If you read a scouting report on a young player that included comments like – high character individual, tough in the corners, strong physical presence, can play wing or forward – you’d probably be thinking, ‘Sounds just like the type of player Dean Lombardi would draft.’
If you then found out the kid was Russian, you might think twice. Not necessarily because of any direct bias on the part of the Kings GM, but more because of the general ‘Russian Factor’ that scares off most NHL clubs. Players from that part of the world can be extremely talented, yet very difficult to get into a jersey on this side of the pond.
To put some numbers behind the thinking, heading into this past June’s NHL Draft, Lombardi and team had selected a total of 49 players at the annual league event since taking over the Kings in 2006. Of that group, only three players were of Russian decent (Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov and Maxim Kitsyn). That’s a paltry 6% of their total picks.
Even so, when Nicolay Prokhorkin was still sitting there as it came time for the Kings’ fourth round selection a few months ago, they had to take him. After all, some scouts had the 18-year old slotted as high as the second round.
While playing for Red Army Moscow in the Russian junior league, this kid had put up 40 points (23 goals and 17 assists) in 46 games during the 2010-11 season. Then, limited by injuries this past year, he still posted 26 points in 15 regular season games and 11 more in 16 playoff games.
When he came to Los Angeles for Development Camp in July we reported him as one of the breakout stars among the large group of (possibly) future Kings. Like Loktionov several years ago, as the sessions wore on, it was obvious Prokhorkin’s skills were a step or two above most of the campers.
Although he needed a translator to speak with the media, what he was doing on the ice was more than enough. If a picture is worth a thousand words, live visions of him with the puck were worthy of their own novels.
OK, that might be a bit much. Nonetheless, you get the idea.
Kings management had to be thrilled at the notion that he was determined to play in North America this coming season. The 6-foot-2, 191-pound forward is from Chelyabinsk, Russia – the same hometown as Voynov. So, if he makes the Kings roster in the next few years, he already has a comrade to help ease the transition.
Meanwhile, Prokhorkin has also been drafted by the London Knights of the OHL. Yet, that was said to be plan B if he couldn’t make the Monarchs’ AHL squad.
Which brings us to last week. Rumors surfaced that the highly-skilled Russian forward had signed a three-year Entry Level Contract with the Kings.
Hold on though, not so fast. Nothing was ever confirmed by the team. Until now.
In speaking to a source within the Kings organization late yesterday, MayorsManor learned what the hold up was – Prokhorkin’s KHL club claims they have him under contract until 2015.
Now while the Kings say they signed him under the premise he didn’t have a contract in Russia, Dmitry Chesnekov isn’t ready to put all the blame on the player and/or his agent.
Chesnokov, a recent guest on the MayorsManor show and noted expert in all things related to Russian hockey, tweeted the following mere moments after we broke the story last night – “Not the first time NHL teams sign a player without doing due diligence.”
A subsequent conversation with the Washington DC based lawyer revealed that Prokhorkin’s team in Russia is not thrilled about him signing a contract with the Kings. And they’re also looking for him! It appears the young forward has gone into some sort of hiding. So, not only is he breaching his contract with CSKA, he hasn’t reported to the team, plus he’s missed practices and games. Making matters worse, he’s not even returning their calls.
Now, the Kings believe the situation will be resolved in the next week or two. However, what can really be done at this point? Per the agreement between the NHL and KHL, he’s most likely headed back to Russia.
Standard player contracts in the KHL don’t have out clauses. Short of CSKA just allowing him to come over (and why would they?), perhaps the only option he has is to buy himself out. This would cost 2/3 of the remainder of the contract value.
Although that exact figure isn’t known at the moment, it’s believed his deal with the Kings calls for him to be paid $662,500 if he’s in the NHL and $65,000 while playing in the AHL. He’s also reportedly set to earn a bonus of $87,500 during each year of his contract with the Kings.
The kid’s birthday is this coming Monday. Who knows, maybe he’ll be given the gift he craves most at the moment – a chance to showcase his skills in North America. For that to happen though, well, it just might require something more akin to a miracle.
So, back to the beginning of the story…why do some teams shy away from certain players? The Russian Factor.
Interview with Prokhorkin on draft day (note: it’s in Russian)…
Highlight reel (keep an eye on #93), set to some funky techno music…