Russian players are not at all unfamiliar to Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils organization. He worked remarkably hard to get Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov over back in the 1980s. There have been Soviet-born and Russian-born players serving all kinds of roles on the team for years since then except in net. There has been at least one Russian player on the team for the majority of his tenure as general manager of the Devils. However, the team has not drafted any players out of Russia or any Russian players since 2006 when they picked Alexander Vasyunov and Vladimir Zharkov. This year could be different should they take a liking to center Vladislav Kamenev.
Who is Vladislav Kamenev?
Kamenev is a 17-year old center who has split time between the junior MHL and the senior KHL for Magnitorosk. That's right, he's not even 18 and he has experienced the KHL. He also has represented his country at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, the World Junior A Challenge, and the World U-18 tournament. Here are his numbers from Elite Prospects for the 6'2", 203 pound center:
Those aren't eye-popping numbers as he only scored one goal with the KHL team. And, yes, he only averaged only 6:40 per game while taking only ten shots with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Still, being able to play with men at such a young age (he turns 18 this August) is a big deal. I wouldn't recommend him wearing #99 but whatever. He wasn't so prolific with his second season with Stalnye Lisy but the call up may have a hand in that. Kamenev's production stood out in the Junior A and World U-18 tourneys. In fact, Kamenev captained the Russian U-18 team and tied Kirill Pilipenko and Yvgeni Svechinkov in scoring along. I suspect he played with one of those two if not both - few other Russians were nearly as productive - but he at least made his mark.
What Others Say About Kamenev
His profile page at Elite Prospects has a blurb dated November 2013, which acts as a general idea of what he's about:
Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times. (November 2013)
I don't quite get the notion that he takes dumb penalties given how few he took outside of the Junior A Challenge. Then again, maybe that's exactly what this is referring to. Still, it's a mostly positive analysis. He has a large frame and knowing that he uses it is good.
At about that same time of year, he did get a mention in Kyle Woodlief's (that's Woodlief of Red Line Report) monthly report in USA Today back in November. He was listed as a "rising" player:
Vladislav Kamenev (Magnitogorsk): Big pivot is the most fundamentally sound forward we've seen all year. Has size, hands, vision, work ethic, skating ability, and puck skills.
That was back in November, so I'd best that RLR has seen more players with similar fundamentals. Still, this is good until you realize that it doesn't mention much about whether he's offensive, defensive, or good at both. Of course, it's only a quick description so further detail would be lacking.
Speaking of quick descriptions and shoutouts, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News noted Kamenev in this February 4th edition of The NHL Prospect Hot List. Here's what he had to say:
Big, talented and not afraid to throw his weight around, Kamenev has three points in his past two games for Stalnye Lisy. The 6-foot-2 pivot has split his time between the Russian junior club team and the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk this season, getting in 16 games with the big squad.
Kennedy's quick description is in-line with the other two from November. Given that Kennedy noted Kamenev's sixteen games with Metallurg, it's about this time of the season he was kept in the lower leagues. Again, he didn't really light it up but I'm unclear as to what happened.
In any case, Kamenev was mentioned at the tail end of this general overview of the top of the 2014 draft by Kelly Friesen at Buzzing the Net. The article notes two Russian players that could go in the first round; both who play in Canada. The head European scout of the Central Scouting Service, Goran Stubb, was quoted mentioning Kamenev specifically:
"The top Russian, playing in Russia, is Vladislav Kamenev, coached by Mike Keenan in Magnitogorsk," says Goran Stubb, head European scout of NHL Central Scouting Service. "Since KHL allowed five imports per team and Russian stars stayed at home it has been difficult for young Russian prospects to make a KHL team. That is a reason why so many of the top Russian prospects played junior hockey in North America this season."
