The Flyers history with Russian players has been a lot like a nasty hangover from cheap vodka: sometimes it has been bad, and sometimes it has been almost sickening.
That history began back in 1991 (which was later than most of the NHL) when the Flyers drafted Andrei Lomakin as their seventh-round pick. It continued with the acquisition of over the hill veterans like Vladimir Malakhov and Alexei Zhitnik and hit rock bottom in 2011 when goalie (and wanna-be cosmonaut) Ilya Bryzgalov signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with Philadelphia. (If that doesn’t make you feel a little queasy, nothing will!)
GM Ron Hextall hopes to forget about those past headaches with the signing of two new Russian players this offseason – one significant, and one much less so.
Last month the Flyers signed this 6”3” 32-year old defenseman and Ron Hextall spoke very highly of him – “He upgraded our defense. He’s got good size, he skates well, he moves the puck well, and he’s a real solid two-way defenseman who can play either side of the ice.”
Medvedev has a reputation as a skillful passer and strong skater, but also possesses a hard left-handed shot which could be especially useful on power plays. But even more so, he is best known around the world for his amazing breakaway shot. For a team desperate for help in shootouts, Medvedev might just be the perfect remedy.
Medvedev has played the last seven years in Russia in the KHL, where he has been a three-time All-Star. He has also represented Russia internationally for the past four years, winning gold medals at the World Championships in 2011-12 and 2013-14 and a silver medal in this year’s recent World Championships in Prague. In addition, Medvedev also represented Russia at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The big defenseman has reportedly signed a one year, $3 million dollar contract with the Flyers. He appears to have the attributes Coach David Hakstol is looking for in a defenseman, and should see a lot of playing time this coming year.
Fazleev is a 6”1’ left wing, and was drafted by the Flyers in the 6th round of last year’s draft. Even though he just signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers, he will likely not play in the NHL this season.
A native of Kazan, Russia, this 19-year old has shown some promise in his play with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League. In this past season he scored 51 points in 71 games (18 goals and 33 assists). Whether he will make it to the big club is anyone’s guess right now.
One thing has become very clear this offseason – Ron Hextall is going to do things his way, regardless of whatever has happened in the past. The signing of the two latest Russian players, especially Medvedev, confirm this. For a defense that desperately needs more mobility and scoring ability, this might just be what the doctor ordered.