The Curious Case of Ruslan Bashkirov

Let’s go back in time in Ottawa Senators history. Era 1998-2006. 3 General Managers by the name of Rick Dudley, Marshall Johnston, and John Muckler were at helm during that time. Dudley lasted 1 year, Johnston 2 years, and Muckler 6 years. All three GM’s had a notorious rep at drafting. All three of them weren’t afraid to take some European player out of the forests, namely Russian players. The Sens were successful during these times but the future looked bleak. They drafted way too many Russians who never played a single minute for Ottawa. Some might say that is the reason of the demise of our beloved Senators.

After a trip to the Cup Finals, Muckler is finally fired after constant years of complaining from Sens fans to fire the old-timer. Bryan Murray took over and so far, has done a solid job. He sometimes misses the mark on his trades, but at drafting, he’s one of the best in the biz. So far, Murray has been at helm for 3 Drafts. In total the team has made 20 picks from 2007-2009. When at helm with the Ducks and Wings, Murray has be known to draft mainly Canadians, Americans, and Swedes. That continues here in Ottawa.

Players From Canada- 8/20- 40%
Players From USA- 6/20- 30%
Players from Sweden- 5/20- 25%

Well that doesn’t add up, eh? There’s still 5 % left, which if you’re a math geek, you know that means 1 player left. Yes, in 2007, Murray drafted a Russian(gasp!). He comes by the name of Ruslan Bashkirov.

Born in March of 1989, Ruslan had always impressed scouts whenever he played. In 2006, Ruslan made the switch to the Q, and played for the Quebec Remparts. Playing 60 games that season, Bashkirov recorded 67 points, mainly 30 goals and 37 assists. Many teams were impressed with his decision to play in the QMJHL, and many scouts were baffled at his pure skill. Bashkirov had one of the best hands in the Q, and a very strong shot. Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire had this to say about Bashkirov 2 months before the 2007 Draft:

” He(Ruslan) has the ability to become a Top 6 Forward in the league in a few years. His work ethic is also something to be amazed at and his willingness to be the best on the ice just gives you the impression that he wants to play in the NHL. His consistency has been an issue for much of his junior career, but the team that drafts him can mold him very well in my opinion. I see Ruslan as the next Alexei Kovalev if he decides to stay in Canada next year

The season had ended and the Remparts lost in the playoffs. 1 week later, Ruslan made an announcement, something that changed his hockey career and the scouts perception on him.
Ruslan declared he was homesick, and wanted to play with his twin brother Roman on Atlanat Mytischi in the KHL. Many saw this as a step back for the young Russian. Many had declared him as a late first round pick. Now, because of his declaration to the KHL, many saw him fall tremendously.

As happened with Alexei Cherepanov that same year, people were scared of the Russians because of the lack of a transfer agreement between the KHL and the NHL. The first round ended, and Bashkirov still wasn’t picked. He and his family pondered and even Ruslan himself wondered if the decision to join the KHL was the right one. His agent, however, re-assured him that is was the right one and that he was going to get drafted.

Bashkirov met Cherepanov after he was drafted and congratulated him. After some talk, Bashkirov asked Alex what if he was drafted by the Rangers, and Cherepanov smiled and just said “I’d rather face off against you”.

The second day of the draft kicked off early. After 15 picks went through, Rusland started to get frustrated. I remember watching the second round on the NHL Network and Ray Ferraro predicting the Buffalo Sabres would take Ruslan Bashkirov with the 59th overall pick. I was thinking with myself, thank god, we won’t have the urge to draft another Russian now. Contrary, with the 59th pick, Buffalo took Drew Schiestel. The Ottawa Senators were on the clock, and many were expecting them to draft a defenseman after drafting Jim O’Brien with the 29th overall pick. However, Ottawa took yet another Russian, and his name is Ruslan Bashkirov.

After hearing his name, Ruslan hugged his parents and twin brother Roman, and went to the podium. With smiles around, Ruslan put on a Sens jersey, something he wished he would wear full-time in a few years.

Even though Murray is known for drafting Russians, he took a gamble on Bashkirov, even though he knew he was playing in the KHL next year. Bashkirov had sniper abilities something Ottawa saw and admired. Murray hoped he could convince Ruslan to come back to Canada after 2008. He never did.

Bashkirov played once again in the KHL in 2008, this time with Ladya Toglatti. Some fans hope he returns, and I bet there’s still something in Ruslan that hopes he returns himself.

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