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Three Russians/Belarusians in the top five: the Russian factor no longer exists
Credit: Getty Images

It’s finally here. It’s (finally) draft day in the NHL. We’ll go to bed in a couple of weeks knowing who the organization’s new top prospect is.

With just a few hours to go before Montreal’s selection, everything seems to be pointing to two players above all others: Ivan Demidov and Cayden Lindstrom.

Christophe Perreault, who has accumulated over $100,000 in “career” winnings on Mise-o-Jeu, is convinced that the Canadiens will opt for Demidov or Lindstrom. Reminder: he predicted the selections of David Reinbacher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Kaiden Guhle and Juraj Slafkovsky…

Russians/Bielorussians at the top
is a bit of a Quebec reference on draft day. Nothing less than…

And he sees Artyom Levshunov, Anton Silayev and Ivan Demidov emerging in the top 5, maybe even in the top 4.

Bob McKenzie, THE reference with his traditional annual list of the NHL’s top prospects, sees Demidov 2, Levshunov 3 and Silayev 4. But beware! Bob doesn’t do a “mock draft”, he ranks prospects according to their talent, but it’s still very revealing since he talks to scouts and managers for months before publishing his final list.

Corey Pronman, a prospect specialist working for TheAthletic, also sees Levshunov and Silayev coming out (respectively) two and three… but Demidov slipping to ninth. According to Pronman, eight teams – including the Habs – will turn their noses up at Demidov tonight in Vegas.

How far will Ivan Demidov slide?
(Credit: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Note that Pronman sees defenseman Zeev Buium heading to Montreal, but he’s aware that Demidov, Lindstrom and Silayev are all possible choices for Kent Hughes and his gang.

Silayev? This is the first time I’ve heard of him in Montreal…

When you take a look at the various lists and mock drafts, you realize that three of the first four (or five) selections are likely to be Russian or Belarusian players. Demidov was born northeast of Moscow, Silayev hails from the Nizhny Novgorod region and Levshunov – despite playing in the NCAA last year – grew up in Belarus, a two-hour drive from Russia.

Who says NHL teams are afraid of drafting Russians?

Lately, there seems to be more fear of the American factor (four years in the NCAA = complete autonomy) than of the Russian factor – which once existed – in the NHL…

Take the Habs for example; Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton were afraid to draft Matvei Michkov last year, but they don’t seem to have the same apprehension with Demidov, Silayev or even Levshunov. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that Michov was Russian that scared the Habs, it was his attitude in general (from what we understand). That, his size and his very long contract, which has just been cancelled…

If the Habs have the chance to draft Ivan Demidov, I hope they do… even if his skating leaves some people wanting more. He has so many other qualities.

I was told a few hours ago that the Habs really like Demidov… and that the team talking “against ” him to get him down in the draft might be Montreal.

I’m more worried about Cayden Lindstrom’s herniated disc than anything else, sincerely. If Lindstrom is still available in the fourth tier, it’s because teams ahead of the Habs had concerns. What’s good for puss is good for kitty, right?

Damn, I can’t wait for tonight…


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