Acquired via: 2012 NHL Draft - Round 7, Pick 201
The Flyers don't draft Russians very often. In fact, in their past ten drafts, Philadelphia has only selected three Russian-born players - Denis Bodrov (2006, 2nd round), Andrei Popov (2006, 7th round) and most recently, defenseman Valeri Vasiliev.
In 2012, Vasiliev was a classic value pick. Ranked 16th among all European skaters by Central Scouting prior to the draft, the defenseman slipped all the way to the draft's final round, due to injury concerns and of course, the worry that he would choose the KHL over North America in the long-term. Vasiliev may have been too risky for a mid-round pick, but as a 7th rounder? It was a no-brainer.
Vasiliev started the 2012-13 in the MHL (Russia's primary junior hockey league) before concluding the season in the KHL, where he played 11 games as an 18-year old against far older professionals for the Spartak Moscow squad. This year, at age 19, Vasiliev is now playing full-time in the KHL for Moscow, primarily in a third pairing role.
By all accounts, Vasiliev is not an offensive defenseman. He has three points (0 goals, 3 assists) in 35 games this season in the KHL, and has gained a reputation as a physical, stay-at-home type.
Here's a highlight video of Vasiliev delivering a solid open-ice check in the KHL.
Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz provided a pre-draft scouting report this summer.
In terms of a specific player comparison, Vasiliev's frame and game were likened to Montreal Canadiens' defenseman Alexei Emelin at the same age: a hard-hitting and pugnacious defensive defenseman with a desirable combination of size and mobility and raw but projectable puck skills and sometimes prone to bad decision-making and inconsistency.
The fact that Vasiliev has already earned a full-time role in the KHL at such a young age is impressive enough, and he appears to be holding his own in limited minutes. The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia even rewarded Vasiliev this year with a trip to the IIHF World U20 Championship in Sweden, where he played on the third pairing, scored a goal, and came home with a bronze medal.
But will he ever make it to North America? Vasiliev has actually flirted with the possibility of relocating west before, as he almost jumped to the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks back in 2012.
However, Vasiliev may have been using the threat of a transfer as a negotiation technique, as he never did officially sign with the Black Hawks. As Meltzer reported, after the transfer fell through, he quickly began receiving increased minutes on his MHL squad, culminating in the late-season promotion to the KHL. Still, this tactic hints that Vasiliev could be open to playing in North America if the right opportunity arises.
Vasiliev may be a bit of a question mark. But he's playing against grown men at the age of 19 and earned a spot on his country's junior team. The 2012 NHL Draft (as the rest of this list will show) is shaping up to be one of the Flyers' deepest draft classes in years, and Vasiliev was an ideal high upside late-round pick. He's risky, but he has definite potential and absolutely could become an NHL player one day if he continues to see his role expand overseas.
How we voted for Valeri Vasiliev:
Who we voted for at No. 22:
|Matt Konan||Nick Luukko||Marc-Andre Bourdon||Marcel Noebels||Taylor Leier||Fredrik Larsson||Eric Wellwood||Marcel Noebels|