This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 21 Evgeny Grachev
A 21-year-old Russian who is over 6 feet tall who can skate and do a little bit with the puck, that's worth more than a third-round pick, right? Then why did the New York Rangers give up on Evgeny Grachev when they sent the young man to St. Louis in June for a third round pick? There has to be something there. The way the Rangers blow the salary cap every year, good and young players (not necessarily in that order) are imperative.
Grachev has some close ties to the Russian hockey plane crash that claimed Pavol Demitra this summer. He played one game for Lokomotiv after spending a few seasons with their junior club. He was close friends with players who died in the crash. If it weren't for being noticed by the Rangers and drafted, it's possible he could have been on the roster and on that flight.
Before he was drafted, Hockey's Future had this to say about him:
Grachev is a top prospect with size, a physical presence and good hands. An above average skater with a pro shot and the ability to protect the puck, Grachev has transitioned from being a center to being a winger. Expected to be a power forward at the next level, Grachev will need to work on giving the team a consistent effort throughout the game, but there is no question that he has all the skills to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
Hello, red flag. If a teenager needs to work on giving a consistent effort before even getting drafted, that's not good. Talent evaluators can let a guy's skills fool them into thinking that a player is bored by all the inferior players around him. So he therefore doesn't have to give his all every shift. Most others would say that motherfucker is lazy and doesn't deserve to play the game for a living. Being a professional means the effort is expected no matter what.
After being drafted in the third round in 2008, Grachev came over to North America and played one season in juniors in the OHL before playing two years in the AHL. He scored 40 goals his one year in juniors, but unfortunately for Grachev, his numbers in the minors were less than impressive. And then he was a non factor in eight games with the Rangers. Maybe he was more talented than the competition and doesn't have the drive to succeed as a professional. And there's red flag No. 2.
After a few years over here, maybe he's gotten some perspective. At least he sounded that way when he talked to Jeremy Rutherford from the Post-Dispatch:
I've been a part of the Rangers' organization for three years. I guess it didn't work out for me the way I would have wanted it to be. But they drafted me and I just want to thank them for the opportunity they gave me. I'm just going to move on and hopefully be a part of this team. I don't think "the Blues traded for) me just as an AHL trade." So hopefully they have some expectations for me and I expect they're going to give me a shot in training camp and see what happens.
Grachev sure looked motivated in the preseason by leading the Blues with five goals. He's got a shot to impress the coaches and front office. He works hard, he stays around and makes the most of his opportunity. He takes shifts off and he's spending time in Peoria.
Maybe it's best to temper our expectations until we see what he can do against regular season competition. That's why he's in the 20s in these rankings.
Come back in an hour, won't you?