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Get to Know Nikita Korostelev
Date of birth: 2/8/1997
Place of birth: Moscow, Russia
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 196 lbs
Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
In many ways, Nikita Korostelev is a stereotypical Russian winger. His scoring and willingness to use is size is there, but so are questions about his work ethic and defensive game. However, the dual Canadian citizen has been playing on North American ice since he was 15 and is well adapted to the faster and more physical style of play on this side of the Atlantic. He also boasts an offensive toolkit impressive enough to make scouts drool.
Considered a low 1st rounder to start the year, the stock of the talented forward – previously chosen 9th overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Draft – has fallen throughout the year. Will the questions about his game be enough to offset his tantalizing skillset?
What Scouts See
A goal scoring winger with decent size…handles the puck well and can deke his way through defenders…has the size and strength to also push his way to the net…skates very well with solid top speed and good agility…possesses a great set of creative hands…dangerous one-timer and lethal wrist shot…has a killer release on all his shots…can get too fancy at times, over handling the puck…not always consistent in his effort level…needs to work on his play on his own side of center ice…has an abundance of high-end tools to work with. (December 2014)
A nifty set of hands, Korostelev is a master with the puck on his stick and dekes so well in tight spaces. Around the net, the young Russian can embarrass goalies and defenders and he couples his stickhandling with a devastatingly quick shot.
His biggest hinderance is his play in the defensive zone. It’s almost nonexistent. Korostelev will oftentimes be so focused on breaking out of the zone on a rush that he will not get back into the play in his own zone. He cheats along the boards which causes him to get out of position.
What BSN Avalanche sees
Korostelev’s shot is a thing of beauty. Both his wrister and his slapshot are quick, sneaky, accurate, and deadly, making him very difficult to defend against. His vision, passing, deking/dangling, and movement away from the puck in the offensive zone are all there, as is his willingness to play against the boards. He’s unafraid to hit – even though he doesn’t necessarily go out of his way to do so – and his skating is fast, agile, and elusive.
He factors prominently into Sarnia’s power play, switching positions with linemate and centerman Pavel Zacha so he can take the netfront responsibilities. Despite his moderate size and weight, Korostelev is strong on his skates and fleet of hand in these situations, screening the goalie well and tapping home rebounds as necessary.
However, the talented winger wasn’t played much in the defensive zone, and it’s not incredibly difficult to see why. He looks somewhat lost and often misses his assignments when the puck does venture near his goalie. Even though many prospects at that age struggle with the D side of the rink, let’s just say that Korostelev is unlikely to ever become a PK guy.
In the games I watched, I didn’t see too much problem with his work ethic. It might be a bit lower than his linemate’s (projected 1st rounder Zacha), but the two of them had great chemistry together and cycled with and without the puck very well.
With Korostelev, it’s Top 6 or bust. Putting him in a more defensive bottom 6 situation would likely end badly unless his game drastically matures in that area. However, he has all the tools to become a dynamic, scoring right wing if sheltered with friendly offensive zone starts. He can function as both a set-up or triggerman with the puck and would without a doubt bring the goals. It’s just a question of how well he’d be able to keep them out on the other end.
Expected Draft Position
As mentioned above, he started the year regarded as a low first round pick, but a shoulder injury in January, questions about his game, and the “Russian Factor” have all dropped his stock significantly. He’ll probably go in the late 2nd or early 3rd round to a team tantalized by his offensive skillset.
How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization
The Avs have a number of defensive and depth forwards in the prospect pipeline, but they’re dangerously short on those with Top 6 upside. The shifty Russian would certainly fit that profile. He’s unlikely to make the jump to the NHL anytime soon, so he’d have plenty of time to develop and work on his defensive game.
If he’s still available at the 70th pick, it might make sense for the Avs to take a chance on him. If he can get his defensive game to the “adequate” level, his offensive skills could make him the steal of the draft.