Dostoevsky Report: Team Russia:Part III: Defense preview

DEC.25 -- Russia's defense corps suffered an immense blow when it became apparent that captain Vladimir Korsunov will miss  World Juniors to a back injury. Rafail Ishmatov has a perfect top four of Denis Grebeshkov, Fedor Tyutin, Kirill Koltsov and Max Kodratiev that he can rely upon for quality effort. The question is whether the rest of the blueliners have the ability to keep up at such level of competition.

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#5 Denis Grebeshkov RD
Age: 19 Height: 6-0 Weight: 180 || 02/03 Club: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl || NHL: Los Angeles Kings (18th/'02)

Mobile two-way rearguard with immense upside. Grebeshkov's pragmatic nature slows a bit his offensive growth, as he's first concerned for providing quality effort inside the defensive zone. Very smart positional rearguard Denis doesn't need to involve himself more physically than he already does. He's always in the right spot, at the right time, picking the right guy... Efficient puckhandler, great outlet passer and has an accurate shot, that perhaps lacks a bit in power... Grebeshkov's only significant flaw is a possibly fragile mental side. Things haven't been going exactly great for him this year, as he had a few bad games for Lokomotiv to go along with a poor showing for the Senior National side at the Karjala Cup. Grebeshkov's ability to recover mentally in appropriate time following poor performance have been questioned... A regular with Lokomotiv this season, have been bouncing around the line up, as (coach) Vladimir Vujtek likes to toss with his line combinations. Played most of the year alongside Sergei Zhukov, also saw some time paired with Denis Fakhrutdinov. Played for Russia at both Euro-Tour stages (6-1-0-1).
SKATING
8
SHOT
6
PASS
8
PUCK SKILLS
7
CHECKING
9
PHYSICAL INV.
6
Current shape: Over the last two weeks Denis slowly rebuild his fragile confidence, following a sub par start with Lokomotiv this season and an atrocious showing for the National side in Finland. Role on the team: WJC in Halifax will be the third for talented blueliner. One of team's leaders will play an important role and should see a lot of ice-time at any facets of the game for Russia. What to expect: Denis seems to have more confidence in his offensive game while facing against his group age - possesses good enough instincts to be be in the same league with Tyutin, Korneev and Koltsov. Extremely reliable defensively due to smart positioning and and fascinating game reading ability.

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#7 Fedor Tyutin LD
Age: 19 Height: 6-1 Weight: 192 || 02/03 Club: SKA Saint-Petersburg || NHL: NY Rangers (40th/'01)

Scouting: Rangers' only capable Russian prospect. Tyutin is a highly skilled two-way rearguard with great upside. Positionally sound defender still has to get rid of several flaws in his game. Tyutin battles with good agressivenes around the crease and on the boards, but has to learn to hit on open ice, as he often gets beaten while trying to poke check the puck away from the carrier. It's his offensive skills (to go along with maturing play within defensive zone) that make his stock worth fortunes. Fast elusive skater with great mobility, strength and balance. Fedor boast All Star puckhandling skills and makes accurate pinpoint passes, his shot is above average as well.
SKATING
8
SHOT
7
PASS
8
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
7
PHYSICAL INV.
8
Current shape: Fared remarkably well in a 10-game stint with Saint-Petersburg since his contract woes were resolved. Played a sound two-way game on SKA's top defensive pairing and saw a lot of minutes on special teams. However stood criticism regarding the dirty style and a habit for visiting the box at the most inappropriate moments. Role on the team: Highly skilled rearguard is no doubt a top four defenseman on this edition of Russian U-20. Will be looked upon as a one of the club leaders. What to expect: A few minor flaws are still present in Fedor's defensive game, but they may not be as apparent versus his group age. Long on offensive skills and if given the green light by the coaching staff, could make the fans raving about his elusive skating, shifty puckhandling and intelligent crispy passing.

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#12 Kirill Koltsov LD
Age: 19 Height: 5-11 Weight: 190 || 02/03 Club: Avangard Omsk || NHL: Vancouver Canucks (49th/'02)

Scouting: There's no other 19 year old rearguard in RSL who provides contribution similar to Koltsov's at this time. He's already considered one of RSL's better blueliners... Solid two-way rearguard is unbelievably mature and responsible for his age. Koltsov is one of those players who aren't exceptional, but simply good at every little thing they do. Not very big, Koltsov can be very physical if required. Smart, positionally sound blueliner often goes for the safe play in the defensive zone and rarely gets cut turning the puck over... Tricky puckhandler possesses a heavy wrist shot (a la Vladimir Malakhov) and above average slapper. Can successfully support offense by a well timed jump into the play. Koltsov's creativity enables him to control the point on the PP. Season review: Logs important minutes on team's second pairing alongside veteran Igor Nikitin. Kills penalties and handles  PP duty... Koltsov returned to the U-20 team, as the man who held him off the side last year - Vladimir Plyuschev - got promoted to the Senior squad. 
SKATING
8
SHOT
7
PASS
8
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
9
PHYSICAL INV.
8
Current shape: Had a few difficult games for Omsk late in November, but his overall contribution for one of RSL's leading clubs this season remains exemplary. Role on the team: A grown up among the kids - Koltsov's levels of dedication, responsibility, work ethic to go along with willingness to perform well in whatever role coaches assign him to makes him extremely valuable to the team. Bottom line - Kirill is Russia's top defenseman. What to expect: Koltsov isn't exceptional at any particular facet of his game, he's equally good at everything he does. Feels comfortable in stay-at-home role, but is skilled and creative enough to be a valuable contributor inside the offensive zone... Motivated to clean up his reputation damaged by a rift with Plyuschev and a series of questionable reports that suggested he was some sort of a troubled soul.

