Dostoevsky Report: Team Russia:Part II: Forwards & goaltending preview

DEC.24 -- While the experts are raving about the possibility to see the amazing TOP line to lighten it up at the Worlds, Russian coaching staff is betting its money on the more experienced second line members to provide most of the scoring... Goaltending may be Russia's biggest question mark thus far. In last Saturday's exhibition contest against the Soviet Wings Andrei Medvedev had trouble handling his emotions and lacked consistency in its effort, while back-up Konstantin Barulin was solid for his half of the game, but wasn't tested by opposition as much and as well as Medvedev.

Second line: LW Igor Grigorenko - C Andrei Taratukhin - RW Alexander Perezhogin.

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#21 Igor Grigorenko C/RW/LW
Age: 19 Height: 6-0 Weight: 189 || 02/03 Club: Lada Togliatti || NHL: Detroit Red Wings (62nd/'01)

Scouting: Shifty winger with great one-on-one abilities. Grigorenko added some muscle and weight to his frame over the summer and plays significantly bigger than his frame suggests. A dynamic skater with good pace, snicks well past the traffic and somehow manages to power his way to the net. Has good hockey sense, versatile and can play both RW and C, less successful as a LW. Boast a lethal wrist shot with quick release. Igor is a well known opportunist who scores on a high percentage of his breakaways. Hardworking and a steady student of defensive game... Feisty and at times undisciplined. Was suspended for one game this season after getting involved as a third guy into a fight. Season review: Lada's MVP - FAT period mark. Grigorenko is a diamond in Pyotr Vorobiev's boring system. Plays a lot at C this year alongside Alex Buturlin and Alex Boikov. Logs a lot of ice time, including a regular shift on penalty killing unit. Often double-shifted on the PP, as Vorobiev allows him to handle the point on the second unit .. Leads his team in goals and points... Had a slow start - was pointless in four games, prior to exploding offensively late in September (15-8-4-12)... Throughout two Euro-Tour stages was one of Russia's better performers (6-2-1-3). 
SKATING
9
SHOT
8
PASS
6
PUCK SKILLS
9
CHECKING
7
PHYSICAL INV.
7
Current shape: Went trough a six game pointless drought in November, but pulled his act together and was absolutely on fire for his Lada club for the last two weeks prior to the break (4-3-3-6). Role on the team: Ishmatov opted to play Grigorenko, who's a natural center, on the left wing alongside Taratukhin and Perezhogin. However the LW position is the one where Igor feels the least comfortable, albeit he may switch positions with versatile Taratukhin if things don't click for them early on. What to expect: Shifty winger has an impressive set of spectacular dekes and moves.

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#16 Andrei Taratukhin C/RW
Age: 19 Height: 6-0 Weight: 198 || 02/03 Club: Avangard Omsk || NHL: Calgary Flames (41st/'01)

Hardworking two-way center needs to refine his offensive skills in order to keep alive the perspective of becoming a second line center in the bigs one day. Intense forechecker works well in the defensive zone. Taratukhin has a good set of hands and has above average playmaking abilities. However he has to play with talented players in order to produce. Not a natural goalscorer, Andrei is known for being a poor finisher as he fails too often on great opportunities. Well balanced and strong on his skates, but needs to improve his mobility... Started this season on Avangard's farm (13-4-12-16) team and struggled a bit early on loosing top line spot in favor of a younger player. Pulled his act together once reunited with longtime mate Alexander Golovin and was recalled to practice with the main team following November's break.... Played for Russian U-20 nationals in Pardubice tournament (3-1-0-1). 
SKATING
6
SHOT
4
PASS
7
PUCK SKILLS
6
CHECKING
8
PHYSICAL INV.
7
Current shape: Played in six of team's seven recent games as the fourth line center. As usually, provided an inspiring effort and generated a fair amount of chances by aggressively crashing to the net. Role on the team: Ishmatov gives Andrei an immense vote of confidence by seeing him as team's second line center with Grigorenko and Perezhogin on the wings.

