Friday, May 28, 2010

Alexandrov signs two-year deal with B's; will that change Russian draft outlook?

By now, you are all aware that Russian defenseman Yuri Alexandrov has signed a two-year entry level contract (not three because he's 22 years of age, so he falls under the same rules that applied to Andrew Alberts and Blake Wheeler before him) with Boston. Although the team has yet to issue an official release on it, his numbers have hit the site, which is almost always a precursor to a deal being in the books (in his case a reported 785k hit, with 62.5k salary in the minors if he doesn't make the big club).

Alexandrov was the team's second selection (37th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and has been playing in Russia's highest pro league (now known as the Kontinental Hockey League or KHL) since age 17, so he comes to North America with a wealth of AHL-comparable experience. Don't be surprised if he makes the Boston roster right away because he's not your typical rookie who is coming out of junior. If he does spend time in Providence, it will be because he may need to bulk up/improve his strength. When he was drafted, I was taken aback at how rail thin Alexandrov was. He looked like he'd put on a little more weight from the photos I saw of him at development camp last July, but he's still slight and will probably always have a lanky build that is tougher for him to keep mass on (especially during the season).

The real question that Alexandrov's signing opens up as it pertains to the 2010 draft is: will the team alter its recent philosophy to ignore Russian players on their draft boards (as they have for every single pick the team has owned since taking him in the second round four years ago)?

My feeling is, no-- not much. Now, if the team sees value in a certain pick they might roll the dice a bit, but it will have to be the right kind of player and the right pick position for them to spend it on someone who could take years to come over as Alexandrov has. I know that the team at one point last year thought he was a lost cause until a chance meeting with a mutual Russian acquaintance opened the lines of communication between team and prospect.

What does this mean?

Well, for starters, players like Alexander Burmistrov and Stanislav "Stas" Galiev are going to be more appealing to Boston because they're at least in North America and the team can better keep tabs on them as opposed to a Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov, for example. But still, the whole potential for any player to bolt the NHL or AHL for greener pastures in their home country is still going to be a deterrent until these guys prove their dedication. As the old saying goes: talk is cheap. All the combine interview promises of a commitment aren't going to be worth much if the player changes his mind a couple of years down the road.

As for Alexandrov, his signing is a good step in the right direction, but we have yet to see how he'll fare in a new country, new environment and how he's going to handle the first bit of adversity that is sure to come his way. Until the Bruins actually see how he responds, don't expect them to throw caution to the wind and start grabbing Russians in the first two rounds of this draft.

Anything's possible I suppose, but still here to tell you that there is one Russian player who won't get any consideration from them at picks 15, 32 and 45. Burmistrov or Galiev, on the other hand, could provide the Bruins more of an internal debate if they are available at any of Boston's choices after second overall, given the success in bringing Alexandrov in the fold.

We still have a ways to go before we see if Alexandrov has what it takes to thrive in the NHL outside of his very good skill level and potential as a two-way blue liner. But, he's done well in Russia with leadership roles for various teams and has performed at a high level against men now since before he was even drafted. As long as there are no surprises from his perspective in terms of where he fits in or what is expected of him, he could provide a nice boost and upgrade to Boston's defense corps in 10-11, and if not in Boston certainly in Providence.

So long as he's willing to play there, that is. All the talk, all the platitudes are nice, but the team got burned with Sergei Zinoviev's defection back to Ak Bars in 2003, and so until Alexandrov proves he's willing to do what's in the best interest of the team and their view of his development, the Bruins will hold their breath; they have no choice but to wait and see how it all works out.


  1. Do you see "one Russian player" getting drafted in round 1 or 2, by some team that thinks/hopes he will get his act together?

  2. If I had to put money on it, I'd say early third round at the soonest.

    Late 2nd a possibility.

    1st round? Nope.