A big step forward. KHL Junior Draft 201327.05.2013
With each passing year, the KHL Junior Draft takes a significant step forward. While the draft itself will always have its opponents as well as supporters, there is no denying that the ceremony itself has improved steadily, and with the fifth such event being staged in a specially-adorned Arena Druzhba in Donetsk, complete with giant screens allowing those present to see all the finer details of the drama, it is hard to believe that only five seasons ago the entire procedure took place in Gazprom’s office in Moscow.
The crew from the KHL Central Scouting Bureau made available a wealth of data on these youngsters from all over the world, and there were even excellent video profiles on each the top twenty players.
The one major change introduced this year was that instead of 17 to 21-year-olds, the clubs could now only select youngsters born in 1996, regardless of the player’s country of origin.
Before the Draft got underway the KHL’s Deputy Executive Director, Alexei Kireyev, conducted two lotteries: the first was the traditional draw between the lowest-placed clubs in each conference, and the second was between next season’s two newcomers: Medvescak of Zagreb and the as yet unnamed club from Vladivostok. The first lottery gifted first pick to Amur Khabarovsk, followed by Dinamo Riga, Avtomobilist (although the Yekaterinburg men had bartered away all five picks over the course of last season) and finally Spartak.
As soon as the draw was over, Magnitogorsk Metallurg tried to tempt Amur into trading first pick, but to no avail. Ak Bars had also been busy trading all morning, and by afternoon the Kazan men had secured from Dinamo Riga and Atlant the rights to five picks in the first round plus one more in the second.
Just like last year, all the clubs (apart from Barys, Dinamo Riga, Donbass and Lev) had the right to protect five players from their own school, although that limit is waived for Lokomotiv as part of the ongoing rebuilding program.
On with the Draft, and the 2013 Number One Pick was Dmitry Osipov, a defenseman with Rus Moscow who on the eve of the ceremony admitted he was hoping to be handed the colors of Salavat Yulaev or a Moscow club, and was understandably a little crestfallen at the prospect of moving a few thousand miles east to Khabarovsk. The young are nothing if not resilient, however, and by the time he made it onto the stage Dmitry was wearing the broadest of smiles for the photographers.
Osipov had this to say “I became a hockey player purely by chance; some coaches visited our school and saw me. Of course, I have no complaints now. My parents had never paid much attention to hockey, but after all that’s happened with me they’ve become fascinated with the game.”
The second selection was one of the picks acquired by Ak Bars from Dinamo Riga, and it was no surprise when they welcomed on stage their own Evgeny Svechnikov, who was also #2 in the KHL scouts’ ratings. Svechnikov was born in Sakhalin but first played the game in Barnaul, where he was coached by Vladimir Nikolayev (Alexei Cherepanov’s first coach), before arriving in Kazan via Balashikha. His stats for Ak Bars in the MHL (Youth Hockey League) speak for themselves – 20 points from 38 games.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to Ak Bars for choosing me,” said a grateful Svechnikov. “Thanks also to my first coach and thanks to Sergei Bazhukhin for his guidance these last three years. I hope life and hockey keep making you happy.”
The third selection was another case of a hockey giant protecting its young, with Magnitogorsk picking Vladislav Kamenev, who arrived mid-season from Orsk and made his debut in the MHL. SKA followed suit with pick #5, snapping up the rights to Vladislav Valentsov from the Petersburg school, Neva. The first team to enlist a member of the future foreign legion was Sibir, securing the services of Czech forward Jakub Vrana, who had topped the scouts’ European ratings.
The men from Novokuznetsk Metallurg were the surprise raiding party, first targeting Kazan, then Yaroslavl, then back to Kazan for three successive picks before Dmitry Parkhomenko finally turned his gaze closer to home and chose Nikita Yazkov from the Novokuznetsk school.
But the club from Vladivostok stole the show. The KHL debutants have yet to sign a single contract, but they started their team-building process here with two exotic imports: in the first round they picked Japan’s Izumi Shoma, followed in round two by South Korea’s Chong Hyun Lee.
The rest of the Draft played out as one would expect, with most clubs eager to secure the rights to their own youngsters, particularly in the first three rounds. Arkhip Nekolenko, who headed the KHL scouts’ Russian ratings, was only the 20th pick, despite notching 24 points in the MHL last season at the tender age of 16. At least young Arkhip will not be homesick – he stays at Spartak.
“I’ll be trying to break into Spartak’s first team,” Nekolenko said. “I understand that it won’t be easy, but I’ll try. I know that in June I’ll be training with the guys in the main roster, so I’ll have a chance.”
“Maybe physically he’s not quite ready to play in the main roster,” – said the Red-and-Whites’ vice-president, Oleg Bratash, “but training with them will do him the world of good.”
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