Wednesday, June 15, 2011

E-Mac's 2011 NHL Entry Draft Top 120: Nikita Kucherov #23

By Eldon MacDonald

23. Nikita Kucherov - “Mr. Game Breaker” - W - Russia

Vitals: Size - 5’11”, 171 lb.; Shoots left; Born: 17-Jun-93 - Maikop, RUS
Team: CSKA-Krasnaja Armija Moskva, MHL
2010-11Stats: 41-27-31-58-81-(+42) + U18 7-11-10-21-6-(+10)
17 - Craig Button's Top 30 of 8-Jun-11
19 - Cory Pronman's Top 100
23 - E-Mac's 2011 NHL Entry Draft Top 120
39 - The Scouting Report's Top 100 Skaters
41 - Christopher Ralph's Top 210
52 - hfboards Readers’ Poll
56 - Bob MacKenzie's June Poll of Scouts
58 - ISS per TSN
59 - Future Considerations Final Rankings
95 - The Hockey News per TSN
Undrafted - NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings (104th European skater)
Draft result:
58 - Tampa Bay Lightning

Who knew??? I confess that I didn’t because I had written him off as being too small (5’9, 148 lb. on some sites whereas the NHL had him at 5’11, 171 lb. coming out of the Combine). Obviously, I was not alone because NHL Central Scouting took a long time warming up to him too. Here is what NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told, " Perhaps he didn't have confidence in himself in the beginning of the season. But in February and April, when I saw him in tournaments, international competition, he was filled with confidence and did a lot of things with the puck that he didn't do before." In any case, starting in the new year, Nikita started to wow them. He was the team’s best player at the U18 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic in February. And then on the world stage in April, of course, he more than wowed everybody - setting an all time tournament record for points at the U18 World’s in addition to being named best forward. And he wasn’t too shabby back home in Russia either leading his club (Moscow Red Army) as Captain to the MHL championship.

What kind of player is Nikita Kucherov??? Game-breaker would be the easy answer or heart breaker if you are playing for the other side. Nikita has an impressive arrange of advanced weapons in his arsenal. First of all, his one-timer is so good that he could live of that alone. Secondly, his speed is so devasting that he can back up defenders and use his sublime passing skills to finish the play. Thirdly, he is prepared to be aggressive on the forecheck and pounce on loose pucks. Fourthly, add vision, determination and an elite finishing ability and you have one elite hockey player.

Are there any negatives to Nikita Kucherov? The biggest negative and one that will affect when he gets drafted is the fact that he is Russian and appears to be committed for two more years playing in Russia. Maybe that is not all bad because it will allow him some time to correct his second biggest weakness which is size and strength. There are those who say he is inconsistent which may have been correct at one time but he has been more consistently brilliant of late - Five Nations, MHL Champion, World U18’s tournament all-time record for points - that I tend to think of it as more in the past.

Where does Nikita Kucherov, a player with top five skills, go in the draft. I have a hard time believing that a player with such skills will last to the second round even if he does spend the next two tears in Russia. Where in the first round is the better question and you will have to wait till June 24th to get a good answer.


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