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Top 5 Avalanche Russian Players of All Time




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.

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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?

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

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I’m surprised at the short list of Russians. Felt like they collaborate a lot with the Russians these days. I’d put Kovalenko out there on this list. Even shorter stint with the Avs than Nikolishin but he was good and as part of Le Trade he had a role in the most important trade in Avs history.


Oh yeah and the Avs drafted his son too!

Where is the Kamensky gamer photo from? Would love one of those.


That’s actually the one and only adult Avalanche shirt I own. Living in New York (and thus primarily attending games at MSG or Barclay) I do get thumbs ups even from the local Rangers fans. I would also agree with Sakic that Kamensky is under-appreciated by the Avs faithful and he actually was a true legend of world hockey. It’s worth remembering that he was already in his 30’s when the Avs moved to Denver and that, in reality, we only got to enjoy the tail-end of his phenomenal career that includes a gold and silver medal at the Olympics… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by dp10

Valeri Nichushkin had a much better single year than Andrei Nikolishin, IMHO. Can’t argue with Val at #1, though! I always picture him in that season opening black helmet with the white jersey.

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