TORONTO -- Inquiring minds want to know. Will the next Russian superstar materialize from this year's draft class?
With all the excitement that Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and, of course, Washington's Alex Ovechkin have generated over the years, it certainly wouldn't hurt.
"Those kinds of guys are few and far between," Ontario Hockey League scout Chris Edwards told NHL.com.
According to the mid-term rankings released in January, there are as many as seven Russian players in the running. Of those seven, all forwards, four have benefited from playing within the Canadian Hockey League this season.
Kirill Kabanov, who played for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before opting to return to Russia last week, might have blown any chance he had at securing a star-studded label with an NHL team.
That left three Russian players currently within the North American system. Right wing Stanislav Galiev of the QMJHL's St. John Sea Dogs, center Alex Burmistrov of the OHL's Barrie Colts and left wing Ivan Telegin of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit are the only players committed to learning the North American style while becoming acclimated to smaller rinks and perfecting their two-way game.
Edwards can appreciate the fact more Russian players are deciding to give the North American game a try.
"At some point, you have to show us what you have," Edwards said. "You can't base everything on reputation alone."
Burmistrov (22 goals, 65 points in 62 games) was the highest-rated Russian player (No. 7) on the mid-term list for North American teams, while Telegin (26 goals, 44 points in 51 games) was ranked 26th. Burmistrov, who had 3 goals and 4 points in 6 games at the World Junior Championships in Saskatoon in January, was discussed in great length during the scouting meetings at the NHL offices this week.
"Seeing these kids play in North America gives you a little bit more of a comfort level knowing they're here already," Edwards said. "Nowadays you never know whether the Russian guys are going to come over or go back home the next year."
Chris Bordeleau, a scout for the QMJHL, has viewed Galiev and likes what he sees. The 6-foot, 177-pound forward is rated 23rd on Central Scouting's mid-term report.
"He can play a more physical game because he played in the USHL (with the Indiana Ice) last year, so he's used to that," Bordeleau said. "Galiev is a hard worker and has played very well and is a great skater. He plays on a very good team (with much older linemates in Mike Hoffman and Nick Petersen) and sometimes these older guys don't seem to give him the puck as much as he would want. Still, he's highly rated for us."
Galiev, who has picked up English too, has 15 goals and 60 points in 67 games for the Sea Dogs this season. So long as he keeps developing in North America, Galiev could be a solid contributor in the NHL.
"Galiev is very explosive and highly skilled," said western scout Jack Barzee, who watched Galiev in the United States Hockey League last season. "He's a threat every time he's on the ice to score a big goal. Right now though, it's open for debate where he'll go in the draft. I projected him last year as a top guy coming out of the USHL."
In 60 games with Indiana in 2008-09, Galiev had 29 goals, 64 points and 46 penalty minutes.
E.J. McGuire, Director of Central Scouting, said any Russian player making a concerted effort to play hockey in North America will attract some attention.
"Not that they can't get drafted out of the Russian league, but there's instant credibility and visibility playing in North America so that's what an agent would recommend to any overseas player," McGuire said.
"It is important because major junior is where NHL teams want to see these players," he said. "They play between 60-70 games a year with all the travel, which is pretty hectic and a good formation and stepping stone to NHL. It resembles what they'd have to live through as a player in the NHL, so it's really important."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com