According to the Russian Hockey Federation web site, the New York Rangers have refused to release 2008 third round draft pick Evgeny Grachev for this winter’s World Junior Championship tournament. The tournament opens in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan on December 26th.
The Russians are appealing the decision through the IIHF and have included the 19-year old forward on their preliminary roster for the tournament, which was released today. The full roster is translated below.
If the Rangers’ uphold their original decision, they’ll be making a mistake. Ostensibly, the team is keeping Grachev out of the tournament with the expectation that he’ll play in New York during the time he’d be representing his country in Saskatchewan. But Grachev has yet to find his groove in the AHL — nevermind the NHL — and his play in Hartford has actually dropped off of late. He has just two points in his last nine games and his minus-2 is worst among the team’s forwards.
Two years ago, then 19-year old rookie Artem Anisimov’s play suffered a similar sag in late November and early December. Anisimov was allowed to represent his country at the World Junior Championship that year, and came home with a silver medal and a renewed sense of confidence that was immediately evident in his play, if not instantly obvious on the scoresheet.
Since the lockout the Rangers organization has shown tremendous patience with its prospects, allowing them to grow and mature without undue pressure and expectations. With few exceptions, players have been required to dominate at their prior level of play before moving up to the next one. That model seems to have been abandoned this year. Grachev’s play in Hartford has been far from dominant, and there are players there who are performing better right now and are more deserving of the opportunity in New York — should it even arise.
Grachev is a tremendously talented player with an extremely bright future. Holding him out of a highly competitive international tournament in order to rush him to the NHL before he’s ready could have serious negative consequences. If you doubt that, look no further than Nikita Filatov and Victor Tikhonov for examples of what can happen when a promising young Russian is rushed to the NHL before his game has fully developed.
Preliminary Russian Roster for the 2010 World Junior Championship
Igor Bobkov — 1991 – Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Alexander Zalivin — 1990 — Dynamo Moscow
Ramis Sadikov — 1991 — Erie Otters OHL
Alexei Trifonov — 1990 — Lada
Anton Klementiev — 1990 — New York Islanders
Dmitry Orlov — 1991 — Metallurg Novokuznets
Maxim Chudinov — 1990 — Severstal
Dmitry Kostromitin — 1990 — Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Nikita Zaitsev — 1991 — Sibir
Nikita Pivtsakin — 1991 — Avangard
Konstantin Plaksin — 1990 — Traktor
Alexander Tarasov — 1990 — HK MVD
Ildar Isangulov — 1992 — Salvat Yulaev
Kirill Yurev — 1991 — Lada
Vyacheslav Voynov — 1990 — Manchester Monarchs
Dmitry Kulikov — 1990 — Florida Panthers
Nikita Filatov — 1990 — CSKA
Alexander Burmistrov — 1991 — Barrie Colts OHL
Vladimir Tarasenko — 1991 — Sibir
Pavel Dedunov — 1990 — Amur
Ivan Telegin — 1992 — Saginaw Spirit OHL
Maxim Kitsin — 1991 — Metallurg Novokuznets
Maxim Trunev — 1990 — Severstal
Sergei Plotnikov — 1990 — Amur
Evgeny Kyznetsov — 1992 — Traktor
Evgeny Timkin — 1990 — Avangard
Vyacheslav Kulemin — 1990 — CSKA
Egor Dugin — 1990 — Traktor
Kirill Petrov — 1990 — AK Bars
Magomed Gimbatov — 1990 — SKA
Petr Khokhryakov — 1990 — Neftekhimik
Dmitry Kygrishev — 1990 — Quebec Remparts
Evgeny Grachev — 1990 — Hartford Wolf Pack
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