Teemu of BroadStreetHockey “tweeted” a few weeks ago that the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vancouver Canucks were all looking into the availability of Russian free agent forward Sergei Zinoviev. Zinoviev, 30, is currently playing for Dynamo Moscow in the KHL. I glanced over that bit of news at the time, but watching the Canada vs. Russia match in the IIHF World Juniors Championship, it occurred to me that Russia could be the next talent well that the Flyers tap into to fill the holes in their prospect pool.
There isn’t a single player on Team Canada that hasn’t been drafted into the NHL. The announcers tonight noted, however, that only five players on Team Russia have been drafted. The reason that quality Russian players don’t get drafted is that there is no agreement between the NHL and the KHL regarding player movement. Neither organization respects each others’ contracts, and it’s often difficult to gauge what individual Russian players will decide to do in terms of their careers.
It’s the exact reason why a phenomenal goaltender like Sergei Bobrovsky could be signed by the Flyers as an undrafted free agent.
In the recent past, the Flyers have looked to collegiate players to fill the holes on the Adirondack Phantoms, signing forwards Mike Testwuide, Ben Holmstrom, Andrew Rowe, and Shane Harper along with defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Kevin Marshall. While none of the forwards, aside from Holmstrom, has stood out far from the pack, Gustafsson appears to be a very offensively talented defenseman, though his game still needs a lot of polish before going pro. My point is that signing collegiate athletes because the organization has thrown away draft picks like the Giants throw interceptions has not panned out well for the last place Phantoms.
As far as Team Russia goes, winger Nikita Dvurechensky, 19, looked decent tonight, scoring a goal in a 6-3 loss. Dvurechensky currently plays with the Dynamo Moscow and could be available if the Flyers were interested. Signing more Russian players could also lure two of their current prospects, winger Andrei Popov and defenseman Denis Bodrov, into returning to North America to make a concentrated effort at breaking into the Flyers’ line-up.
Tapping into Russia for players has its own risks, but it certainly is a better option for the Flyers than collegiate players at re-stocking talent into their farm system (aside from, you know, holding onto draft picks).
With the Eagles-Vikings game moved to Tuesday night, I recommend anyone looking for a sports fix to check out the United States-Finland WJC match-up tonight at 8:00. There aren’t any Flyers prospects in the game (the only Flyers prospect in the tournament is Swedish defenseman Simon Bertilsson), but there’s nothing like rooting for the good ol’ US of A.