EDMONTON, ALBERTA – I’ve written a fair amount about a Russian player today, Vladislav Kamenev, so why not do a Top-5 list of the best Russian Avalanche players of all time? This is purely subjective of course. My list:
5. Andrei Nikolishin – His inclusion to this list is Exhibit A of the fact that there just haven’t been a whole lot of Russian players on the Avs over the years, and many of them were very bad (sorry, Mikhail Kuleshov, sorry Andrei Mironov). He only played one season with the Avs, in 2003-04 (the Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne season) and only played 49 games. But I thought he was a nice player on that team. He wasn’t spectacular by any means, but he put up about one point every four games and was a good penalty-killing, utility guy. He retired as a player in 2012 and then became a coach in the KHL.
4. Nikita Zadorov – Hey, Big Z is a top-six defenseman on a playoff team right now and has been with this club for a few years now. We all know he is a very effective player in the right situations. This might well be his last season with the club, but who knows? He’s been a guy who’s been in the doghouse of Jared Bednar at times, but he’s always had a good attitude about him and he doesn’t whine publicly.
3. Alexei Gusarov – The Goose will always be remembered by longtime Avs fans as the D partner of Adam Foote, a regular player on the 1996 Stanley Cup team. The Goose was a steady D-man who could surprise you every now and then with a stylish offensive play. Don’t forget, he’s the guy who set up Joe Sakic’s double-overtime goal that won Game 4 of the ’96 Western semifinal series in Chicago, which evened the series 2-2 and gave the Avs a different mindset from there on out, that maybe they could win the whole enchilada.
Go to the 1:37 mark of this video to see the goal again:
2. Semyon Varlamov – Well, he never did win a playoff series with the Avs, unless you count him sitting on the bench for all six games of the first round last year, watching Philipp Grubauer beat the Flames.
But we all know Varly had some good moments as an Av, including the season he finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist (2013-14). He went 41-14-6 that season, with a .927 saves percentage. Right now, he’s the starting goalie for a New York Islanders team that is one game away from sweeping the team that traded him to the Avs in 2011, the Washington Capitals.
1. Valeri Kamensky – He scored 38 goals for a team that won the Stanley Cup in 1996, one-third of a line that included Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux.
Kamensky was a supremely gifted skater who could really finish with the puck. His NHL career kind of took a nosedive after he left the Avs for free-agent riches with the Rangers, then the Dallas Stars, then the New Jersey Devils. I asked Joe Sakic recently who the most under-appreciated player in Avs history was, in his opinion, and Kamensky was his answer.
Remember this goal?