When a player like Maxim Chudinov becomes available, as he did yesterday upon being terminated by the KHL’s Avangard Omsk, it always raises some intriguing questions. What if the 2010 Boston Bruins draft selection had attempted to make it to the NHL earlier in his career? Better yet, after a long and successful career overseas, what if he finally decided to join the Bruins after all these years? Chudinov is not alone either; a number of European NHL draft picks never venture to North America and their rights are held in perpetuity by their drafting team. What could have been if these players had made a different decision in their careers? And could they still make the jump long after being drafted?
Though the list is long, the 31-year-old Chudinov is actually one of the most interesting players in this group. He has long been one of the more dependable stay-at-home defenders in Russia, in the KHL and on the international stage. In 571 games in the KHL, Chudinov has recorded 198 points, a +75 rating, and 545 PIM. Even though his offense has fallen off in recent years, it would be fascinating to see the veteran defenseman try his hand in the NHL.
Perhaps the most intriguing case though is 38-year-old Vasili Koshechkin (TBL).Though extremely unlikely to jump to the NHL at this point, the veteran goaltender is still at the top of his game. One of the best goalies in the KHL for the entirety of his 13-year career as a starter, Koshechkin has a stunning .928 save percentage and 2.08 GAA in 570 career games, with absolutely no fall-off despite his advanced age. The Lightning may be set in net now, but its fascinating to think what the decorated keeper could have done in the NHL in his prime, surely outplaying his eighth-round status.
Other standouts on the list include Swiss forward Julian Walker (MIN), a physical power forward who has accumulated 214 points and 655 PIM in 701 career games in the NLA and at 34 may still have gas in the tank. Defenseman Mikhail Pashnin (NYR) is another interesting name, especially since he is 32. An effective defensive blue liner in the KHL, Pashnin has recorded 75 points and 712 PIM in 514 career games. Could the 2009 selection still join the Rangers at some point? Mikhail Yunkov (WSH) is another active KHLer with good career numbers. The 35-year-old has 139 points in 542 games, including 11 in 52 this year.
Other reserve list players who remain active in Europe long after they were drafted into the NHL include Yuri Trubachev (CGY), Sergei Gimayev (OTT), Kirill Lyamin (OTT), and Dmitry Megalinsky (OTT) in the KHL, Victor Bobrov (ARI) and Igor Ignatushkin (WSH) in the VHL, Anton Kyrsanov (ARI) in Ukraine, Dmitri Pestunov (ARI) in Belarus, Evgeny Skachkov (STL) in Romania, and Andrei Pervyshin (STL) in Turkey.
The odds of any of these players, all aged 30 and above, playing in the NHL are slim to none, even if some like Chudinov or Pashnin may even have the ability to do so. It is still fascinating to think that they all remain NHL property and to imagine what their careers may have been like had they decided to make the jump to North America and, against all odds, to think about an established veteran finally making good on his NHL selection.