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#3 Konstantin Korneev LD
Age: 18 Height: 5-11 Weight: 180 || 02/03 Club: Krylia Sovetov Moscow || NHL: Montrealo Canadiens (275th/'02)

A smallish blueliner with great offensive instincts. Is a long shot to make to the NHL due to his defensive shortcomings. Not strong enough to stand up against imposing forwards in one-one-one battles Korneev earns his living in the defensive zone by choosing an appropriate position and diligently playing the puck... Plays on Soviet Wings' top (by default) defensive pairing alongside Mikhail Lyubushin. Logs important minutes on the PP and has been an important member of Russian U-20 team (6-1-1-2) during fall's tournaments...
SKATING
8
SHOT
7
PASS
9
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
3
PHYSICAL INV.
5
Current shape: Close to being on top of his game. Korneev improved his decision making in the defensive zone of late and is less of liability in that regard. Bulked up - added five pounds to his printsized frame. Role on the team: Power play specialist is capable to fill in at center position, still his appearance up front is highly unlikely for the tournament. Will get premium ice-time only if remains steady defensively, since Ishmatov is a type of coach who takes a while to forgive for defensive lapses. What to expect: On the rush he becomes the fourth forward. Blessed with great offensive instincts, but by no means a force in his own end.

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#22 Dmitry Fakhrutdinov LD
Age: 19 Height: 5-11 Weight: 180 || 02/03 Club: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl || NHL: 2003 eligible
 
SKATING
7
SHOT
5
PASS
5
PUCK SKILLS
6
CHECKING
6
PHYSICAL INV.
7
A smallish two-way blueliner surpassed notable prospects (Alexei Stonkus and Denis Grot) on Yaroslavl's depth chart this season primarily by keeping it simple in the defensive zone (with a sub par outcome) when the chance to play presented. Thus far Dmitry was regularly dressed for Superleague games, but actually played in 20 of Lokomotiv's 32 games (registered team worst -9), sat on the bench without taking a shift in the rest... Was part of the U-20 team at the Pardubice tournament and fared far from satisfactorily there... Had a strong camp - outplayed his main opponent: Shinin and established solid chemistry with Lyubushin, with whom they're likely to make Russia's fourth defensive pairing... Although at this stage his prerogative is a mistake free performance inside the defensive zone, Dmitry is a solid outlet passer and could support the offense when given the opportunity.
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#24 Maxim Kondratiev RD
Age: 19 Height: 6-1 Weight: 176 || 02/03 Club: Lada Togliatti || NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs (168th/'01)

Well rounded rearguard is a strong skater with good balance who lacks a bit of pick up speed and needs to improve his mobility. Physically strong, but still has to bulk up and get his weight to an optimal 190 pd.. Kondratiev is well sound positionally and rarely gets cut out off spot. He plays steady stay-at-home game, although has some offensive upside - for instance could develop a good first pass. Aggressive on the boards and around the crease area ... Probably a couple of years away from a try on NHL level. Maxim needs to polish several aspects of his game - his talent is quite raw at this point... Regular with Togliatti this season and plays predominantly on the third pairing alongside youngster Filipp Metlyuk... Russia's U-20 member in two 4 Nations tourneys.
SKATING
6
SHOT
5
PASS
5
PUCK SKILLS
5
CHECKING
9
PHYSICAL INV.
7
Current shape: Kondratiev is an integral part of Togliatti's defensive corps this season. Thus far he played in all but one game and saw significant ice-time for a player of such age. Role on the team: Unlikely to be paired with Tyutin again. This time Ishmatov sees him as a mentor to one of team's young rearguards (possibly Korneev or Fakhrutdinov). What to expect: Steady stay-at-home blueliner is well-balanced and boasts improved mobility. For what he lacks in speed, he makes up by choosing the right position.

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#29 Mikhail Lyubushin RD
Age: 19 Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 || 02/03 Club: Krylia Sovetov Moscow || NHL: Los Angeles Kings (215th/'02)

Average-size stay-at-home blueliner has been a surprise contributor on Soviet Wing's top defensive unit alongside Konstantin Korneev. Lyubushin provides insurance at the back whenever Korneev decides to jump up front. Despite the "first unit member" tag Mikhail receives rather reasonable ice-time, as he plays around 15 minutes per game... Played for the U-20 team at 4 Nations Cup in Sweden (3-0-1-1/+2).
SKATING
6
SHOT
6
PASS
5
PUCK SKLLS
6
CHECKING
8
PHYSICAL INV.
7
Current shape: Brave Mikhail lost three teeth as the puck hit him in the face, while he was trying to block a point shot in his last game for the Wings on Dec.10. Role on the team: Not without success was tried alongside Fakhrutdinov in exhibition and scrimmage action. However may end up playing with his Soviet Wings partner Korneev.. What to expect: Defense minded rearguard feels at home playing alongside offensive blueliners. 

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#2 Denis Ezhov  RD
Age: 18 Height: 6-0 Weight: 200 || 02/03 Club: Lada-2 Togliatti || NHL: 2003 eligible (RSB rank: 4th/Dec.)
 
SKATING
7
SHOT
6
PASS
5
PUCK SKILLS
6
CHECKING
8
PHYSICAL INV.
8
Current shape: Ezhov's stock dropped slightly as the season went on. He was surpassed by other young rearguards on Togliatti's depth chart and in spite of favorable 3+2 rule is yet to play a game with Lada's main side this season. Role on the team: Was called at the last moment to replace injured Korsunov. Shall see limited duty on forth defensive pairing, but has a chance to move up the roster if Fakhrutdinov and Korneev struggle defensively. What to expect: Steady stay-at-home blueliner gradually adapts his main strength - imposing physical style - on a higher level of play.
 
-- Dostoevsky Report
 
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