Rangers Prospects: Mikhail Pashnin remains focused on the KHL... for now

With their final pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft last June the New York Rangers selected 20-year old defenseman Mikhail Pashnin of Mechel Chelyabinsk of Russia's Vysshaya League. Less than a month earlier, the Chelyabinsk native had made history when he was selected first over all by CSKA Moscow in the KHL's first ever entry draft. CSKA, led by general manager, coach and Ranger Stanley Cup-winner Sergei Nemchinov, traded it's first three picks in the draft in order to acquire the top spot and select the promising blueliner, who Nemchinov knew from his time coaching Russia's junior team.

Fears over whether the young defenseman would ever want to leave Russia to play in the NHL meant Pashnin -- a bit of a late bloomer who first drew attention overseas at last year's World Junior Championships -- was still available when it came time for the Rangers to use their 200th overall pick.

Those fears may have been unfounded. As Pashnin told Russian web site Sports Day by Day on Saturday, the NHL is in his thoughts — just not in the near term. The young blueliner wants to build up his confidence — and put some much-needed weight on his frame — before making serious plans for the NHL.

- You went down in KHL history as the first pick of the first draft.  Do your teammates still tease you with taunts?

- Being part of history is great (laughs).  It’s very flattering that selecting me first became a priority for CSKA’s management. The guys mess around sometimes.  During practices, for example, they’ll say "Hey, first pick in the draft! Pass the puck!"  I don’t take offense.  It’s nice, even.

- The Rangers have valued you more modestly in the NHL draft — at number 200…

- The main thing is that they picked me.  It’s a strong, good team, with traditions.

- So you have thoughts about the NHL?

- Of course.  But they’re somewhere deep inside.  I need to play with men, to put on some meat.  When I feel that I can stand on my skates with confidence, then I will think [about the NHL] more specifically.  Right now all thoughts are tied to the KHL and CSKA.  I’d like to justify the advance [payments] they gave [me].  To win high [standings] places with the team.

- Have representatives of the Rangers already approached you?

- They’ve called, asked different questions.  One of them [Rangers Russian scout Vladimir Lutchenko] is often in Moscow at CSKA games.  He explains certain moments in the game, gives me specific advice.

- But they did not invite you to training camp…

- We told them right away that I would remain here.

Pashnin made his KHL regular season debut for CSKA two weeks ago, earning his first KHL point -- an assist -- in his second game.  Like most young players in the KHL, he's struggled to earn playing time, averaging just 8:56 in ice time over his first three games before sitting out CSKA's fourth.

For more from Pashnin, visit Beyond the Blueshirts.