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#26 Alexander Perezhogin RW
Age: 19 Height: 6-0 Weight: 189 || 02/03 Club: Avangard Omsk || NHL: Montreal Canadiens (25th/'01)

Scouting: Not a spectacular player, but has skills to score highlight reel goals and occasionally will lift the fans out of seats with spectacular dekes and moves. Perezhogin plays a sound two-way game. A good skater: agile, mobile and fast enough when needed. Handles the traffic exceptionally well. Has some flashy moves in the bank, but sometimes is shy to use them. Has a deadly wrist shot (his shooting technique resembles to the one of Alex Mogilny: quick release and heavy outcome) that he has to use more often. Perezhogin has average passing skills - he can pass in open spaces but doesn't see the ice as well as other unnatural playmakers (Ilya Kovalchuk comes to mind)... Competitive winger is developing into a great PK specialist, as he often anticipates plays and is always a treat to score. Season review: Had just one RSL game in his records when Vladimir Plyuschev called him to star for Russian National team at the Czeske Pojstovna Cup, where he did a good job in primarily a checking role. Was one of Russia's better performers at the Karjala Cup in November... In the RSL: Has been playing on the RW of Avangard's second unit alongside veterans Alexander Prokopiev and Alex Kharitonov. Was paired with the later on Avangard's top PK unit. Averaged over 15 minutes per game, but very few of it on the PP, as (coach) Ivan Hlinka preferred to rely on more experienced players.. Since Kharitonov went down with an injury, Perezhogin saw time on the Czech unit (alongside former NHLers Pavel Patera and Martin Prochazka), as well as the junior unit (with Artyom Chernov and Yuri Ermolin)... Managed a strong start (8-4-2-6), followed by a general cool off, as he produced the rest of his points in short sequences...
SKATING
7
SHOT
9
PASS
7
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
8
PHYSICAL INV.
6
Current shape: His game winning goal against Severstal on Dec.9 is the only one he scored in the last 12 games for Avangard. Role on the team: Second line RW may be tried on the left side if Grigorenko is unable to cope there. Alexander shall be used a lot on the special teams, including the top PK unit - as he appeared to excel in checking roles for both Avangard and the Senior National side this year.

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Third line: LW Nikolai Zherdev - C Alexei Kaigorodov - RW Sergei Anshakov
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#13 Nikolai Zherdev  RW/C/LW
Age: 18 Height: 6-1 Weight: 186 || 02/03 Club: CSKA Moscow || NHL: 2003 eligible (RSB rank: 1st/Dec.)

Scouting: See R.S.B. profile
SKATING
9
SHOT
8
PASS
9
PUCK SKILLS
10
CHECKING
6
PHYSICAL INV.
6
Current shape: Had a difficult stretch over the last month for his club team, that included public  criticism from Viktor Tikhonov and a well publicized healthy scratch for one game. However was able to regain his confidence in time for the Junior team camp and was one of the better performers in two exhibition games against the Wings. Role on the team: Ishmatov prefers to rely on more experienced players to lead his team. Therefore Zherdev is doomed for a limited third line duty alongside Kaigorodov and Anshakov. Will not play more than 12-15 minutes per game, but it should be enough to showcase his great skills. Potential lack of production shall not hurt his stock in the professional circles, as it didn't hurt Ilya Kovalchuk's when he was underutilized by Pyotr Vorobiev two years ago in Moscow. What to expect: Exciting, spectacular gem will lift fans out of their sits with his world-class puckhandling abilities and flashy dekes. Should surprise many with his smart passing skills.

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#9 Alexei Kaigorodov  C
Age: 19 Height: 6-0 Weight: 191 || 02/03 Club: Metallurg Magnitogorsk || NHL: Ottawa Senateurs (47th/'02)

Scouting: Creative, fast skating playmaker possesses superb vision, deceptive shot and slippery one-on-one skills... Displayed the potential of being a sharp face-off man. In the circle regularly beats his opponents using his exceptional quickness... Takes care of  defensive chores, but rarely gets involved physically... Kaigorodov is a soft player that easily gets pushed on the periphery when the things get rough and tends to become invisible under such circumstances... Alexei always explores the abilities of a good scorer, but needs to shot more himself if he doesn't want to become another Craig Janney... Near future projection: assuming he improves his physical play (imperative!) and defensive zone coverage, Kaigorodov may shape into reliable two-way playmaking centre in Henrik Sedin's mold.  Season review: Played for Russian U-20 side in two 4 Nations tournaments (6-1-2-3)... Started the season as Metallurg's second line center and has been steady since. For most part played alongside veterans Sergei Osipov and Alexander Koreshkov... Second in team scoring with 14 points, including career high six goals as it appears that he shots a bit more this season... Had 3 helpers on Sept.13 vs Novokuznetsk. On Oct.19 against Severstal registered 2 goals and an assists... Managed a hot start with 11 points (6g, 5a) over the first 14 games... 
SKATING
9
SHOT
6
PASS
10
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
6
PHYSICAL INV.
4
Current shape: Was surpassed by expensive newly acquired veterans in Magnitogorsk and lost his second line spot. However Kaigorodov cooled off a while before he was demoted on the fourth line. Had just 3 helpers over his last 15 games. Role on the team: Third line center and the better suited of all to feed Nikolai The Puckwiz Zherdev. What to expect: Fast, elusive skater relies on his superb vision to distribute the puck to his line-mates. Kaigorodov is one of those playmakers that gets the best out of his wingers...

