I have covered a few - though not all - of the wishful thinking/trade-up options that I like for the Rangers. Starting now, we'll be getting into players whom the Rangers will have a legitimate shot at, in all likelihood.
Nikita Korostelev, Sarnia Sting (Ontario Hockey League)
Position: Right Wing
Age: 18 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6'1, 195 lbs
2014-2015 Stats (Including Playoffs): 60 GP, 25 G, 31 A, 22 PIM, +3 +/-
NHL Central Scouting: 50th (NA Skaters)
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 69th
Future Considerations: 62nd
Hockey Prospect: 53rd
Corey Pronman (ESPN): 61st
Craig Button (TSN): Outside Top-100
Despite his Russian heritage, Korostelev has actually spent much of his life in Ontario. So that will save him from some degree of the Russian stereotyping. Nonetheless, the Russian influence is obvious. He's a player who loves to use his vision and great hands to make plays. He's usually good for at least one creative play every game. Korostelev loves to make fancy setups, and particularly likes baiting the goalie and defense into thinking he'll shoot before dishing to a teammate. Such as in these examples (wearing #35).
As we've seen with Mats Zuccarello, there's a balance that has to be found between making gorgeous setups without constantly forcing passes that aren't there. Korostolev struggles with that, and it's particularly frustrating because he has one of the best shots in the entire draft. He uses his strength to shoot powerful wrist-shots.
What I like about goals like these, for the most part, is that they're not perimeter goals or the product of being wide open. Kolostolev is strong and thick, and so he has the ability to push into those dangerous areas and use his long reach to get shots off with defenders in tight. That being said, give him space and he'll unload punishing clappers.
Korostelev also is willing to use his size to battle in the slot and screen the goaltender. He'll do his due diligence along the boards.
The concerns with Korostelev aren't surprising. He's not an outright bad skater but it's something he'll need to improve to reach that next gear. His acceleration speed is not good enough and it can cost his team on the backcheck. In general, he's not a guy with particularly high defensive acumen. And then there are the usual stereotypical concerns about consistency issues and work ethic. When it comes to his shot, he needs to be more consistent in hitting the net.
But that's why Korostelev is in the 50-70 range. If he didn't have those issues, then he's a lock for the first round. Every player in this part of the draft has something holding them back. Korostelev has a strong foundation to his game. His skating doesn't need to be overhauled, but rather just improved. Same with his shot. Those are things he can work on and address to a sufficient degree. A lot of these concerns were similar for Pavel Buchnevich, and Evgeny Grachev. Buchnevich worked it out. Grachev not so much. Is Korostelev a guy who will be open to adjustment and taking pointers from coaches? That's something the scouts will need to sniff out with their interactions with his coaches.
To again evaluate Korostelev in the context of Grachev, one thing that encourages me is how Korostelev produced at a high rate despite playing for a team in transition. Grachev put up great numbers, but did so on a line with Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene. There's an obvious inflation factor involved there. Korostelev was in the opposite situation. Pavel Zacha is a potential top-10 pick in this draft and did play on a line with him, but a lengthy suspension and the World Junior Championships limited him to just 37 regular season games. After that, the most notable teammates of Korostelev in Sarnia are defensemen.
A lot of scouts are describing Korostelev as "boom-or-bust," but I wouldn't go that far. I think he could have the ability, like Pouliot, to be a quality third-liner. That being said, the team that drafts him certainly is doing so for the upside. With the right button pushing, Korostelev absolutely has first-line potential. As I've said in the past, the Rangers have solid depth in the prospect pool but lack in upside. Particularly at wing with Duclair's departure. Korostelev could be a similar player who proves to be a steal.
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