The Kontinental Hockey League has taken one more step towards competing with the NHL: they've just had an entry draft. The structure of the Russian draft works a little bit different than North American; it's actually a little reminiscient of the C-Form days of the NHL, where Russian clubs recruit prospects at a very young age and then place them on a protected list, meaning that the entry draft ism ostly passed over prospects and players from other countries.
Another key difference is that the Russians allow teams to draft players one year younger, and Ak Bars Kazan took advantage of that to draft the likely top pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Taylor Hall. Erik Gundbranson, another projected top-ten pick, was selected 62nd overall by Moscow Dynamo.
More after the jump.
The possibilities presented by the one-year age difference are rather interesting; while unlikely, it's possible that a North American junior dynamo could play a full season in the KHL before even being drafted by an NHL team. The obvious motivation would be for money; Oilers fans know that Linus Omark got a lot more money in the KHL than he would have in the AHL, and the disparity is even greater for a junior-age player.
The other tactic some teams used was grabbing players who would be unlikely to play in the NHL at age 18. John Tavares, who will certainly be in the NHL next year, was passed on, but Victor Hedman was claimed 83rd overall by Spartak, and possible Oilers' pick Zach Kassian went 56th overall.
One of the frustrating things for a fan of prospects and the development process is watching a player dominate the CHL because their NHL team can't assign them to the AHL, where they would be more challenged. It will be very interesting to see if some NHL teams elect to allow their prospects to sign in the KHL on one-year deals; I'm guessing that it won't happen any time soon (if at all) but the top Russian league is very similar in level of play to the AHL, and it's the kind of unconventional approach that might bear looking into.
For a seventeen year old, it might also be a quicker route to the NHL. John Tavares has stagnated (statistically, at least) in the OHL and a player like Taylor Hall (90 points at age 16) might benefit from a higher level of play. He'd certainly benefit from the financial impact of playing in Russia.
UPDATE: For the entire list of drafted players, check out Dirk Hoag's excellent site. The only NHL properties I see on the list are Jiri Tlusty and excellent San Jose Sharks goaltending prospect Harri Sateri. Anyone else jump out?