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NIKITA

Published on January 10th 2014

  • -COMMENTS

At the 2011 entry draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected a Russian winger named Nikita Kucherov late in the second round. A skill winger with terrific hands and creativity, Kucherov's draft number may have been impacted because of the "Russian factor"—NHL teams fear that Russian picks will stay in their home country to play in the KHL—but the Lightning took a chance. Kucherov—who went 58th overall despite being ranked in the top 20 by draft expert Corey Pronman—has developed into a very good NHL prospect.

THE VOLLMAN SLEDGEHAMMER

The Vollman Sledgehammer gives us a nice look into how Kucherov is doing, and who he is facing. The rich blue bubble tells us good things are happening while he's on the ice (the shot differential, or Corsi ON, favours the Lightning), and the low quality of competition indicates the Lightning are finding some nice spots for him and he's flourishing in the role. The old line about never putting a prospect in a position where he can't succeed would seem to hold true with Kucherov in Tampa Bay.

His boxcar numbers (21GP, 6-3-9) may not look like much, but he's played basically half the season and has had legit success with the Lightning. He's getting a little more power play time now and as the season enters the second half Kucherov may steal playing time from more established wingers.

Kucherov is one example of a player who may have been passed over by teams due to the bias teams have toward Russian prospects. Although NHL teams have a right to be concerned about signability, it also opens up tremendous opportunity for brave teams like Tampa Bay.

No guts, no glory.

 

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