The European regular season will begin tomorrow, 9/1 with matches from the Russian junior league, the MHL, before the big boys start on Tuesday when Dynamo Moscow and Avangard Omsk square off in the KHL. For the Lightning's Russian prospects, their clubs' schedules for the next week are as follows:
9-1-12, Omsk Jr. vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-4-12, Orenburg vs. Ufa Jr. (Vasilevski)
9-5-12, Orenburg vs. Ufa Jr. (Vasilevski)
9-5-12, Chelyabinsk Jr. (Nesterov) vs. Novokuznetsk Jr.
9-5-12, Stupino vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-6-12, Chelyabinsk Jr. (Nesterov) vs. Novokuznetsk Jr.
9-6-12, Stupino vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-6-12, Novosibirsk vs. Yaroslavl (Janus?)
9-6-12, Kazan vs. Cherepovets (Koshechkin)
Note that, as of right now, Nikita Gusev (pictured), Andrei Vasilevski, and Nikita Nesterov are currently listed on their respective clubs' MHL rosters, but are subject to potential call-up to the KHL throughout the year. Vasilevski looks to be locked into the MHL though, with Ufa's top club currently boasting veteran goaltender and former Canadiens draft pick Vadim Tarasov and ex-Syracuse Crunch netminder Iiro Tarkki.
Meanwhile, Yaroslavl may be the landing spot for goaltender Jaroslav Janus, according to reports out of Slovakia. Janus has been playing for KHL newcomer Bratislava during the preseason, but it appears he has been compelled to leave the Slovakian club by Yaroslavl, which holds his KHL draft rights, because the team is thin in net between inexperienced Nikita Lozkhin and their struggles to get Curtis Sanford in their lineup. So, Janus may even find himself playing on an emotional opening night for a Yaroslavl club he hasn't even played a preseason game behind. Recall a year ago that Yaroslavl's team perished in a tragic plane crash that led to the team pulling out of participating in the KHL last year.
Canada 1 vs Russia 0 (OT)
After Team Canada won 4-2 in regulation in Halifax on Tuesday night to knot the four-game series at two wins apiece, both teams began a special overtime session in hopes of a series-deciding victory. The Canadians, the distinct aggressors throughout much of the three periods played previously that night, kept pressing their Russian counterparts and were rewarded with the clinching goal just a few minutes into sudden-death. On the play, Canada's Ty Rattie managed to keep the puck in Russia's end, which led to Ryan Strome getting the puck on his stick near the top of the left face-off circle, where he didn't waste any time using some crafty stick-work to make his way to a better angle in the high slot where, with a quick release, he fired a wrist shot that found its mark past Vasilevski.
Canada 4 @ Russia 2
The final game in the exhibition series took place in Halifax last night and ended in a decisive victory for Team Canada. Although Game 4 got off to a similar start to the night before with Russia taking two early leads despite finding themselves mostly hemmed in their own zone or conceding possession for changes and setting up defensively at even-strength. The Canadians finally took the lead (their first since Game 1 of the series), though, nearly midway through the second period and they never relented. Team Russia did manage to generate some quality scoring chances but could not muster a much-needed goal before the game slipped away for good late in the final period. It did help that the Russian coaching staff opted, until just a handful of minutes remained, to keep its team passive and structured in the neutral zone in an apparent attempt to conserve their young squad's energy. For much of the time they trailed, Russia seemed content to try and mount a comeback with selective counterattacks and opportunistic play and, failing that, to try and decide the series in overtime.
Russia 6 @ Canada 5
The third installment in the commemorative exhibition series was played tonight in Halifax, with the Russians, after a convincing victory in Yaroslavl last Friday, just squeaking past Team Canada 6-5. To Russia's credit, they never trailed, but Canada carried the play for most of the game and may have deserved a better fate. Truth be told, Laurent Brossoit's poor showing (6 GA on just 27 SOG) in net for the Canada was probably the difference as the Russians got an alternately superb and suspect effort from Andrey Makarov who stopped 37 of 42 shots in his second straight start.
Russia 6 @ Canada 3
For the second time in as many days, two teams studded with juniors stars battled on ice in Yaroslavl. The Russians avenged their narrow defeat yesterday by thumping the Canadian squad 6-3 in what was the second match of the Canada-Russia Challenge. Canada made the game close twice but the Russia, much more aggressive, able to maintain possession and in control of the pace for much of the game, put the game out of reach in the third. The Russians were good but the Canadians, between lapses in positioning, miscues and too many trips to the penalty box, were equal parts sloppy today.
Canada 3 @ Russia 2
An All-Star team of Canadian juniors defeated a similar group of Russian juniors 3-2 today in Game 1 of the four-game Canada-Russia Challenge. Three Lightning prospects played in the match, including new prospects Andrei Vasilevski – a first round pick of Tampa Bay in June – and recent free agent signee Artem Sergeev. Vasilevski allowed three goals – all in the second period – including a wrist shot by likely 2013 top-10 pick Sean Monahan. According to the TSN Radio broadcast, Vasilevski (pictured at the Lightning's prospect camp) came up with several big saves in the third period to keep Russia in the game at 3-1, then 3-2. Nail Yakupov, the top pick in the 2012 draft, scored on a 5-on-3 power play in the third period to cut Canada’s lead to one goal. The Oilers pick one-timed a shot from the circle off of a feed from Sergeev. Nesterov also saw power play time for Russia.
