Viacheslav Fetisov may have been a trailblazer in his own time, helping pave the way for Russians to leave their homeland for the NHL, but he’s not a fan of New York Rangers 2009 draft pick Mikhail Pashnin’s decision to leave Russia to join the Rangers organization this fall. The former NHL defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup champion, who now serves as President of KHL club CSKA Moscow, made his feelings know in an interview on the league’s web site on Tuesday:
Sometimes hockey players listen to the entirely wrong people. Pashnin had a very good season, but nobody would argue that he doesn’t still have far to grow. I’m sure that one or two more years in Russia would bring him much greater benefit. The chances of him making the Rangers main roster are extremely small. And I don’t think that a season in the AHL will bring him more benefit than a season in the KHL. We tried to explain to Mikhail that he was making a mistake, but we couldn’t change his mind.
Pashnin has split the past two years between CSKA and their junior team, after becoming the first overall pick in the KHL’s first ever entry draft. While the honor doesn’t quite equate to being the top pick in the NHL draft — only those who didn’t grow up within a KHL team’s feeder system are eligible for the draft — CSKA gave up four draft picks in order to land the young defenseman, who was a favorite of CSKA General Manager and former Ranger Sergei Nemchinov.
It’s easy to dismiss Fetisov’s comments as sour grapes. But in reality, he has a point. Pashnin is a long way from challenging for an NHL job — if he ever does. He struggled to stick with a middling KHL club last season, though he did show progress over his rookie campaign. And he gained invaluable experience when CSKA’s season ended early and he was sent to their junior club, where he played a leading role en route to the MHL championship.
While there’s value in coming to North America to adjust to the smaller ice surface and different style of play, he’ll be lucky to crack the top four on the Connecticut defense corps this season. With CSKA, he would have been looked upon to play a significant role, and would have gained an extra year’s experience, maturity and strength.
The risk in bringing over a player as raw as Pashnin is that he’ll get discouraged after a year or two in the AHL and head home before he reaches his full potential.
Only time will tell if the Rangers risk will return a reward.
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