For the first time ever, Russia took both games of the CHL-Russia Super Series against the Ontario League. Overall, the series is tied 2-2 thanks to a Quebec League sweep, but the OHL result was surprising, since the Russians left a lot of talent at home and had only beaten the OHL once ever. With an eye on that showdown and the rest of the prospect world, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Vladimir Tkachev, C – Omskiye Yastreby (Rus.)
One of the early stars of this year’s CHL-Russia series, Tkachev leads his team in scoring with two goals and four points in four games. To say Tkachev is slight is an understatement; listed at 5-foot-8, 139 pounds, he is downright skinny. But he’s comfortable on the ice and uses a dynamic skill package to make things happen. While he wouldn’t reveal what he thought he did well, Tkachev did relay through journalist/translator Andrey Osadchenko what he can improve on.
“I want to work on my defense and the physical aspect of my game,” he said.
Taken by Moncton in the CHL Import Draft, Tkachev was expected to report this season, where he would have played with fellow draft-eligible Russian Ivan Barbashev. But he stayed on with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk organization and is now playing for their junior team, where he has six goals and 13 points in 12 games. Tkachev was great at the Junior Club World Cup, where his host team took bronze gold and that helped his exposure with the KHL team (he played two games for Avangard this year), but he insists that showing wasn’t a factor.
“Not really,” he said. “That was just a competition for me. We understood what we needed to do and we did well. As for why I didn’t come to Canada, it wasn’t just my decision. I talked to my agent, my parents and we decided that for now it would be better for me to stay in Omsk.”
After the Super Series, the next time NHL scouts will see him play North Americans will likely be at the world juniors in Sweden. And Tkachev is pretty good on big stages. Draft eligible in 2014.
Charles Hudon, LW – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Playing on a huge line with Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha, Hudon was excellent for the QMJHL in the two Super Series wins. Combining offensive talent with a great two-way game, Hudon is practically a lock for the world junior team and finding chemistry with Drouin now is a great boon for the winger, who missed last year’s tourney due to injury. Drafted 122nd overall by Montreal in 2012.
Kerby Rychel, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
One of the few bright spots for the OHL in the Oshawa game of the Super Series, Rychel brings an excellent combination of physicality and skill to the table. One second he’s putting an opponent through the boards, the next he’s wiring a wrist shot home for a goal. He would be an excellent addition to Canada’s world junior team. Drafted 19th overall by Columbus in 2013.
Vincent Trocheck, C – San Antonio Rampage (AHL)
Leading the Rampage in scoring as a rookie pro, Trocheck is continuing the fine offensive play that he honed with Saginaw and Plymouth in the OHL. The hardworking center has nine goals and 18 points through 19 games. Drafted 64th overall by Florida in 2011.
Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The final challenge for the visiting Russians in the Super Series will come from the Western League, where Lazar will captain the locals for one of two matchups. Lazar was an excellent penalty-killer for Canada at the Lake Placid summer camp and has the offensive hops to contribute at both ends of the ice. Drafted 17th overall by Ottawa in 2013.
Jayce Hawryluk, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
A hardworking kid who was a surprise addition to Canada’s Ivan Hlinka team in the summer, Hawryluk clearly took those gold medal experiences and put them into practice back in Brandon. The Manitoba native can really throw his weight around, but also has some nice offensive flair, which has given him a team-high 25 points in 26 games. Draft eligible in 2014.
Adam Wilcox, G – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
No one in the Big Ten has played as many minutes in net as Wilcox, who is proving that his excellent frosh campaign was no fluke. The local kid from South St. Paul leads the conference in wins with eight, has faced more shots than anyone and is rocking a sturdy 2.25 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Drafted 178th overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Daniel Audette, C – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Playing in front of his home crowd in Sherbrooke, Audette paced the ‘Q’ in Game 2 of the Super Series with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win. Though he’s on the smaller side, Audette has great quickness and offensive prowess. Draft eligible in 2014.
Ryan Mantha, D – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
A big, stay-at-home defenseman, Mantha actually has two points in his past four games, but it’s the 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame that entices scouts. The University of North Dakota commit is a crease-clearing presence and an ace on the penalty kill. Draft eligible in 2014.
Connor Hellebuyck, G – UMass-Lowell RiverHawks (Hockey East)
Lowell got off to a slow start, but now the preseason fave is rolling and Hellebuyck is in the fighting form that got the team to the Frozen Four last year. The big sophomore leads to conference in both GAA (1.57) and save percentage (.951). Drafted 130th overall by Winnipeg in 2012.