This seems like a pretty good compliment. Then again, CSS dropped Kamenev from eighth to thirteenth among European skaters in their final rankings. It may not be that good of a compliment. Some players - Fiala, Kase, Masin - did make a big jump which could account for some of that, though. Speaking of services, International Scouting Services did note Kamenev was in their top thirty per this tweet:
http://t.co/dTmaEKMf2A #26 Vladislav Kamenev Good development curve this season... strong shot & good protection to dominate along the wall.— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) April 9, 2014
That was prior to the World U-18 tournament. Also prior to the World U-18 tournament, Alessandro Seren Rosso of Hockey's Future noted Kamenev in his preview of Russian team:
Another forward who is seeing his stock rise for the coming NHL Draft is Vladislav Kamenev. The Orsk native is a player with good size, good body control and a strong two-way game. He played 16 games at the KHL level with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, scoring his first pro goal. His ability to play both center and on the wings can be of tremendous value to Team Russia during this tournament.
While Russia finished fifth, Kamenev's seemingly good performance may increase his supposed stock. The question is how much? It is early May, I'm sure there will be further word and dissection of Kamenev's game that may figure out how good he is and what he could be.
A Little Video
Here is Kamenev's first KHL goal, which put Metallurg up 4-2 at the time.
It's a nice first goal. Right in the slot, firing it quickly knowing the defense was collapsing, and it got in high. I'm still raising an eyebrow that he's wearing #99.
This clip showcases Kamenev not only being on the ice in an important situation, but playing close to the net. Here, he pounds in a rebound to keep Canada alive in Russia's final game in the preliminary round of the World U-18 tournament.
Not only was it a dramatic equalizer, but Russia would go on to win that game. You can see he got to where he needed to be. It was a 6-on-4 situation, he recognized he had to get in front in case there would be a long shot for a rebound, he understood he wouldn't be fully covered, and he was rewarded for his decision.
An Opinion of Sorts
Like any other prospect, I suspect my own opinion on Kamenev will change as more people who've seen him up close give their thoughts on the player. In some weird way, though, I would think he has to be on the Devils' radar for one of their two first picks in this draft. He is a forward, something the Devils don't have much of in the system. He clearly has some talent if only because he played a prominent role on Russia's U-18 team and he got 16 games (albeit of limited ice time) in the KHL. He has a large frame and apparently knows how to use it. Being able to do that well now bodes well for a future where he may have to play deep to win pucks. I'd love to know more about how good he's at forechecking in conjunction with this, actually.
However, I am concerned about the fact that he hasn't been productive outside of international tournaments. I understand that one shouldn't judge a prospect by their point totals. I will admit I don't know exactly how he was used in the MHL. And he's still rather young in terms of being a prospect so there is definitely room for growth. Yet, the lack of it makes me wonder how good his shot and other skills really are. It makes me wonder his potential actually is. I get the sense he could be one of those forwards that tops out at being "two-way" and settles on a third line. That's not a knock on Kamenev; all kinds of teams need those sorts of players to provide quality down the roster. Yet, is that what New Jersey needs? The Devils aren't just bereft of forward prospects but bereft of forward prospects with significant offensive skill. I think that's the real need from a prospect standpoint and I doubt Kamenev necessarily fits that. Then again, given where the Devils are drafting in 2014, they'll likely have to take a risk on someone to get that or hope someone turns out to be a diamond in the rough anyway. Plus, the Devils are bereft of those kind of prospects anyway so Kamenev may actually fit the bill quite nicely. A potential third liner is better than a potential nothing.
Personally, if the Devils are able to get him at #41 or elsewhere, then I'd be pleased with the selection. I'm not really putting a lot of stock into the "Russian factor." If Kamenev wants to be in the NHL, then he'll get there. Besides, he'll be just 18 next season. I don't see any need to be rushed anywhere right away.
What's your own opinion of Kamenev? Have you been able to see him perform and if so, what did you think? Would you want a player like him if he was available for New Jersey? Why in the world did he get #99 with Metallurg? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Vladislav Kamenev in the comments. Thank you for reading.