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NHL scout ranks Russian stars, puts Ovechkin “distant fourth”

Feb 14, 2012, 2:39 PM EDT

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun has a great tidbit in his weekly rant column on the current perceptions of Alex Ovechkin.

Responding to two separate two rants — one saying Dale Hunter was responsible for the Caps’ struggles, the other blaming Ovechkin — LeBrun put the onus on Washington’s captain, citing Ovi’s lack of consistency throughout the year.

To further illustrate his point, LeBrun asked an anonymous NHL scout for his take on the best Russian players in the league:

Let me put it to you this way, I asked an NHL scout to rank the following four Russian stars recently, Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. And he answered, “Really close between Datsyuk and Malkin, they’re 1a and 1b, then it’s Kovalchuk, and Ovechkin a distant fourth.

That’s a pretty damning statement. In the span of three years, Ovechkin’s gone from arguably the greatest player on the planet to the league’s fourth-best Russian and when you consider No. 5 is probably Alex Semin — well, it just doesn’t put Ovi in the greatest light.

PHT Aside: The decline of Russian stars in the NHL is kind of staggering. Ten years ago — during the 2001-02 season — 60 Russian skaters appeared in at least one NHL game, compared to just 22 this year.

That 2001-02 season also featured:

— Four 30-goal scorers (Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Alex Kovalev and Alexei Yashin.)

Sergei Gonchar making the NHL’s second All-Star team.

— Kovalchuk making the all-rookie team.

Andrei Markov (Montreal), Sergei Zubov (Dallas), Alexei Zhamnov (Chicago) and Alex Mogilny (Toronto).

— Detroit won the Stanley Cup with Fedorov, Datsyuk and Igor Larionov playing key roles.

  1. djamesbart - Feb 14, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    It’s the curse of Sid’s concussion!

  2. abrienza428 - Feb 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Well yeah, now that he’s off the steroids!

    -J. Steigerwald

  3. elvispocomo - Feb 14, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Regarding the PHT aside, the implementation of the KHL made it a lot easier for Russian stars to stay home if they were on the cusp. For those that can make the money and will get playing time, there’s an incentive to come over but it’s not there as much (or at all) for players like Radulov, Shirokov, Filatov, etc.

    Datsyuk has always been the yin to Ovi’s yang (there’s gotta be a better way to say that), but Malkin has emerged and overtaken Ovi, while it’s more a case of Ovi dropping that Kovalchuk would be in 3rd. Kovalchuk’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but Ovi’s better when he’s on his game – it’s just that he hasn’t been for a bit.

    • Mike Halford - Feb 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      Congrats on being one of the first (possibly only) people to ever put the words “Russian star” next to “Shirokov” in a sentence. Unless there’s a new constellation I’m not aware of…

      • elvispocomo - Feb 14, 2012 at 4:16 PM

        It depends on who you ask: KHL fans, or NHL fans. 😉

      • stoneegratz - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:06 PM

        Chico, “russian star” and “shirokov” were not in the same sentence. He stated for some of the russian stars its worth it to come to NA, BUT for guys like radulov, shirokov, filatov, they might as well stay home. Nice try tho

  4. solador78 - Feb 14, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back
    She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…

  5. welkersstache83 - Feb 14, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Datsyuk 1a malkin 1b????? Malkin is by far the best player in the world right now datsyuk isn’t even close to his level

    • danphipps01 - Feb 14, 2012 at 3:54 PM

      Malkin’s an offensive god of war, but A) for a centre, he blows in the faceoff circle and B) his backcheck is only marginally better than Ovechkin’s. Datsyuk is the League’s premier two-way player, having basically owned the Selke Trophy through his late twenties and early thirties. He’s to two-way forwards what Lidstrom or Orr were to defensemen. He’s also a superb playmaker. Malkin’s the better goal-scorer of the two, more physical for obvious reason, and in general I’d sooner take him on a power play squad than Datsyuk – but Datsyuk is one of the most absurdly skilled players in the NHL and has been since the early 00’s. Give credit where credit is due. 1a/1b between the two? That’s pretty fair.

