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Pashnin eyes Development Camp encore

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Mikhail Pashnin (D)
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By Dan David,

One of the highlights of the Rangers Prospect Development Camp each summer is watching at least one of the young hopefuls step up to grab the limelight and let everyone know just how serious he is about one day playing in the NHL.

It’s not always the player believed to possess the most natural talent or have the best individual skills. Rather, it tends to be someone who exceeds expectations with his play or exudes a level of competitiveness that suggests what he would bring to the ice on every shift at the highest level.

A year ago, there was no doubt who stole the show in this regard. It was a 21-year-old Russian defenseman who didn't speak a single word of English but brought an old-time hockey style to the MSG Training Center.

His play was so electric, his hits so hard and punishing, and his enthusiasm so infectious that even Eddie Shore and Toe Blake would have been proud to witness the young Russian’s performance.

His name is Mikhail Pashnin, and let all other Rangers prospects consider themselves warned that he is coming back for another Development Camp later this month.

Even before last year’s camp, Pashnin was being called a "warrior" by Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel, who had seen him in the 2009 World Junior Championship tournament and a series of games between a Russian All-star team and major-junior All-Star squads in 2008. When the rest of the organization finally got to see Pashnin at the Training Center, they soon knew what Clark meant.

Defenseman Mikhail Pashnin, the Rangers' seventh-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, celebrates the MHL championship he won with Red Army 2, the top affiliate of CSKA Moscow on April 22, just a few weeks before he turned 22 years old.
"He came here and he opened a lot of eyes," Clark said of Pashnin’s memorable performance.

After watching Pashnin slam players left and right as well as score a goal during one of the informal camp scrimmages, Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather patted the Russian on back on, saying "First Star" to him. Sather did this as Pashnin was talking to reporters with fellow prospect Evgeny Grachev serving as his interpreter.

In addition to his own unique style of play, what makes Pashnin such an intriguing prospect is that the Rangers were able to get him at the tail end of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at Montreal. Pashnin went 200th overall in the seventh round even though he had been the No. 1 pick in Russia's KHL draft earlier in the month.

A player of Pashnin's status was still available in Round 7 because the late bloomer was already 20 years old and in his final year of eligibility for the NHL selection. He was also expected to play for CSKA Moscow, the KHL team led by former Rangers Stanley Cup champion Sergei Nemchinov.

Pashnin had in fact signed a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow and could not enter the pros in North America until the 2011-12 season. Nemchinov, however, gave him permission to attend the 2010 Development Camp and get his first taste of the Blueshirts organization largely because of his own positive feelings about the team.

"Sergei has been over here, so he would never hold anybody back from having a crack at their dream of playing in the NHL," said Clark. "He knew of Pashnin's desire to see what the NHL is all about. I guess we could have just invited Pashnin over to that camp last year without telling Sergei, but we talked to Sergei and he was very much for the idea because he knows about the Rangers."

Nemchinov was so supportive of Pashnin coming to the MSG Training Center that he offered him some important advice before Pashnin's summer departure.

Mikhail Pashnin was given special permission by CSKA Moscow to attend last year's Rangers Prospect Development Camp and had a big impact. He returns to Development Camp later this month.
"He told the kid he had better be in shape if he went over there," said Clark. "He told him he thought it was great for him, but he told him he thought he better be in shape and be prepared for a (John) Tortorella-designed Development Camp."

Making the most of his opportunity with the tremendous performance at Development Camp, Pashnin returned to Moscow for the 2010-11 season and played 43 games for CSKA.

After missing seven of the first 10 games with a shoulder injury, Pashnin got considerably more ice time in his second KHL season and was on the No. 1 defense pairing by the end of the year. Over the 11 games from Jan. 18 to Feb. 20, he averaged well over 22 minutes per game and had game-high ice-time totals in five of the 11 games. His personal season-high was 26:55 in a 3-2 shootout win at Minsk on Jan. 30, and he also saw 24:50 of action in a 5-4 shootout win over Riga on Jan. 24.

Pashnin capitalized on the increased ice time to net back-to-back power-play goals in late-season home games against Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk. His game was so sharp by the end of the KHL regular season that when CSKA missed the playoffs, Nemchinov assigned Pashnin to the club's top minor-league affiliate, Red Army 2, which plays in Russia's MHL league.

Pashnin was definitely needed for the Red Army 2 squad's postseason run. He had played 10 games for them during the regular season, picking up four points and a plus-5 rating. When the KHL regular season ended, he faced a dilemma, however, because the Rangers had offered him an opportunity to come to Hartford in late February and join the Connecticut Whale for its AHL stretch run.

Thrilled with the chance to finally start his North American career, Pashnin also recognized the obligation he had to help CSKA’s MHL affiliate. He chose to fully honor the remainder of his commitment and report to Red Army 2.

"He was very excited to come to Connecticut, and we thought it would be a good chance for him to come in and get a taste," said Clark. "He could see what it was like and get an idea of what he would have to do over the summer. But I give the kid credit. He recognized he was still under contract to their organization and felt that he should go down and play for their minor-league team in the playoffs, even though I wouldn't say he was happy about it."

In terms of experience, the decision to join Red Army 2 was a good one, because Pashnin played a huge role in helping the team dominate the postseason and win a championship for his club.

With Pashnin on its No. 1 defense pairing, Red Army 2 went 13-3 in its postseason romp, which ended with a 4-0 sweep of Magnitogorsk in the championship series. After being pushed the brink in a best-of-5 opening round series win over Cherepovets, Red Army 2 won 10 of its last 11 playoff games.

Pashnin tallied his lone goal of the playoffs in the championship clincher on April 22, scoring for a 1-0 lead at 9:48 of the first period in what turned out to be a 4-3 overtime win at home. He also had four assists and a stellar plus-8 rating over the 16 MHL playoff games.

As he showed in the Development Camp, Pashnin had no trouble getting shots through to the net during the MHL postseason. He had a game-high five shots in Game 1 of the second round and a game-high six shots in Game 2 of the conference finals.

"He was very instrumental with his energy and aggressive play in the success of that team," Clark said of Pashnin's playoff performance.
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