|Russia's Kirill Petrov scored five goals and seven points during the 2008 Under-18 World Championship and was named to the tournament all-star team. |
If it weren't for his obligations with Kazan in the Russian Super League, forward Kirill Petrov might have challenged fellow countryman Nikita Filatov
to be the first European skater off the board when the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is staged Friday and Saturday at Scotiabank Place.
That is unlikely now, though, since Petrov, a strapping 6-foot-2½, 221-pound power forward rated second among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, still has three years remaining on his Russian contract.
There's still a chance an NHL team could take an early round flyer on Petrov, like the New York Rangers did last season with Alexei Cherepanov. Cherepanov, considered the best European skater on the board and one of the more talented players available, slipped to No. 17 overall due to his still being under contract with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League.
Cherepanov, who had more points than Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk did in their first seasons in the RSL, has two years remaining on his contract with Omsk, but has notified the club of his desire to play in the NHL.
Petrov had a similar message for NHL teams during his recent trip to Toronto for the scouting combine, expressing his desire to play in the league sooner rather than later.
"The experience at the combine made me understand things a lot better," Petrov said through an interpreter. "I really want to play in the NHL and only in the NHL."
Petrov's agent, Alexander Tyjnych of Ottawa, is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his client's wishes come true.
"Some of the young kids don't understand how the draft works and that it's hard to make it to the NHL," Tyjnych told NHL.com. "Basically, NHL teams want these players in North America to keep close watch on their progress. Really, though, if they allowed these kids to play and develop in Russia, as they do with any player in North America, it would probably be more beneficial for both parties."
Tyjnych also feels that there's too much emphasis placed on getting acclimated with North American culture.
"These are all young kids," said Tyjnych. "When you look at it, it's no different in Canada or the United States than it is in Russia. The guys listen to the same music, go out to the movies and like the same foods. The world has become closer and guys travel all over together in the summer. No matter what country you're from, most of the prospects at the draft have seen or heard of each other."
Petrov starred at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship, recording five goals and seven points in six games for Russia and making the tournament all-star team. He also participated in the 2007 Under-18 worlds, registering three assists in seven games.
"I was impressed with Kirill's excellent skating and mobility as well as his work ethic playing on Russia's (Under-18) top line," said Goran Stubb, the NHL's director of European scouting. "He displays toughness in one-on-one situations and delivers smart passes to create plenty of scoring chances. He's also physically strong and was successful one-on-one along the boards and in the corners."
In 47 games with Kazan this past season, Petrov, who can play either wing, had four goals, six assists and 54 penalty minutes.
"I feel I have an excellent shot and am good one-on-one," said Petrov. "I am comfortable in traffic and my handling of the puck is excellent. I'm good at making the difficult play look easy. I have high expectations to be drafted early and I'll be disappointed if it doesn't work out because I have given everything to this sport and want an opportunity to play with the best players."
Petrov cycles well, is tough to knock off the puck and requires minimal room to maneuver in the offensive zone. One of the few knocks on him is his tendency to skate east-west when he should be headed north-south.
Filatov, Central Scouting's No. 1-rated European skater, is familiar with Petrov and has always enjoyed his company on and off the ice.
"I think he's a good player, very strong and fast," said Filatov. "I was actually on a line with him for a couple of years and we had a lot of fun. Our line was always the top line and I was able to score a lot of goals having him as a linemate."
Stubb noted there is a distinct difference between Petrov's and Filatov's style.
"Filatov is more of a finesse player with leadership qualities and Petrov is a power forward," said Stubb. "Their styles do differ a lot and, really, it all depends what your team needs are."Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer