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Pashnin making a big mark at camp

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Russian defenseman Mikhail Pashnin was the real head-turner on the second day of the Rangers' 2010 Development Camp, delivering ferocious hits while showing offensive skill in the camp's first scrimmage.

By Jim Cerny,

As young Russian defenseman Mikhail Pashnin stood outside the locker room following the second day of the Rangers’ annual Prospects Development Camp at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday, team President and General Manager Glen Sather walked by, slapped Pashnin on the back, and stated emphatically, “First Star!”

Indeed, if one player had to be singled out as the First Star from practice and a spirited scrimmage on Tuesday, it was Pashnin, the team’s seventh-round pick (200th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Although it was only a scrimmage, Pashnin delivered a series of crunching body checks, routinely joined the rush to create offensive chances, and scored a goal on a penalty shot by roofing the puck into the top of the net.

Following that goal, the charismatic Pashnin placed his stick between his legs and “rode” it across the ice, all the while with a beaming smile on his face.

Mere minutes later, Pashnin hammered 2009 second-round pick Ethan Werek into the boards behind his net. The two then dropped the gloves and engaged in the first fight of the week-long camp.

Clearly, the 5-foot-11, 187 pound Russian made quite the first impression on the Rangers coaches and executives that were watching Tuesday’s scrimmage. Currently under contract to Moscow CSKA (Red Army) of the Kontinental Hockey League, Pashnin is making his first visit to New York since being drafted just over a year ago.

Pashnin came out of the fight with a cut running from the side of his mouth, but he continued to play with the same passion and enthusiasm he had started the scrimmage with.

“I wasn’t trying to impress anybody,” Pashnin said through fellow Rangers prospect Evgeny Grachev, who served as Pashnin’s interpreter on Tuesday. “I just want to get the experience of playing with North American guys and on the ice. I want to get as much of that as I can while I am here.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 KHL Junior Draft, Pashnin will return to Russia on Friday night, once the Rangers mini-camp is over. He has one year remaining on his deal with CSKA, where he recorded five points and totaled 52 penalty minutes last season.

Make no mistake, though. Pashnin might be playing in the KHL this season, but his goal is to be a National Hockey League defenseman.

“I would like to play in the NHL because it is the best league,” said Pashnin.

Although not particularly tall, Pashnin has a well-earned reputation for being a hard-hitting blueliner. Combine that with his buoyant personality on the ice, and Pashnin very much resembles a young Darius Kasparaitis, the former Rangers defenseman who hails from Lithuania.

“I do not know him,” Pashnin said of Kasparaitis when the comparison was mentioned to him.

Evgeny Grachev, left, is Pashnin's interpreter at the Development Camp. Two years ago, Grachevwas  barely able to speak much English himself, but he has since developed fluency in the language.
But he likely has heard of Scott Stevens, the Hall-of-Famer and legendary captain of the New Jersey Devils. That’s the player former famed Russian defenseman, and current Rangers scout, Vladimir Lutchenko has compared Pashnin to.

“Pashnin is a warrior, who goes all out in games and does everything it takes to win,” said Lutchenko.

Pashnin’s current coach and general manager with CSKA is former Rangers center Sergei Nemchinov, who can certainly sympathize with Pashnin’s desire to play in the NHL. After playing out the final year of his KHL contract, Pashnin will be available to come to North America next summer if he chooses.

By the looks of things, the Rangers will be more than happy to welcome Tuesday’s “First Star” full-time into the organization.
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