It’s no surprise to hockey fans all around the world that some of the greatest players to have ever skated in the NHL have come from Russia. From retired greats such as Sergei Fedorov and Alex Mogilny, to current superstars such as Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, the Russians certainly have tons of hockey talent.
The Montreal Canadiens drafted their first Russian-born player at the 1978 NHL Entry Draft when they chose Viacheslav Fetisov 201st overall. The 6’1, 215 pound defenseman was unable to leave Russia to play in North America at that time, therefore, he was re-entered into the 1983 NHL Entry Draft and was claimed by the New Jersey Devils.
Russian players usually get claimed pretty fast in the drafts. In fact, six times in the last nine years a Russian-born player has been drafted in the top 10. And in 2012, Nail Yakupov was drafted first overall, which was the first time that happened since Alex Ovechkin was chosen first in 2004.
The Montreal Canadiens have chosen a Russian-born player three times in the first round of the NHL Entry Drafts:
2016 Draft: Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev – 9th overall
2014 Draft: Winger Nikita Scherbak – 26th overall
2001 Draft: Center Alexander Perezhogin – 25th overall
A total of seventeen Russian players have suited up for the Montreal Canadiens and I will list them from the worst to the best.
17. Mikhail Sergachev (Only 3 Games Played)
This 6’3, 215 pound defenseman was chosen 9th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, making him the highest drafted Russian that year. Despite only playing three games so far this season with the Habs, the eighteen-year-old is definitely showing a lot of potential to becoming a great NHL defenseman.
He spent last season playing for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL and racked up a very impressive 57 points (17 goals, 40 assists), along with a +15 plus/minus rating in just 67 games. And 8 of his 17 goals were scored on the power play. He has also played 20 games with them so far this season, earning 15 points.
He just finished representing Russia in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships, recording one goal in seven games. The Russians beat Sweden to win the bronze medal.
16. Nikita Scherbak (Only 1 Game Played)
The Montreal Canadiens chose Nikita Scherbak 26th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6’2, 190 pound right winger is in his second season with Montreal’s AHL affiliate team, the St. John’s IceCaps. Last season he recorded 23 points in 48 games, but is already on the verge of breaking that record with 20 points in 27 regular season games so far this year.
He finally got his big break on Saturday, January 7, 2017, when he was called up to play his first NHL game with the Montreal Canadiens against their long time rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. And he definitely didn’t disappoint, as he scored his first career NHL goal with one second left in the first period while on the power play. He accumulated just under 12 minutes of on-ice time, including almost two minutes while a man up and just over a minute while shorthanded.
I’m sure Habs fans everywhere are looking forward to seeing more of Nikita Scherbak, as the talented Russian will surely rise near the top of this list.
15. Andrei Bashkirov
This 6 foot tall, 215 pound left winger was drafted 132nd overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
Prior to being drafted, he seemed to be a pretty decent prospect, having earned 139 points in 143 regular season IHL games between the Detroit Vipers, Las Vegas Thunder, and Fort Wayne Komets. He also spent four seasons in the ECHL, averaging over a point a game with 244 points in 225 regular season games.
His NHL career, however, was less than impressive, having only played a total of 30 games with the Canadiens between 1998 and 2001, recording just three assists and a -5 plus/minus rating.
After his short time in the NHL, he went on to play in the Swiss League and the Kontinental Hockey League.
14. Alexander Semin
After spending the first ten seasons of his NHL career with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, Alexander Semin found his way to the Montreal Canadiens in 2015.
Although the 6’2, 210 pound right winger had a very prominent career, it was clear that he was starting to get tired when he made his way to the Canadiens organization. He only played 15 games with them in 2015-16 and recorded just four points (one goal, three assists).
In December of 2015, the Canadiens placed him on waivers and he has not played another NHL game since. He returned to Russia and spent the remainder of the 2015-16 season playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League and helped them win the KHL Championship.
13. Igor Ulanov
This 6’3, 220 pound defenseman was hard to miss on the ice and was certainly no stranger to the penalty box, having spent 1,151 minutes in there during his 739 regular season games.
Ulanov spent fourteen seasons in the NHL between the Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers.
He played a total of 123 games with the Canadiens between 1997-1998 and 1999-2000, recording just 19 points and a whopping197 penalty minutes. Also during those three seasons combined, he ranked lowest on the team with a -16 plus/minus rating.
Among all Russians who have ever played in the NHL, Ulanov ranks fourth in penalty minutes (1,151), is ranked third with 10 game misconducts, and is in second place with a total of 37 major penalties.