American journalists love two things: rating future drafts and reviewing past drafts. When it comes to the 2011 set, Nikita Kucherov invariably comes out on top in the revised version, who in reality was selected only at number 58.
Each time, it is not clear how the clubs could get past Nikita, given his historic performance at the YJWCH pre-draft – Kucherov scored 21 points in seven games there and set a record that no one can beat yet. The guys who are next to Kucherov in this top have consistently dropped in the first round (Hughes, Cofield, Nylander, Kessel) or are projected in the top of the draft (Michkov).
Let’s go back to 2011. Numerous sites and drafting agencies have compiled their own versions of the first round of the draft or even the first hundred. Nobody put Kucherov in the top 30. Usually, his position roughly corresponded to the one under which he actually left for Tampa.
Nikita Kucherov at MFM-2013
The Hockey Writers was one of the most generous and ranked Nikita 49th. The journalist of the publication noted that Kucherov’s talent is at the level of the first round. Then why was Nikita in the middle of the second? “On the ice, he often looks indifferent to the game and lacks unmotivated removals,” was the description of a big flaw in the game of young Kucherov. In principle, he did not overcome it to the end – we saw this in some moments.
Kucherov moves NHL legends, rewriting history. But his behavior is sometimes just ashamed
By that time, the NHL had already seen enough of our talents, which today could do incredible things, and then mope for a few games. The names of Nikolai Zherdev and Stanislav Chistov, who failed to add efficiency and discipline to their talent, were remembered not only by us, but also by NHL managers. One of the journalists, even during the record YUCHM, wrote: “Potential problems with work ethics – you can compare it with the Russian players of the past.”
This was one of the shortcomings. The second is the so-called “Russian factor”. Now this is already forgotten, but then the KHL was at the peak of its geopolitical and financial influence, Russian players could get big money at home. The low dollar and the fact that the NHL then had incomes and salaries less than now, made the conditions of the KHL even more favorable.
Journalist Eldon McDonald wrote before the draft: “Kucherov’s main negative factor is that he is Russian and plays in Russia.” The passport was not yet the main problem, but the KHL greatly interfered – they put Vladislav Namestnikov, who was the consensus pick of the first round, and Alexander Khokhlacheva above Nikita. Both played in the Canadian junior leagues and not at home.
Nikita Kucherov at the heart of CSKA
Shortly before the draft, Kucherov announced that he was going to stay in Russia for another two seasons, which could bring down his shares even more. Some clubs hoped so. For example, Calgary picked in the second round right before Tampa, the club had plans for Kucherov, but figured they could pull him out later. But the Lightning, after the second round, had the next peak only in the fifth – they decided not to give a chance to competitors and took a chance.
As we know, Kucherov did not spend two seasons in Russia. The player received a shoulder injury, which CSKA refused to treat. According to the player, the club did not believe that he had some kind of injury, and offered Kucherov to perform the operation at his own expense. As the hockey player said in an interview, this attitude was one of the reasons for leaving for Canada a year earlier than planned.
Finally, the third factor that played against Kucherov in the draft is size. The dimensions of the player at that time were 178 cm and 77 kg. The NHL back then was much more old-fashioned and looked at size rather than speed. Thanks to this, in the first round, the big ones were still chosen, who relied solely on meat and muscles, and not brains. One of the most famous examples is Toronto’s 23rd pick Tyler Biggs: zero NHL games, only 17 points per 100 AHL games.
Nikita Kucherov in the “Red Army”
Due to the size of his game in the body raised big questions. Scouts noted that he was not afraid to do the dirty work, but because of his small size, it was not always corny to perform. Perhaps the first season in the league (2013/2014), which Kucherov spent on the fourth line with checker Nate Thompson, left to adapt to the NHL. A year later, the legendary “Triplets” were born.
As a result, Kucherov approached the NHL in the rather vague status of a player who performed well at the youth level, but still seemed like a person who might not reach his potential. Even when he scored his first NHL goal with his first shot on goal, the commentators called him “Dmitry”, confusing him with the Belarusian defender Korobov, who was simultaneously called out of the farm.
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However, the story of Kucherov is the case when the vulgar saying “everything is well that ends well” really works. He has landed in the club that best brings young players to the NHL and treats any prospect he has as a possible rough diamond. It’s not a fact that another team would rush about restoring Kucherov’s shoulder like that – some organizations don’t pay attention to their young ones at all outside the first round.