In last years NHL draft, one Russian player was taken in the first round and that wasnt until the 27th selection when the Tampa Bay Lighting took Vladislav Namestnikov.
In 2010, three Russians were selected in the first round when the Thrashers took Aleksandr Burmistrov at No. 8, the Blues took Vladimir Tarasenko at No. 16 and the Capitals took Evgeny Kuznetsov at No. 26.
In 2009, only one Russian was taken in the first round when the Panthers took Dmitri Kulikov at No. 14 overall.
Of those five Russians, only Burmistrov and Kulikov have agreed to play in the NHL and both were drafted out of Canadas junior ranks.
Which begs this question as the Capitals hold two first-round picks 11th and 16th overall in Friday nights NHL draft in Pittsburghs Consol Energy Center. Is it worth the gamble to take a Russian with a first-round?
Our policy has always been to take the best players, Capitals general manager George McPhee said. We dont care where theyre from, it doesnt matter.
Other teams have different philosophies. Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray says he stays away from drafting Russian players in the first round unless hes sure he can sign them. Any he pretty much ignores Russians in the lower rounds.
The KHL has been the main reason, Murray said. The top guys who have come over in the past (Alex) Ovechkin, (Igor) Larionov, (Sergei) Fedorov -- come over here and are very happy and are very important players.
But the next level of player, they wont stay. Theyre unhappy. They wont take the time to develop and therefore, weve said if we cant get a top guy you might as well take an American or Canadian.
Weve had three or four in the minors and they get called (from the KHL) every other day to go back. Theyre making 45,000 to 65,000 here in the minors and they can make 70,000 or 80,000 over there.
This year, Russian forward Nail Yakupov is considered the consensus No. 1 pick of the draft and Russian countrymen Mikhael Grigorenko is expected to go in the top 10. Both played in the Canadian junior hockey league last season and that should increase the possibility of them being taken high in the draft.
But many other Russians are expected to slip because of the risk. And Kusnetsov is a reason why. Considered one of the most talented prospects not in the NHL, Kuzentsov has agreed to play the next two seasons in the KHL.
Good, let them avoid them, McPhee said of other Russian-unfriendly teams. People avoided Kuznetsov, but hes going to come over at some point and hes going to be a heck of a player here. We were prepared to wait when we made the pick. Wed like to have him but hell be here at some point and hell be worth it.