Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bashkirov Looking Good




Despite his team's embarrassingly poor showing in a 8-1 loss to the Canadian U20s squad Tuesday night, Senators 2007 second-round draft pick Ruslan Bashkirov made a good impression with his debut on the Russian U20s squad. Serving as a call-up for injured Russian star Alexei Cherepanov, knocked out of the tournament by a Brandon Sutter hit earlier in the series, Bashkirov was clearly the best player on a mediocre Russian side. Though he recorded no points, Bashkirov had a visible impact on the game, was relentless in the offensive zone even as the Canadians swarmed him, and he refused to give up even as the game drifted out of sight for the Russians with each additional goal the Canadians effortlessly notched. He particulary shone in the opening and closing frames, including a close chance in the final period where he drove to the net, tenaciously hacked at the puck, but was ultimately robbed by Canadian netminder Jonathan Bernier.

Since his drafting by the Senators in June 2007, Ruslan Bashkirov has had something of a tumultous summer. Bashkirov seemingly escaped the aversion to the selection of Russians in the draft because he was already in North America, and did not present the troubles of acquring from the RSL that other Russians would have. Ruslan spent the 06-07 season with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, even participating in the CHL Top Prospects game and being named star of the game for his side. Though his twin brother Roman outscored him, Ruslan was reputed as the bigger, stronger, more competitive player, and was expected by most observers to be selected first. Such was the case, with Ruslan going in the second round to Ottawa, with Roman being bypassed altogether.

However, the selection quickly grew sour in the eyes of observers when Ruslan and his brother quit the Remparts team unexpectedly and returned to Russia, signing 5-year contracts with Ak Bars Kazan. It is still unclear as to exactly why the Bashkirov brothers left Canada, either for the substantial pay increase one of the RSL's richest teams could offer them over Canadian junior hockey, or the fact that they were upset over Roman being bypassed in the draft and wanted to ensure they would play together long-term. Regardless of the reasoning, the brothers' tale took an even stranger turn when they mutually agreed to be released from their Kazan contracts just weeks after signing. Though it was as clear at the time of the signing as it was after, Kazan is a deep, successful team and the Bashkirov brothers could not be expected to play substantial roles immediately, if ever.

Ruslan has since signed a contract with Khimik Mytischi of the RSL, according to hockeysfuture.com.

Whether due to his strange movements this summer or not, Bashkirov was not invited to participate in the initial Russian team training camp for the 2007 Super Series against Canada. Accordingly, he was left off the starting rosters for the tournament, but injuries to Cherepanov and Yegor Averin opened the door for his addition to the roster.

There still remain 3 games to play, and Russia has yet to compete with the Canadians for any extended length of time. Though Bashkirov has so far participated in only the lone game, observing his progression should make the remaining games worth watching for those concerned with the future of the Senators, even if the results of the games are not in doubt.

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