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.
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.
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.
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.
12. Sergei Berezin
This 5’10, 195 pound left winger spent the first five years of his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, racking up 220 points (including 50 of those points earned on the power play) and a +20 rating in 357 games with them.
He then began the 2001-02 season with the Phoenix Coyotes before getting traded to the Montreal Canadiens in January 2002 in exchange for Brian Savage and a third round draft pick.
Although the expectations of having the Russian winger on the team were a bit disappointing, it did end up being a pretty equal trade, as Berezin played 29 games with the Canadiens that year and earned 10 points, while Savage played 30 games with the Coyotes and recorded 12 points.
11. Sergei Samsonov
The Montreal Canadiens thought they were getting a great, speedy player when they signed Sergei Samsonov to a two-year contract in 2006.
The 5’8, 188 pound left winger had spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Boston Bruins, along with a short stint with the Edmonton Oilers. In those first eight seasons, he racked up 392 points in 533 regular season games, along with a +41 plus/minus rating. He was also awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1998 as rookie of the year.
His time in Montreal, however, was less than impressive with only 26 points and a -4 rating in 63 games played. After spending just one year with them, he was traded in June 2007 to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Jassen Cullimore and Tony Salmelainen.
10. Oleg Petrov
Oleg Petrov made franchise history when he became the first Russian-born player to play for the Montreal Canadiens during the 1992-93 season. In fact, he also helped them win the Stanley Cup that season.
Unable to secure a full time spot with the Canadiens, the 5’9, 172 pound right winger split the first four seasons of his career between them and their AHL affiliate team, the Fredericton Canadiens. He then spent three seasons playing in Switzerland before returning to the Canadiens in 1999.
Although he did put up better numbers in his next four seasons with Montreal, he was eventually traded in March of 2003 to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. During his time with the Canadiens, he totalled 183 points in 365 regular season games.
9. Alexander Perezhogin
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Alexander Perezhogin 25th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. The 6 feet tall, 210 pound right winger made his NHL debut in the 2005-06 season, but only spent two years in the league. In just 128 regular season games with the Canadiens, he tallied 34 points, 86 penalty minutes, and a +16 plus/minus rating.
Prior to his time with the Canadiens, he spent the 2003-04 season playing for their AHL affiliate team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, and racked up 50 points in 77 games. Before that, he spent several seasons playing for the Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
8. Andrei Kovalenko
Andrei Kovalenko’s career in the NHL began in 1992 with the Quebec Nordiques and then the Colorado Avalanche after they relocated.
In December of 1995, Kovalenko was involved in the blockbuster trade that sent him, along with Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane.
He spent the remainder of the 1995-96 season with the Canadiens, earning 34 points in 51 games. His time in Montreal didn’t last long, as he was then traded in September 1996 to Edmonton in exchange for Scott Thornton.
He spent the last five years of his NHL career playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins. He then returned to Russia and played several seasons in the KHL.
7. Sergei Gonchar
When we think of great Russian players, the name Sergei Gonchar comes to mind. The 6’2, 210 pound defenseman spent twenty years in the NHL, earning 811 points in 1,301 regular season games between the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, and Montreal Canadiens.
His regular season stats were quite impressive, as this point producing defenseman recorded 30 or more points in thirteen of his twenty seasons. He was quite impressive on the power play, as over half of his overall points total was produced on the power play (427 of 811 points tallied on the power play).
He also helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
6. Valeri Bure
Valeri Bure was chosen 33rd overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
Prior to joining the Canadiens, the 5’11, 180 pound right winger put up massive numbers with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League, averaging well over a point a game with 298 points in just 178 regular season games.
He then began his NHL career with the Canadiens during the 1994-95 season and remained with them until 1998, producing 110 points in 215 regular season games.
In February of 1998, Bure, along with a fourth round draft pick, were traded to Calgary in exchange for Jonas Hoglund and Zarley Zalapski. He then split the last six seasons of his NHL career between the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars.
5. Vladimir Malakhov
This large 6’4, 230 pound defenseman was drafted 191st overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the New York islanders. He began his career with the Islanders until getting traded in April 1995, along with Pierre Turgeon, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby.
He played a total of 283 regular season games with the Canadiens between the years 1995 and 2000, earning 141 points, 287 penalty minutes, and a +17 rating. In fact, over half of his points total was produced on the power play (73 points during the man advantage).
The Canadiens then traded Vladimir Malakhov to the New Jersey Devils in March 2000 in exchange for Sheldon Souray, Josh DeWolf and a second round draft pick.
4. Alexei Emelin
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Alexei Emelin 84th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’2, 218 pound defenseman is currently in his sixth season with the Canadiens and has already left his mark on the team.
This hard-hitting defenseman isn’t afraid to throw his weight around and has led the team in hits in each of his five full seasons with them:
2011-12: led with 236 hits
2012-13: led with 110 hits
2013-14: led with 189 hits
2014-15: led with 204 hits
2015-16: led with 256 hits
And so far this season, he currently leads the team with 134 hits in 38 games played. In fact, he leads all Russian players who have ever suited up for the Canadiens with a massive amount of 1,129 hits in 342 regular season games played – over 600 more than the second ranking Andrei Markov.
3. Alexander Radulov
Alexander Radulov has only played 38 games so far this season with the Canadiens, but has so far proven to be a big help to his team. They took a chance signing him this summer after he spent the last four seasons playing in the KHL with Cska CSKA Moscow.
In his 38 games played thus far this season, he leads the team in assists (21) and is ranked second in points (31) and power play points (10).
The 6’2, 205 pound right winger was originally drafted 15th overall in the 2004 draft by the Nashville Predators. He then had two stints with them, first from 2006 to 2008, then again during the 2011-12 season. Between the two times he spent with Nashville, he played three seasons in the KHL with the Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
2. Alex Kovalev
This 6’2, 220 pound right winger was drafted 15th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers. After splitting the first twelve seasons of his NHL career between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, he was traded in March 2004 to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Jozef Balej and a second round draft pick.
He played a total of 314 regular season games with the Canadiens from 2004 to 2009, racking up an impressive 264 points (135 of those points were recorded on the power play).
Of all the Russian players who have ever played for the Canadiens, Kovalev is ranked first overall with 20 game-winning goals. He is also ranked second in goals (103), assists (161), points (264), power play goals (45), power play points (135), and shots on goal (871).
1. Andrei Markov
The 6 foot tall, 200 pound defenseman was chosen 162nd overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
He has spent his entire NHL career thus far with the Canadiens beginning with the 2000-01 season and remains there to this day. He has played a total of 959 regular season games and has earned 557 points.
Of all the Russian players who have ever played for the Canadiens, Markov is ranked first in almost every category: 959 games played, 115 goals, 442 assists, 557 points, +53 plus/minus rating, 59 power play goals, 290 power play points, and 1,573 shots on goal.
In fact, of all the defensemen who have ever suited up in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, Andrei Markov has played the second highest amount of regular season games with 959. Larry Robinson holds the lead with 1,202 games played.
So far this season, Markov has 21 points (including 8 on the power play) in 31 games and is ranked second on the team with 19 assists. The 38 year-old is currently in the final year of his contract with the Canadiens.