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6 Players Whose Career Path Vadim Shipachyov Is Looking To Emulate

As a 30-year-old coming to the NHL for the first time, the new Golden Knights is forging a unique path

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

How good can Vadim Shipachyov be?

After all, after signing with the Golden Knights on Thursday, he'll be entering his first NHL season at age 30.

Which, as hockey has trended younger and younger in recent seasons, led Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos to utter these words earlier this season: "in the NHL, 30 is the new 40."

In people years, of course, 30 is still rather young.

In hockey, however, it's an almost unheard of age for an NHL player to be making his debut. Especially for a player that general manager George McPhee told media on Thursday that he expects to play on one of the team's top two lines.

 

Video: Golden Knights sign Vadim Shipachyov

 

On the other hand, it must be noted that Shipachyov is considered a legitimate superstar in his homeland.

And with six points (2g, 4a) in his first three games at the World Championships, the only players who have kept up with Shipachyov's rate of scoring are already established NHL stars.

But despite his gaudy numbers, his relatively advanced age and lack of North American experience still leaves many NHL observers skeptical.

Which, as we say, is fair.

RELATED: Vadim Shipachyov, 8 fun facts

The answer of how successful Shipachyov can be will be answered next season.

But to provide some context for the path he's attempting to take, we're going to count down six players with similar career arcs who only established themselves in the NHL after extended tours of duty in Europe.

6. Nikita Zaitsev

Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Position: Defenseman

Home Country: Russia

Years Active: 2016-Present

 

 

When the Toronto Maple Leafs improved from dead last in the NHL to playoff team this season, a lion's share of the credit was heaped onto the shoulders of the team's outstanding offensive rookies - Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, et al.

And rightfully so.

Matthews may win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, and Marner and Nylander were two of the main reasons Toronto nearly upset the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round.

 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: It was a big day for Vadim Shipachyov with �������� in Russia's 10-1 win vs. Italy at the #IIHFWorlds today. #BoldInGold pic.twitter.com/uzRlyCwYjm

 

Defensively, however, the Leafs also received important contributions from 25-year-old Nikita Zaitsev.

Despite never being drafted by an NHL team nor playing in North America, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound defenseman established himself as a Maple Leafs franchise cornerstone this season.

Last week, he signed a 7-year, $31.5 million contract to remain in Toronto for the foreseeable future.

 

RELATED: Shipachyov explodes for four assists in Russian victory

 

5. Anders Hedberg

Teams: Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers

Position: Right Wing

Home Country: Sweden

Years Active: 1974-85

 

 

When slick forward Anders Hedberg left his native Sweden at age 23 in 1974 to join the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets, European players skating for professional North American teams were nearly unheard of.

But quickly meshing on a line with countryman Ulf Nilsson and the legendary Bobby Hull, Hedberg immediately became a star in North America.

With goal totals of 53, 50, 70 and 63 in his four years in the WHA, Hedberg, despite never being drafted by an NHL team, was part of a wave of players that proved that Europeans were tough enough to hang in the NHL.

 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: 4 assists yesterday + 2 goals today = Vadim Shipachyov������up at the #IIHFWorlds. pic.twitter.com/MD3ZDv6gL6

 

Jumping to the New York Rangers in 1979, Hedberg scored 30 or more goals in his first three NHL seasons, and four times overall before retiring in 1985.

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4. Borje Salming

Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings

Position: Defenseman

Home Country: Sweden

Years Active: 1973-90

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the first European born and trained player to establish himself as a lasting star at the NHL level, Borje Salming played six years of professional hockey in Sweden before transitioning to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs at age 22.

Salming starred for Toronto for the following 16 seasons, appearing in three All-Star Games and becoming the first Swedish player to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.

He still has the NHL record for career points (787) by a defenseman who was never drafted.

RELATED: Golden Knights to pick sixth in the NHL Expansion Draft

 

3. Peter Stastny

Teams: Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues

Position: Center

Home Country: Czechoslovakia

Years Active: 1980-95

 

 

Twenty-four years old when he joined with the Quebec Nordiques in 1980, Peter Stastny was already an established entity in his native Czechoslovakia at the time of his NHL debut.

But during an era where the Iron Curtain kept Czech players from migrating to the NHL, Stastny had been kept out of North America for several years prior to his dramatic defection.

Despite being a seasoned veteran at the time of his NHL debut, Stastny quickly became an elite center, and eventually a Hall of Famer.

In fact, for the decade between the 1979-80 and 1980-89 seasons, only Wayne Gretzky topped Stastny in overall points.

 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: ���� ���������������������� ������-����������! ���� pic.twitter.com/HMhDtE5IEo

 

2. The Russian Five

This slot on our countdown is a tribute to probably the most dominant five-man unit in hockey history, which after dominating international hockey throughout the 1980s were part of the first wave of former Soviet stars to migrate to the NHL in the years near the end of the Cold War.

Slava Fetisov: Widely considered the best defenseman in Russian history, Fetisov debuted in the NHL at age 31 with the New Jersey Devils and won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.

Alexei Kasatonov: Thirty at the time of his debut, Kasatonov played seven NHL seasons and represented the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks at the 1994 NHL All-Star Game.

Sergei Makarov: The Russian Five's top goal scorer, Makarov debuted with the Calgary Flames at age 31 and immediately won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie after racking up 86 points in 80 games. Makarov continued to be an elite NHL scorer into the late 1990s, and even led the San Jose Sharks in scoring in 1993-94.

Igor Larionov: Despite not debuting until age 29, Larionov played 15 NHL seasons, winning Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

Vladimir Krutov: The member of the Russian Five who played the fewest NHL games, Krutov put up 34 points in 61 games with the Vancouver Canucks at age 30.

 

 

Video: A look at the 2017 Expansion Draft rules

 

1. Artemi Panarin

Teams: Chicago Blackhawks

Position: Left Wing

Home Country: Russia

Years Active: 2015-Present

 

 

Perhaps not the most accomplished player on this list, Panarin slides into the top slot on this list due to the incredible similarity between his career and Shipachyov's.

Neither were drafted by NHL clubs and struggled to jumpstart their careers after starting out with "lesser" KHL clubs.

Both then joined SKA Saint Petersburg (probably the most successful KHL franchise) and became impact players on championship teams, often playing on the same line.

Granted, Panarin was 24 when he debuted -compared to 30 for Shipachyov - with the Chicago Blackhawks two years ago.

But with the beginning of their careers and the manner in which they were courted by NHL clubs to leave the KHL being so similar, the Panarin-Shipachyov comparison is absolutely legitimate.

Panarin immediately won the Calder Trophy after jumping to the NHL, and his 151 total points are tied with Nikita Kucherov and Brent Burns for the seventh most NHL points over the past two seasons.

The only players with more points during this time period are Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Jamie Benn, Nicklas Backstrom, Erik Karlsson and Blake Wheeler.

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