LA Kings' Top 25 Under 25- #7: Nikolai Prokhorkin
Nikolai Prokhorkin is the best prospect in the KHL right now. Will we ever see him play, though?
Meet my friend Nikolai. He is great and I think you would get along. His hobbies include scoring:
And fighting (poorly):
And blocking shots:
And elbowing Kevin Dallman:
And scoring some more:
He is my friend. I hope someday he can be your friend too.
As a 20-year old, Nikolai Prokhorkin scored 37 points in 52 games in the 2nd best league in the world. He is good at hockey. That much we know. How good? Well...
The trick with evaluating young KHL players is threefold:
1) They are often not played very often for unknown reasons
2) Assigning goals and assists can be inconsistent
3) The guys who are good enough to make the NHL are generally in the NHL early, not playing in the KHL; on top of that, Russian players are increasingly coming to the CHL early and bypassing the KHL altogether
It's tough to put Prokhorkin's excellent last season in context because, honestly, it hasn't happened very often before. Outside of the obvious guys (Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk), most young Russians either don't get the playing time to put up Prokhorkin's numbers or don't stay in Russia long enough to do so. If Mikhail Grigorenko hadn't come over to North America at 18, would he be putting up similar numbers? It's tough to say.
Here are the few players I could find that were comparable to Prokhorkin. The table lists the age at which they put up that season:
As you can see, Prokhorkin falls in line with a bunch of guys who haven't cut it in the NHL and Vladimir Tarasenko.(Fun fact: all of those guys are 1st rounders except for Prokhorkin.)
The obvious difference between Tarasenko and Kuznetsov, Filatov, and Bumistrov is that Tarsenko is well-built and is more of a north-south skater that doesn't overplay the puck. Luckily, Prokhorkin is the exact same way. Prokhorkin is 6'2", close to 200 pounds now, and doesn't hesitate when playing the puck. He also isn't afraid to hit and generally annoys the other team when he's on the ice. On the power play he is usually hovering near the front of the net. Like Kempe & Zykov & pretty much every Kings forward prospect taken the last 3 years, Prokhorkin makes his hay along the boards and in front. The fact that he can also score on the rush is a bonus. It's probably a good sign that Prokhorkin's breakout season came under John Torchetti, a former Kings head coach*.
Prokhorkin has probably been a little over-hyped by those who can't get over their Russian love to see the reality of the player before them. (Those people have a real problem.) He's not a superstar and he's not going to set the world on fire; he is a good prospect, though, and he can project anywhere from line 1 to 4 in the Kings line-up. He's getting major minutes in the KHL right now, carrying his own line and keeping up the same scoring pace as last year through 14 games so far. He is playing with Jan Mursak, Slovenian, and Evgeny Artyukhin, Dickhead. Hopefully he can put together another good season so we can finally get an idea of just how good this kid can be.
On the KHL Factor
1) Nikolai Prokhorkin has never said he doesn't want to come to the USA
2) At 18, he tried to get out of his KHL contract and come to North America
3) At 21, he tried to get out of his KHL contract and come to North America
4) He has never said that he is unwilling to play in the AHL; he has said that he thinks he can make the Kings because of success stories like Pearson & Toffoli
5) This off-season will be the first time Prokhorkin is out of his contract and can come to North America