The game-winning goal was scored by Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton, who’s shot from the point got by a screened Vasilevski.
Cody Nickolet, a WHL reporter, singled out Sergeev and Nesterov as having impressive games. He said Vasilevski was good, but “could have had a couple of those goals” and was outplayed by Canada’s Malcolm Subban (Bruins) in the game.
Brendan Ross of Dobber Prospects and The Hockey Writers said Vasilevski had an average showing and consistency remains an issue for the first goalie taken in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
The game was played in Yaroslavl, site of last year’s deadly airline crash that killed 44 players and coaches from Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL. Friday’s Game 2 will also be played in Yaroslavl before Games 3 and 4 are held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next week.
The series is being played as a tribute to the Lokomotiv club. It also marks the 40th anniversary of the famed Canada-Russia Summit Series of 1972. Lightning founder Phil Esposito, a member of Canada’s ’72 squad, is reportedly on the trip with Team Canada this year.
(Eric DuBose photo)
Lightning prospect followers expected one high profile Tampa Bay draftee to be selected in today's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, but not two.
Andrei Vasilevski, the Lightning's second first round selection (19th overall) in last week's NHL Entry Draft, is reportedly trying to buy out his contract with Ufa of the KHL to play Canadian junior hockey. As of early Wednesday morning, the Lightning said there was no news regarding Vasilevski, and after several teams took goaltenders in the first round, it appeared his situation with Ufa was far from settled.
While the Valisevski watch was in full effect, Nikita Kucherov, last year's second round pick out of CSKA in Russia, was taken by Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts. The Remparts may lose former Kucherov linemate and Sabres 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko to the NHL next year and Kucherov would provide instant offense for Roy's roster. There is also a possibility they are reunited in Quebec City. Roy said Tuesday that the Sabres were non-committal to Grigorenko's immediate NHL future, so it is still possible he could return to Quebec.
Kucherov spent most of last year with CSKA's junior team, where he racked up 24 goals and 41 points in just 23 games. He also had seven points in seven games at the World Junior Championships. He was able to get in 18 games at the professional level with CSKA's KHL side, but only managed a goal and five points in limited action. His selection was surprising to many prospect followers as Kucherov is expected to challenge for more games in the KHL this year. However, initial reports on Twitter from a sports.ru reporter said Kucherov was coming to North America. Roy, who has to secure Kucherov's release from CSKA, is already talking about where Kucherov could fit in his lineup.
Should Kucherov join the wide-open QMJHL, he could very well top 120 points next season.
Quebec chose Kucherov with the 43rd pick in the Import Draft, near the bottom of the first of the two round draft.
Vasilevski ended up a second round selection as the newly-renamed Mississauga Steelheads took him with pick number 69.
Mississauga lost last year's No.1 goalie and Vasilevski could make his path to the NHL a lot clearer by joining the Steelheads in the Ontario Hockey League. It's worth a shot for Mississauga, who is no doubt hoping the off-the-ice situation can be settled shortly.
When and how do you judge a trade or draft pick?
Earlier this week I tweeted from Bolt Prospects that it was the 10-year anniversary of then Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster sending the fourth overall pick to Philadelphia for a young forward Tampa Bay thought had some upside and two second round picks. At the time, jaws hit the floor from Nanaimo to Naples. I was standing on the line that divided my living room from my dining room and saw the trade go across the ticker on what I believe was ESPN-2. Yes, I remember exactly where I was standing when I saw the news.
G Andrei Vasilevski, 6'3" 204 lbs, Ufa Jr. (RUS Jr.), Catches: Left
CSS #1 European Goaltender, ISS #3 Goaltender, RLR #10 Overall, THN #21 Overall, TSN #24 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 27 GP, 2.23 GAA, .931 sv%
Vasilevski was considered the top goaltender in this draft and likely would have been a lottery pick were it not for the fabled "Russian factor" depressing his draft stock. Fans may know him more for being pulled in the U20 World Junior Championship Semifinals against Canada, but prior to that game Vasilevski was the most dominant netminder in that tournament despite the fact he was an underage player.
Pros: Big, athletic, and very calm. Defines "economy of motion" between the pipes. Very good glove hand. Excellent rebound control for a young netminder.
Cons: Like many young goaltenders, can have a tendency to play too deep in his crease. Below average handling the puck. Developmental situation isn't ideal in Russia and he could be a flight risk to the KHL if he doesn't have immediate success when he comes over to North America. "The Russian factor."
Red Line Report projected Vasilevski as a number one goaltender for a playoff caliber club and compared him to Montreal's Carey Price.