The Fantasy Managers’ hunt for talent in Russia goes on. After Viktor Tikhonov’s return people are waiting for Nikita Filatov, but there are other names. There is a big chance that we will finally see Kirill Petrov, and this might be the year for Montreal fans to see Russians actually report, as Maxim Trunev and Alexander Avtsyn may this summer.
But let’s start with Petrov. It might sound odd, but the excellent player everyone witnessed at the latest WJC has received little ice time with his KHL squad Ak Bars Kazan and in fact he has been taken out of the lineup and assigned down to the Russian second tier league. At least he isn’t riding the pine, but still the competition there isn’t that great. He is a very gifted winger with some size and his style would translate well in the NHL, even if he would surely need to spend some time in the AHL adjusting to the more demanding North American style. At this stage of development it’s safe to say that he should have left Russia a year ago...though generally for European players it’s better to stay in their country until they are ready, but only if they actually play. Petrov almost wasted two important years of development.
We asked Evgeny Belousov of Russianprospects.com for his take on the matter: “In my opinion, watching him mostly in the Russian First league this year, I believe that there are two ways for him to revive his career. The first is to ask for a trade to another KHL club but I’m pretty sure that Ak Bars Kazan’s management doesn’t want to lose prospects like him. The second way is moving to America, although he’ll obviously have to rebuild himself in the minor leagues for a year or more.”
Let’s remember that he was the center of a tug-of-war between New York Islanders’ GM Garth Snow and the Russian Hockey Federation about the release of Anton Klementyev for the WJC. Petrov opted to stay in Russia for the remainder of the season, but I think the Isles will try to lure him to the Big Apple this summer and Petrov will finally be an Islander, as he declared during the WJC. Any fantasy GM who has him in the roster owns a potential second or even first liner. A minimum of 60-70 points is a realistic expectation of his level within the next several seasons.
The situation around Trunev and Avtsyn is a bit different. The very first thing that comes to mind is that Petrov didn’t have the CHL option. Both Trunev and Avtsyn turned down offers from the CHL in order to play in the KHL and get pro hockey action. It kind of worked for both. Trunev, 19, hasn’t been on fire in the last two seasons, even though he had little ice time with his KHL team Severstal Cherepovets. Both this year and last season he scored just five points. Another downside for him is that his playing style might not fit well the NHL, being a finesse kind of player, which makes thing happen with his soft hands and great acceleration. “Speaking about Severstal prospect I guess that his destiny depends on next season’s coach”, Belousov said. “If the management allows young Kvartalnov to keep on his team construction, then Trunev would have chances to spend the whole season on the main team, otherwise he’ll have to look for other (options).” Maybe the option will be Montreal.
Alexander Avtsyn had a very good first pro season. He was off to a slow start, just like many rookies in any league, but then he had some very good matches in December, when he was surprisingly left off the WJC squad. Unfortunately his good moment was halted by a hand injury that ended his season. The good news for the Habs is that Avtsin seems to be both a better player and more driven toward NHL.
“Avtsyn, as you mentioned correctly, is a younger and more skilled prospect”, added Belousov. “So he has more options to choose in case the new Dynamo coach won’t see him as a team member. Although I really think that their budget will be decreased and team announced new signings like Swede Tony Martensson will be quite unlikely so I think that the Dynamo prospect shouldn’t be worried about his spot within the team or his chances.”
The question is only one now. Will he move to Montreal this summer? “Watching his appearance in last year’s NHL draft it seems quite likely”, said Belousov. Pierre Gauthier and many fantasy GMs hope that he is right.