      • stoneegratz - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:08 PM

        stick to football welkerstache

  6. welkersstache83 - Feb 14, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    A star is someone who is their team, who carries the team night in and night. Evgeni Malkin is the penguins this year

  7. tk1966 - Feb 14, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Interesting how Ovechkin has become almost an afterthought (at least at the moment) – so much so that the bickering here is not where he should be on the list, but rather who is best, Malkin or Datsyuk. How the “mighty” have fallen…

  8. stakex - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Having watched a few Caps games this year, and after watching the game last night… its clear as day that Ovechkin’s biggest issue is the lack of talent around him, combined with the Caps defensive system. Say what you will about the fact a top player is suppose to carry their team, but if your stuck on a team that is not producing…. its going to hurt you as well, no matter who you are.

    Datsyuk for example plays on one of the best teams in the league year in, year out… and it should be noted Detroit is currently leading the league. Malkin plays on a team thats also an offensive juggernaut, and his stats are getting a huge boost playing along side James Neal whos having a breakout year with 29 goals so far. The one thing I don’t get is Kovalchuk listed as 3rd over Ovechkin. He hasn’t played any better then Ovechkin most of the season aside from the last 7 games in which hes scored 12 points… and he also has two solid players to play with in Parise and Elias which have helped his overall point totals. Now look at Ovechkins current situation. Who does he have to play with? Semin and Johansson, who have combined for just 26 goals this season… less then Neal has himself? Its no real suprise Malkin has a ton more assists then Ovechkin.

    It should also be noted that Ovechkins production tanked right after the Caps switched to a defense first system. Its clearly hurting his game, and the production of that Caps as a whole. Id like to see how well Malkin would take being stuck on a team playing a system like the Caps, playing with half the talent he is now. He sure as hell wouldn’t be the league leader, thats for sure.

    • AppealToReason - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:59 PM

      Malkin never seemed to have an issue scoring under Therrien. Kovlachuk is over a PPG right now on a defensive team and under Lemaire last year he was over a PPG at the end of the season. The big 3 in Ottawa years ago never had an issue scoring under Martin. Ribiero had his best offensive seasons under Tippett who traps with the best of them. The “defensive system” excuse is as weak as they come.

      Ovechkin’s problem is a lack of serious commitment. Remember that picture from the All Star break? Crop the heads out of that picture and I couldn’t tell you who the pro athlete is and the random frat college kids were. There’s stuff all the time out of Washington talking about how OV is out constantly on the town the nights before games and practices and shows up hungover.

      Washington, healthy, has as much talent top to bottom as any team in the league. Ovechkin also never seemed to have a hard time breaking 100pts when he had linemates like Dainus Zubrus and Jeff Halpern.

  9. mianfr - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    I mean that’s pretty fair.

    Datsyuk has probably been the best forward in the league for the 2000-present era (even if he may not have been the best individual player in any given year and was rather a steady 2nd or 3rd) while Malkin is the best player in hockey right now, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to have them as 1a and 1b.

    I don’t know that Ovechkin is a distant fourth to Kovy, though. Both had decline years last year and, whily Ilya has been very good this year, it’s not an insurmountable gap, like it is between Kovy and Malkin.

  10. chiadam - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Ovechkin is better than Kovalchuk. That’s just absurd. So if he’s third on the list of Russian players (and really, who gives a **** to begin with?), then look at the two guys he’s behind. They’re the best players in the league. I’m guessing that pinhead LeBrun never had a real interest in ranking the best Russian players in the game. He just wanted a reason to rank Alex Ovechkin fourth in something. ESPN always does this. They create a narrative, promote it, and then manipulate it. They build up idols in anticipation of tearing them down as soon as possible. PHT is above even mentioning this bullsh*t. I come here for hockey news, not ESPN propoganda.

  11. mrskunitzdrippinlips - Feb 14, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    ovie is garbage. datsyuk isn’t even close to malkamanias skill level. pringles can geno improved on his face offs and his backchecking. like the great one soup can sid, malkin tries to better himself and succeeds just like the city of champions always do.

  12. geo91 - Feb 15, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Your actually a moron to say datsyuk doesn’t come close to Malkin’s skill level. Malkin is an offensive force but can be lazy and take just dumb, dumb retaliation penalties. Datsyuk isn’t a pure finisher like geno but plays the game incredibly smart and with nasty skill. Get over yourself and give credit when it’s due. Your the reason why pens fans have a brutal rep

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