2021 NHL Draft: 5 Russian players to watch
The 2021 NHL Draft will see a number of Russian players near the top.
As one of the first countries to have leagues startup for the 2020-21 season, the Russian players in this class should have many eyes on them ahead of the draft.
Related: FCHockey’s Top-10 Preliminary Rankings – Russia
With FCHockey’s scouts already getting views on Russian prospects, our scouts agreed on five 2021 NHL Draft-eligible players that you’ll need to see this season. From the VHL, MHL, and even the KHL, there are a number of prospects that will be in first-round consideration in the upcoming draft.
Here are FCHockey’s five Russian prospects to watch this season:
Daniil Chayka, D, Krasnaya Armiya
Daniil Chayka may be a name that you already recognize, especially if you’re in Ontario. That’s because the Russian defender spent the last two seasons in the OHL with the Guelph Storm before heading over to Russia for the 2020-21 season.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft: 5 under-the-radar Russian players to watch
Chayka spent a year in the GTHL with the Toronto Jr. Canadians U16 AAA before making the jump to the OHL in 2018-19. Once there, he chipped in five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 56 games. He then played 20 games in the Storm’s run to the OHL championship and played another four games in the Memorial Cup, not recording any points. He was named to the OHL’s Second All-Star Team.
Then in 2019-20, Chayka started the season on Team Russia in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. As an alternate captain, he helped lead the team to a gold medal with two assists in five games. His OHL season saw his point totals jump, with 11 goals, 23 assists, and 34 points in 56 games.
“Chayka has an active stick in the d-zone and is a fairly fluid skater for a player his size,” said head Eastern Canada scout Dylan Galloway. ” On the offensive side of the puck, Chayka likes to jump up on the rush and contribute offensively through good puck transitioning and smart passing.”
More of a defensive defenseman, Chayka won’t be lighting the lamp often, but he is very much a player to keep an eye on in 2020-21.
Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg
Right-winger Nikita Chibrikov isn’t exactly well-known by the widespread hockeyverse, but he is very much on the radar of draft enthusiasts and scouts. The forward has already cracked the KHL lineup in 2020-21, an impressive feat for a draft-eligible player.
He’s been well on his way for years though. In 2018-19, Chibrikov played at the U16, U17, and U18 levels in Russia for the Dynamo Moskva system, putting up 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) at the U16 level and moving up to being an alternate captain with the U18s, adding another 15 points (eight goals, seven assists).
Then in 2019-20, the forward spent the majority of the season in the MHL, playing 32 games and recording three goals, 13 assists, and 16 points in 32 games. In the middle of the year, he impressed at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Team Russia, collecting eight points (three goals, five assists) in six games en route to a gold medal
Chibrikov is a fantastic skater who often displays very good top speed while carrying the puck on his stick,” said Crossover scout Brandon Holmes. “Using fluid crossovers to generate speed through the neutral zone and find space in the offensive zone.”
With Chibrikov now getting time in the KHL in the 2020-21 season, he should be top of mind when thinking of Russian prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Kirill Kirsanov, D, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg
The second defensive defender on this list, Kirill Kirsanov has been excellent to start the 2020-21 season and should be trending up on draft boards if he continues this way. Along with Chibrikov, Kirsanov impressed enough at the MHL level to get the call up to the KHL squad. Again, that’s impressive for an 18-year-old.
Much like Chayka, Kirsanov won’t be racking up the points at this level or the next. He’s more of a pillar of defense which has been working for him. In 2018-19, for both the U17 and U18 squad, mainly with the U17s. There, he collected three goals, seven assists, and 10 points in 20 games. He also dressed for the gold-medal winning national team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, adding two assists in six games.
Kirsanov started off 2019-20 winning again, this time at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, picking up another two assists in five games. He then spent the season in the MHL, scoring four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 40 games. The defender did briefly stop to play in the World Junior A Challenge, getting another goal and four assists in six games.
The Russian defender’s defensive awareness is extremely high-end,” said Eastern Canada and Crossover scout Josh Bell. “He reads plays very well, knowing when to apply pressure on the attacker and break up a play… He’s always working to be in the best position whether that’s in order to defend or receive a pass and support his teammates.”
Kirsanov’s proven that he can play at the top levels early on in this season, and is very much one to keep tabs on ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA-Varyagi
If there was one player on this list coming into the season with the most hype, it’s Daniil Lazutin. The Russian centreman hasn’t had the best start in 2020-21 but if he can live up to his resume, he will be very much an intriguing player in this draft. He could even be worthy of a top-20 selection.
In 2018-19, Lazutin was already putting himself on the map for the 2021 NHL Draft. At just 15-years old, he put up 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 23 games t the U16 level. He got bumped up to the U18 level, captaining the team. In his eight games, he continued to impress with five goals, seven assists, and 12 points.
In 2019-20, he made the jump to the MHL, collecting four goals, seven assists, and 11 points in 32 games. HE also stole the show at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Team Russia, tallying four goals to go along with five assists and nine points in six games. He was named to the tournament All-Star Team and helped Russia win the gold medal.
With the puck, Lazutin is an extremely evasive player,” said Bell. “His creativity allows him to get around defenders and he protects the puck well. He’s not afraid to try and make plays… He’s a very active defender, closing the gap between him and his man, getting his stick in passing lanes, and making it difficult on his opponents.”
He’s been off to a slow start in 2020-21, but if he can regain his past year’s form he should be a first-round pick in this draft class.
Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Loko Yaroslavl
Finally, we come to another defenseman in Vladislav Lukashevich. If you’re noticing a trend in the defenders on this list, this is yet another one that hasn’t racked up the points in Russia. However, he does have some very intriguing two-way abilities that could see him get more points than Chayka and Kirsanov in the long run.
After spending 12 games in the Russia U17 league in 2018-19, collecting eight assists, Lukashevich skipped the U18 level altogether and went into the MHL in 2019-20. He played 36 games with Loko Yaroslavl, playing 36 games. In that time, he scored two goals and had four assists for six points. He also dressed for Russia in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, tacking on four points (one goal, three assists) and a gold medal to his draft-1 season.
“Lukashevich is a uniquely advanced and mature defenseman for his age,” said head Crossover scout Derek Neumeier. “His understanding of the defense position is incredible. He isn’t a rover, per se, but he does a fantastic job of moving his feet and getting himself into positions that benefit his team.”
This season, the defender has taken a big role with Loko, playing big minutes and starting to put up more points. If this continues, he could very well be selected in the first round come June.