European prospects get set to kick of their seasons
Saturday July 25th 2009, 1:51 pm

As the European leagues begin to gear up for the 2009-2010 season, Dan David provides a comprehensive round up of the New York Rangers prospects who’ll be playing overseas this season on team’s official web site.  It’s a great overview of who remains in the Rangers system and where they’ll call home once the puck drops on the new season.

All told, the Rangers currently hold the rights to nine players who’ll spend the upcoming season outside North America, spread across the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Czech First Division, Czech Extraliga, and Slovak Extraliga:

Player Draft Yr Team League
Mikhail Pashnin 2008 CSKA Moscow* KHL
David Skokan 2007 Bratislava Slovak Extraliga
Pavel Valentenko 2006 Dynamo Moscow KHL
David Kveton 2006 Trinec Czech Extraliga
Lukas Zeliska 2006 Trinec Czech Extraliga
Zdenek Bahensky 2004 Mlada Boleslav Czech Extraliga
Ivan Baranka 2003 Spartak Moscow KHL
Roman Psurny 2003 Usti nad Labem Czech 1st Div
Ilya Gorokhov 1995 Salavat Yulaev Ufa KHL

* Currently unsigned

Not to dismiss the Czechs and Slovaks — the only one there who appears to have a significant chance of making the NHL is David Kveton, and he doesn’t seem particularly eager to take a shot anytime soon — Russian players and prospects playing in Russia are kind of the bread and butter around here, so let’s take a closer look at those who’ll call the KHL home this season.

OK, raise your hand if you knew the Rangers still held the rights to a 31-year old Russian defenseman who was drafted in 1995.  Good, it wasn’t just me.  Don’t get too excited, though.  Ilya Gorokhov’s a bottom-half defenseman in the KHL who’s firmly entrenched in playing in his homeland and will never factor in the Rangers plans.  Perhaps the only thing to note about him is that after playing the past five years with his hometown club Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, where he was a teammate of fellow Rangers draftee Artem Anisimov, Gorokhov opted to sign with Salavat Yulaev Ufa this summer.  In Ufa, Gorokhov will play with former Rangers Dmitry Kalinin and Maxim Kondratiev for Viatcheslav Bykov, a man who’s name will become more familiar during the Olympics next year when he’s standing behind the bench for the Russian national team.  A who’s who of Russian players have signed with Salavat this summer with the hopes of raising their visibility with the man picking the Olympic squad (Rangers restricted free agent Nikolai Zherdev has also been courted by the club), but don’t expect it to help Gorokhov, who unlike Kalinin and Kondratiev, is not in the running for an Olympic bid.

Former Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman and 2003 Rangers draft pick Ivan Baranka is getting ready to kick off his second season for Spartak Moscow, where they’ve put together a nice collection of Slovakian imports, including Flyers prospect Stefan Ruzicka and former NHLer Branko Radivojevic.  Despite missing time with a couple of minor injuries last season (quelle surprise), the 24-year old former Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman led the team in ice time at 21:33 per game, while tallying two goals and eight assists in 47 games.  He also achieved his dream of making the Slovakian national team and played in the World Championship, a goal he was unlikely to reach from the AHL.  As of last December, Baranka intended to fulfill his contract with Spartak, which runs through this season, before taking another crack at the NHL.  With the stable of defensive propsects the Rangers already have waiting in the wings, it would seem likely that his rights will need to be traded to another club if he’s going to get that opportunity.

CSKA Moscow kicked off training camp in Finland on Friday, but did so without Rangers 2009 seventh round draft pick Mikhail Pashnin, who still hasn’t been able to sign with the club that moved mountains (and multiple draft picks) in order to pick him first over all in the inaugural KHL draft in May.  The delay comes as a result of a conflict with his old club, Mechel Chelyabinsk, which is demanding more than the 1.5 million rouble transfer fee set forth in the KHL’s rules.  Earlier this week, KHL head scout Boris Emelyanov, told All Hockey that the transfer fee issue has been resolved.  “As far as I know,” Emelyanov reported, “the parties have already agreed about everything, and Mikhail will sign the contract with the army club [CSKA] shortly.”  But on Friday, CSKA head coach and former Ranger Sergei Nemchinov contradicted Emelyanov, and confirmed that no agreement has been reached.  “We understand that the prescribed amount in the KHL rules of one and a half million roubles compensation for him is not enough,” Nemchinov told Sovietsky Sport.  “So we hope in the coming days to agree on a price with his hometown club Mechel.”  Once signed, Pashnin’s contract will keep him in Moscow for at least two years.

Pavel Valentenko has been largely dismissed as a throwaway piece in the deal that rid the Rangers of Scott Gomez and his salary cap hit, but “Tank” could very well have the best chance of all the players listed above of ever playing on Broadway.  When he left the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs for family reasons last October and subsequently agreed to sign with Dynamo Moscow, he made it clear that he’d still like to play in the NHL –  potentially in as little as two seasons, when the escape clause on his three year deal with the Russian team kicks in.  Now, after a season in which he missed six weeks because of a back injury and was ultimately relegated to the press box for a large chunk of the remainder of the season once he returned, there are rumors swirling that his time with Dynamo, where his competition on defense includes Danil Markov, Alexei Zhitnik and former Ranger Karel Rachunek, may come to a premature end. More on that in the coming days…

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