There’s a reason Kirill Petrov, the No. 2-rated European skater by Central Scouting in last year’s draft class, was not selected until the third round.
There’s a reason the Islanders felt they could gamble the third of their three third-round selections on Petrov only after acquiring extra picks in the 5-7-9 maneuver last June.
As confirmed by multiple sources to Point Blank, Petrov just completed the first season of a four-year contract with Ak Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Without an agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, the chances of Petrov getting out of the contract are slim.
The 6-4, 205-pound right wing played in only six games in the KHL and spent the rest of the season with the Ak Bars equivalent of the Islanders’ minor league affiliate in Bridgeport. But the Russian is so gifted, he was still picked to represent his country at the World Junior Championships in Ottawa in December despite recovering from a broken collarbone. While not even close to game shape as he was still rehabbing the injury, Petrov was ineffective.
A high-ranking official with Team Russia tells us, “Kirill is incredibly talented, but he has a lot to learn. He’s a good young man, so it is not a question of his character. He has some maturing to do, but to be fair, he was coming back from an injury at the tournament. He will continue to get better.”
Although Petrov will not be coming to North America soon for a full hockey season, the Islanders could have a hands-on impact on his development if they can convince him to attend the club’s offseason prospect camp. A source close to Petrov told us today that the player intends to take every step possible to be part of the camp or, at the very least, visit with the Islanders this summer.
In contrast to Petrov’s first post-draft season in Russia, New York Rangers prospect Evgeny Grachev was selected last summer and immediately began his schooling in the North American game with the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. To the shock of many NHL teams, scouting services and the media, Grachev was 40-40-80 in 60 games and finished first among league rookies in scoring. The 6-3 center/left wing was drafted by the Rangers two picks after the Islanders selected Petrov.
A year later, Grachev is one of the top 50 prospects in the game. Petrov is exactly what he was a year ago: a project with huge upside.
There’s also the question of motivation to come to North America. Petrov’s four-year contract with Ak Bars is considered especially lucrative for a 19-year old player in the KHL. It is estimated that he makes the equivalent of $1 million tax-free U.S. dollars annually.
Ironically, perhaps the best chance of the Islanders seeing Petrov in their system within three years would be if he has another poor season in Russia. There’s always the chance of Ak Bars attempting to walk away from his contract, or buying him out. Even if his KHL team went to those lengths, the Islanders would gladly welcome the highly-skilled forward with open arms. Despite his setback season, the 19-year old Petrov maintains the potential to be a first-line player in the NHL.
It is crucial that Petrov shows his commitment to the Islanders by appearing at their prospect camp this summer.
Team USA in Semis: Kyle Okposo had an assist as Team USA beat Finland 3-2 today to advance to the final four at the World Championships in Switzerland. The U.S. plays Russia on Friday at 10:15 EST.