The Nashville Predators are officially over its fear of Russian-born hockey players.
On Friday, the club signed signed 2014 second round selection Vladislav Kamenev and 2015 second round pick Yakov Trenin to three-year entry level contracts.
Kamenev was the first Russian-born player selected by Nashville in a decade. Last season, the Orsk, Russia native scored ten points (four goals, six assists) in 41 games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. He is expected to play for the Predators’ AHL affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals in the upcoming season.
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Trenin tallied 67 points (18 goals, 49 assists) in 58 games for the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL last year.
For years, the Predators stayed away from Russians in the draft because of the team’s low success rate with its Russian selections. Of the fourteen drafted in franchise history, only Denis Arkhipov, Timofei Shishkanov and Alexander Radulov have played in Nashville.
Of the eleven that did not play for the Preds, only one amounted to anything notable in his hockey career. Defenseman Denis Kulyash, selected in the eighth round in 2004, recorded the hardest shot in hockey history with a speed of 110.3 mph in the 2011 KHL Skills Competition.
In addition to a low NHL probability with its draft picks, Nashville was burned by Radulov, not once but twice, for more money in the KHL.
Understandably, the Predators grew a fear of Russian players.
However, with the KHL at an all-time low due to a down Russian economy, there is less risk of Russian players fleeing to the KHL and an increase of Russians returning to the NHL.
“It’s not good here right now,” Canadian goalie Jeff Glass of HC Lada Togliatti told TheHockeyNews.com in December. “Guys are looking to get out. I’m not trying to expose the league, but none of this is right and the players are getting hosed right now and there’s no representation here. Everything had been fair up until about last season and things seem to be falling apart right now. And the ruble is making it tenfold because everyone is starting to panic.”
With the increased attraction of playing in North America among Russian players, now is as good of a time as ever for the Predators to sign Kamenev and Trenin to contracts with little risk of departure to the KHL.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW.