In a rare feature story covering the hockey team Hartford still has, rather than the one they still wish they could have back, Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant profiles the Wolf Pack’s newest Russian import, New York Rangers 2008 third round pick Evgeny Grachev. Jacobs chronicals the 19-year old’s journey from Russia’s far east, to his six year stop in one of Russia’s best hockey programs in Yaroslavl, through to his arrival in North America last year, when he scored 40 goals and 40 assists in 60 games for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. The long time Courant columnist also takes a look at the obvious comparisons between Grachev and Hartford’s most recent Russian graduate, Artem Anisimov. Here’s a taste:
Drawing direct comparisons to Anisimov, who scored 37 goals during an All-Star season with the Pack last year, isn’t entirely fair. Yes, they are big, Russian and talented, but Anisimov, 21, is a center with more finesse skills, and the Rangers are building Grachev into a power winger. Nevertheless, it is instructive to follow their growth charts.
“Evgeny has his own NHL dream,” Gernander said, “but it’s good for guys to know others have cut their teeth here and gone on to bigger things.
“Artie was lean, not as physically mature when he came [in 2007]. He’s a puck distributor. Artie had more dangles. This kid is a little more up and down, more powerful entering the zone. It was interesting with Artie. I used to say some pretty basic things and he’d come two days later and ask what does that mean?”
After his year with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League, it’s a safe assumption that Grachev understands his coach. He had English in school and also a home-teacher who taught him some more.
“When I came to North America, I knew some words,” Grachev said. “And it was easy for me to learn more. It wasn’t a hard decision for me to come. I didn’t want to play in the KHL. They just take young guys. They don’t play them. I came here to play. I was a bit upset at first when they didn’t get me to Hartford right away, but once I got to juniors I was happy with the team and the hockey.”
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