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#25 Sergei Anshakov RW
Age: 18 Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 || 02/03 Club: CSKA Moscow || NHL: Los Angeles Kings (50th/'02)

Scouting: A long term project. Thus far Anshakov has showed of being a capable attacking winger. Above average footspeed combined with world class agility, impressive size, solid shooting abilities and strong puckhandling skills makes his upside look attractive. Anshakov likes to drive to the net and has an ability to get open in the slot area. Needs to use more his line-mates and to mature his physical play. Anshakov's main flaw - unwillingness to back check. His usual act is to spin and wait for the pass once he drops as low as the blue line, while others do all the dirty work for him. Season review: Appeared in 22 of CSKA's 30 games this season. Played primarily as the fourth line RW and averaged under 12 minutes per game. Anshakov won the race for the roster spot versus Andrei Kostitsyn ('03 eligible) in course of September.  Had some great scoring opportunities, but struggled at finishing them off... Russian U-20 team member in two Four Nation tournaments (6-3-2-5) this fall. Nikolai Zherdev's line-mate. Played his best hockey in Pardubice scoring twice in three games and was arguably Russia's top forward outside of the TOP (Trubachev-Ovechkin-Polushin) unit.
SKATING
8
SHOT
7
PASS
7
PUCK SKILLS
8
CHECKING
2
PHYSICAL INV.
6
Role on the team: Third line RW alongside Zherdev and Kaigorodov. Anshakov can be the finisher on this unit given the fact that he finds well open slots around the net. On the negative side while playing for CSKA on the same line with Zherdev this season, Sergei frustrated his gifted line-mate by repeatedly failing to finish off his great passes. What to expect: Solid attacking winger doesn't use his line-mates much and faces issues with backchecking. If fails to produce early on, may slip to the fourth unit in favor of Shishkanov.

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Goaltenders:
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#30 Andrei Medvedev
Age: 19 Height: 6-1 Weight: 249 || 02/03 Club: Spartak Moscow || NHL: Calgary Flames (56th/'01)

Throughout struggles Medvedev managed to lose 12 pounds since last summer, but at 250 Medvedev still remains out of his optimal conditioning. He needs to loose 15-20 pounds more in order to get back to the top of his physical form. True that at 230 he still would be overweight, however those extra pounds seem to help his game more than to disturb it. He possesses great reflexes and is quite stable mentally, unlike many Russian netminders... Only (head coach) Fedor Kanareikin's unwillingness to trust young Medvedev explains Andrei's limited involvement with Spartak this season. In a few games he had a chance to start Andrei fared significantly better than team's No.1 Steven Plouffe... 
Current shape: Still large, but not as heavy as at last year's tournament. Medvedev dropped his weight by a dozen of pounds and regained some of its mobility back. However he's going trough some confidence problems of late. Lack of play this season (appeared in just five games for Spartak) may also affect his game. Role on the team: Medvedev will begin the tournament as Russia's starting netminder, however head coach Ishmatov may not be as confident in him as Vladimir Plyuschev was. If the things go wrong expect the back-up Barulin to step in and steel the show...

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#20 Konstantin Barulin
Age: 19 Height: 6-1 Weight: 183 || 02/03 Club: Gazovik Tyumen || NHL: 2003 eligible
 
A solid young netminder with good reflexes enjoys an exceptional season with High League's Tyumen. In 18 starts 18-year old Konstantin managed an outstanding 1.62 G.AA (ranked third in the league). Role on the team: A back-up who can easily end up as a starter. Performed better than Medvedev at the camp.

Tomorrow: defense preview.

-- Dostoevsky Report
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