacInnis. It is awfully depressing.

2003

Konstantin Glazachev (2nd round, 35th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Glazachev was thought to be a legitimate scoring threat at the time, but never showed much interest in crossing the Atlantic. No 33, Glazachev has turned in a solid career in the KHL, where he currently plays for something called Admiral Vladivostok. He peaked in the first year of the KHL, when he scored 28 gaols and 52 points for Barys Astana.

Fail rating: Pretty bad

Konstantin Zakharov (5th round, 98th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Why pick one Konstantin in a draft when you can draft TWO? Fun fact: There were FIVE Konstantins drafted in the 2003 Entry Draft. The many-Konstantin approach was a failure for all the SICHL teams, as not a single one ever cracked an SICHL roster. Zakharov, who is actually Belarussian, was taken after a solid draft year season for Moncton of the QMJHL. From there his development went off the rails, as he was rushed to the AHL where he floundered and never really recovered. He still plays in the Belarus league, where he’s a solid offensive contributor.

Fail rating: Oops, I did it again

2004

Gennady Stolyarov (8th round, 172nd overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Gennady never really showed any meaningful signs of promise. Although he is still active in the KHL, he’s only reached 20 points in a season twice in his career. He was a late round pick that didn’t pay off.

Fail rating: Meh

Mikhail Grabovski (8th round, 178th overall)

SICHL Games: 530

The first success, although he is from Belarus, Grabovski owns the title of “Favourite Belarussian player” in GM MacInnis’ heart. Grabo actually played parts of 7 seasons with the Norsemen before he was traded to the Canons for a 3rd round pick (which was used to select highly-rated prospect Adam Fox). Grabo’s best season with the team was during the 2012-13 year when he put up a stunning 106 points (more than a third of his career total). The season will stay in the Norsemen record books for quite some time as he currently has the second highest point and goal totals in a single season in franchise history.

Fail rating: Holy hell, an actual success!

2005

Oskars Bartulis (4th round, 75th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

A Latvian, this one hurt for the GM as he’d personally scouted the lanky blueliner and thought there was real top-4 potential in him. Alas, it didn’t work out for the Norsemen, but Bartulis did play 66 games in ‘that other league’ and continues to have a role in the KHL and regularly represents Latvia in international play.

Fail rating: That’s not too bad

2006

Kaspars Daugavins (4th round, 78th overall)

SICHL Games: 111

Another Latvian from Riga, Daugavins was a feisty winger with perceived upside. He came over to play in the OHL after being drafted, which really helped his development. He never actually played for the Norsemen as the team packaged him with Chris Neil shortly after the draft for playmaking winger David Vyborny. Daugavins had a cup of coffee in the big show and continues to play well in the KHL today.

Fail rating: Almost approaching a success

Denis Kazionov

8th round, 179th overall

SICHL Games: 0

Another extremely late pick, Kazionov never showed any promise of making it to the SICHL. He’s still kicking around the KHL though.

Fail rating: Total fail

2007

Alexei Cherepanov (1st round, 7th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

He died.

Fail rating: N/A

Ilja Kablukov (5th round, 120th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

There was a time when Kablukov was seen as a potential third line shut-down centre in the SICHL. That never materialized. He has managed to make a good career of it in the KHL, where he’s a member of the powerful SKA St. Petersburg club.

Fail rating: Pretty bad

2008

Inexplicably, it could 6 drafts before the Norsemen realized taking Russians wasn’t a good idea.

2009

Dmitri Orlov (2nd round, 47th overall)

SICHL Games: 168 (and counting)

Another success! Currently finishing up his second full-time SICHL season, the two-way defenceman is actually on path to have a long and eventful career in the big leagues. Only five of the games came with the Norsemen as he was dealt to the Tigers in 2015 for Carl Hagelin.

Fail rating: Not a fail, not even a little bit!

2010

Ivan Telegin (3rd round, 71st overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Despite having just four picks, the Norsemen just couldn’t help themselves. Still somewhat of a fringe prospect, the Novokuznetsk native hasn’t panned out at the SICHL level, although he did just win a gold medal in the Olympics.

Fail rating: Looking quite faily right now

2011

None selected

2012

Daniil Zharkov (2nd round, 54th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Pretty much a disaster from the start. He wasn’t very good at hockey, then he left North America to play in Russia, then he sat out the 2015-16 season, and now he’s playing in some random lower tier league in Russia.

Fail rating: A spectacular fail

013

None

2014

None

2015

Alexander Dergachyov (2nd round, 50th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Well, he’s really big. At 6’5, 220 lbs, he has the prototypical size for an imposing power forward. But he hasn’t shown that he’s good enough to make the SICHL. He flashed at the 2015 WJC tournament, which led to his spot on the Norsemen draft board, but his position has been hard to justify ever since.

Fail rating: Well on his way to Fail City

Nikita Korestelev (4th round, 96th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Korestelev was a reach on draft day and the organization knew it. As he said on draft day: “The second of three Russians picked by Vancouver Island this draft, Korestelev was seen as a reach by most draft observers. A hard shooting RW with good skating skills, he’s playing in North America with the Sarnia Sting.  He needs to improve some of the intangibles in his game if he hopes to make the next step to professional hockey successfully.  If he’s able to figure it out, Korestelev could be a steal who develops into a top six scoring forward.”

Well, he hasn’t figured it out, yet.

Fail rating: Not looking good…

Vladislav Gavrikov (5th round, 124th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

An overage selection, Gavrikov actually shows real promise. He was a key member of the gold-medal winning Russian Olympic team and is clearly good enough to play in the SICHL – if he wants to. The next step for the team will be to lure him to the Island.

Fail rating: Not a fail! (yet)

2016

After three Russians the year before, the team decided to take a break.

2017

Nikita Popugaev (3rd round, 64th overall)

SICHL Games: 0

Normally it’d be too early to judge a 2017 pick. But this is a special case. Here’s what GM MacInnis had to say on draft day: “We know there’s a lot of risk with Nikita, but we also know he has ‘sick mitts’, as the kids say.  I have no idea today what role Popugaev will play on our team in five years, but I feel that it could be everything from playing alongside Sid to working in a tire disposal centre on the outskirts of Moscow.  In this draft, we believed you need to take risks in order to be rewarded, and this pick was a risk.”

He might already be working at that tire fire yard. After leaving his WHL team this season, Nikita has bounced around obscure Russian leagues.

Fail rating: Tire fire fail

The results

The team has drafted 16 Russian players, who have played a sum of 809 games (from three players). Most of that comes from Grabovski’s 530 SICHL appearances.

Interestingly, Orlov is the only actual Russian to make the SICHL so far (Grabo is Belarussian, Daugavins is Latvian).

The team still has some hope with Gavrikov that they’ll add to these totals, but history and certainly not on their side.

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