Bryan Murray Talks Russians


Towards the latter portion a World Junior Hockey related post on Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski references a CSNWashington.com article that examines Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov’s future. According to its author, Chuck Gormley, Kuznetsov’s agent will be meeting with GM George McPhee to discuss the possibility of his client joining the Capitals at the conclusion of the World Junior Championships.

So why the hell is any of this important from an Ottawa Senators perspective?

Well, to get some unbiased perspective of how good Kuznetsov is, Gormley talked about the prospect with Senators GM Bryan Murray.

In turn, Murray shed some light on Kuznetsov.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray said before Saturday’s game against his former team. “He’s fast, a big kid. There’s no question if they wanted to put him on the team today he could play. He’s a legitimate player in the NHL.”

Murray said Kuznetsov was a “dominant force” in Russia’s come-from-behind victory over Canada in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, assisting on three goals as Russia erased a 3-0 deficit to win 5-3.

“I tried to get George (McPhee) to trade him to me,” Murray said. “I don’t know why he wouldn’t.”

When discussing why more NHL teams don’t share the Capitals’ eagerness to draft and develop Russian prospects, Murray points his finger at the lingering financial enticement that the KHL can offer young prospects.

“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 won’t stay. They’re unhappy. They won’t take the time to develop and therefore, we’ve said if we can’t get a top guy you might as well take an American or Canadian.

“We’ve had three or four in the minors and they get called (from the KHL) every other day to go back. They’re making $45,000 to $65,000 here in the minors and they can make $70,000 or $80,000 over there.” 

It’s no secret that since Radek Bonk left the organization; it feels like Ottawa’s been searching in perpetuity for that young player who can fulfill the second line center position. Looking at the few highly skilled forwards that are available early in this year’s draft, with the exception of Filip Forsberg, two and a half Russians — Mikhail Grigorenko, Nail Yakupov and pseudo-American Alex Galchenyuk – are expected to go relatively high.

Even though more than half of the regular season still needs to be played, Ottawa’s morale, high-end skill and work ethic hardly exemplifies what we’re accustomed to seeing from bottom feeding teams that limp to the finish line. While it remains to be seen whether this team can maintain its current position and secure a playoff spot, I do believe that they will play themselves out of a lottery position into a more likely top ten to fifteen draft position. In other words, barring a trade, for Ottawa to get one of these highly skilled offensive forwards, the Senators or one of these aforementioned players would probably have to slide in the draft rankings.

When Murray dealt defensive prospect David Rundblad on December 17th, in my summation of the trade, I felt that one overlooked aspect of the trade was the supposed number of defencemen who project well for the upcoming 2012 Entry Draft. Between this trade and the recent comments made by Murray, perhaps these two instances give us a little insight into how this regime views the upcoming draft: that it was a better gamble to roll the dice on Turris and whomever they’ll target in this year’s draft than move forward with Rundblad and this year’s first rounder.

Remember, this is the organization that was burned by Nikita Filatov’s desire to return to the KHL. They’re also the same organization that was dissuaded from drafting Vladimir Tarasenko in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – preferring instead to trade their first round pick 16th overall selection in into the St. Louis Blues for Rundblad – so we’ve already seen Murray’s staff balk at selecting talented Russians mid-round.

Of course, I would never dismiss the possibility that maybe this is all just coincidental… or maybe it’s not. (Dah. Dah. Duh!)

At the very least, it’s definitely fodder for discussion so have at it in the comment thread.

Senators Prospects Combine for 5 Goals at World Juniors

For a second I forgot how prospect porn is just as fervent as nationalism at this time of year. With Mark Stone’s hat-trick and four point night and Mika Zibanejad’s two point effort, it’s safe to pencil in both skaters for 35 goals next season and start engraving their plaques for the Hall of Fame…

Michalek Set For Return

At practice yesterday afternoon, Milan Michalek donned a red jersey; signifying that he’s physically healthy enough for contact drills. As Michalek mentioned before Christmas, he intends on making his return tomorrow night against the Canadiens.

Senators Practice Lines

With Michalek’s imminent return, here are the lines that were used in practice (via @SunGarrioch):

Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson
Foligno-Turris-Butler
Greening-Smith-Neil
Condra-Konopka-Daugavins

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