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2015 NHL Draft: Nikita Korostelev profile

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The skilled Russian winger looks like the prototypical Tampa Bay Lightning pick, and he's likely to still be on the board when pick 28 rolls around.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have, in recent years, built a reputation for going "off board" a bit in the 1st round of the NHL Entry Draft.

GM Steve Yzerman lets Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray and his team run the show, and, by looking at the results, it's safe to say Murray's board is often drastically different from those you'll see from major publications and scouting services.

That's how you end up with first round 'reaches' like Slater Koekkoek and Anthony DeAngelo, a pair of high-skill defensemen that, for various reasons, weren't expected to be selected when Tampa Bay stepped up to the podium.

They've also shown a complete lack of aversion to drafting Russian players. Enter Nikita Korostelev:

Korostelev would fit the mold of "1st round reach" for sure. No major publication has him ranked in the top 30. Most don't have him in the top 50. The chances of him still being available at 28th overall are very high; in fact, he might still be around by the time Tampa Bay's 2nd round pick comes at 44th overall. He'd likely be a major steal at that point in the draft, but there'd be little reason for concern in deciding to use a 1st rounder on him, either, with his skillset and upside.

He was born in Russia, but has played in North America for years, which mitigates concerns about playing in the NHL professionally as opposed to his native Russia. 53 points in 55 games for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL doesn't exactly scream "1st round slam dunk prospect", but Sarnia wasn't particularly a juggernaut in the OHL and Korostelev's overall ability is hard to ignore on his 6'2, nearly-200 pound frame. From Elite Prospects:

A deft skater that plays a skill-based, puck-possession game. Very creative with the puck: can let loose an accurate bullet, utilize his stickhandling ability to create chances, or make a seeing-eye pass to an open teammate. Good hands around the net and relentless on the forecheck. Doesn't shy away from the physical game. All-in-all, a very creative sniper that can set up, score, and play physical. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)

The OHL Prospects blog ranked him 12th among all OHLers:

...his potential remains sky high. I think for me, the most disappointing aspect of his game this year was his lack of growth away from the puck. As a rookie last year, there were times where he was physically dominant, flashing power forward potential. [...] As a goal scorer, the potential is limitless because of how little room he needs to get shots off. When he upgrades his skating, he's going to be a hard player to contain coming down the wing, where he can use defenders as screens. Overall, you draft Korostelev hoping that his skating improves and that he's able to play more aggressively when he upgrades his strength.

A high skill, creative forward with good size and plus finishing ability is a good get at any point in the draft; questions about his consistency and skating are issues that can be smoothed out over the course of his development, something the Lightning have done quite successfully with their prospects under Yzerman/Murray.

Digging a little deeper casts Korostelev's seemingly pedestrian numbers in a more positive light. Most impressive is his even-strength performance; CHL Stats estimated his 5v5 Points/60 at 2.18, with 20 even strength goals to rate him amongst the best 2015 draft eligible forwards in terms of even strength offensive production. More power play time might have helped to boost his overall point totals, and lack of consistent production (and minutes) with the man advantage might be suppressing his value to Tampa Bay's benefit.

The negative scouting reports are fairly typical:

Still, rare are the prospects who impress scouts on every single viewing, and those who do aren't usually available to be selected at 28th overall. Korostelev fits the bill of an Yzerman/Murray prospect and fills an organizational need -- goals from the wing. The Lightning are still flush with high-upside offensive prospects, but outside of Adam Erne few are known primarily for their ability to fill the net; smaller, speedy playmakers are still the area of surplus and Korostelev would add another much-needed dimension to the prospect pool (particularly after losing both Brett Connolly and Richard Panik just as they actualized into NHLers).

  • TSN (Bob McKenzie): 69
  • TSN (Craig Button): NR (Outside Top 100)
  • ISS Hockey: 60
  • Future Considerations: 62