The Tampa Bay Lightning have seen enough of Alexey Lipanov to sign him to an entry level contract. Hailing from Moscow, Russia, Steve Yzerman and Lightning Scouting Director Al Murray pulled the trigger in picking him in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, making him the 76th overall selection. After the draft, Al Murray commented that they had been considering Lipanov with their second-round pick that they ultimately used to take fellow Russian Alexander Volkov.
Yzerman and Murray are typically “stick to the board” drafters. Going into the draft, they’ve done all of their scouting, research, and analysis and ranked every player on their board. While they may come off board every once in a while, generally they’re picking the best player available. Murray’s comment about considering Lipanov in the second round should give you some context of how much the scouting staff likes the kid.
Lipanov only played in one preseason game for the Lightning, the opening game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He played well on a line with Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, and the line got even better when Raddysh and Alexander Volkov switched places. In reviewing the stats from the preseason games, I noticed that Volkov’s possession numbers were less than stellar in his second and third games. But when he was with Lipanov, the line did very well together despite not finding the scoresheet.
Lipanov is a speedy, creative center. He’s already showing signs that he can be a possession-driver as well, which is always a big plus, and sign of how high his hockey IQ is. He spent last season split between the Russian minor league VHL and the Russian junior league MHL.
In the MHL, Volkov had only three assists in 11 games. But in the VHL, he had three goals and eight points in 21 games plus another three assists in six points. While those numbers won’t jump out at you as being extremely impressive, when put into the context that he was playing against much older competition in the VHL, his offensive production was good.
At 6’0” and 170 pounds, Volkov has good height but could use some more muscle on his frame. After playing his preseason game for the Lightning, he was sent to the Barrie Colts of the OHL who had selected him 44th overall in the CHL Import Draft in 2016. He joins fellow Russians Andrei Svechnikov and Kirill Nizhnikov with the Colts.
Svechnikov is considered to be a potential pick for first overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and will likely be gone in the top three picks. Nizhnikov is also a well regard prospect and could be looking at a selection towards the end of the first round or into the second round. Volkov is also joined on the team by 16-year-old Ryan Suzuki, younger brother of Nick Suzuki who was picked 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Barrie Colts have plenty of talent this year, particularly with the additions of Svechnikov, Lipanov and Suzuki. They may not be OHL Champion contenders, but they will be in the mix for the playoffs.