2023 NHL Draft prospect profile: Roman Kantserov has yet to show his dominance beyond the MHL
The undersized winger is a point-per-game player in the Russian Junior league. How do you evaluate those statistics in 2023?
It is difficult to get a firm grasp of Roman Kantserov's ability. On the one hand, he has been a scoring machine in the Russian junior league for almost four full seasons. On the other hand, he has only made one lonely appearance in the senior leagues. Should this be considered a red flag, when you take into account that Kantserov is one of the older players in this draft class?
Birthplace: Magnitogorsk, Russia
Date of birth: September 20, 2004
Weight: 176 lbs.
Team: Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
If you want quality playmaking, this is where you go to hang your hat. Kantserov is a quality passer of the puck and can squeeze his passes onto a teammate's stick with surgical precision. A smart craftsman, the Magnitogorsk native has thus far been able to rely on his cerebral advantage to stay ahead of the curve against opponents who are physically superior to him.
As of today, he has an impressive record of 132 points (66G, 66A) in 147 games. If you discount the 47 games he played as a 16-year-old back in 2020-21, he is above a point-per-game. Would he be held in a universally higher regard if he was just two inches taller? Without a doubt.
Hockey is a physical game though, and being the smartest player in Russian Junior hockey is not equivalent to being dominant in the best hockey league in the world. Since he has yet to prove his play at a higher level, it is improbable to see him being chosen on the first night of the draft.
Add in the fact that Russian junior teams are now banned from major tournaments and we have little to nothing to go on in regards to how players like Kantserov look against more advanced opposition.
Dobber Prospects: N/R in Top 64
Elite Prospects: N/R in Top 80
Hockey Prospect: N/R in Top 75
Hadi Kalakeche: N/R in Top 75
Bob McKenzie (TSN): N/R in Top 80
NHL Central Scouting: #16 (European Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): N/R in Top 37
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): N/R in Top 64
There are not a ton of rankings to go on here. Two outlets have him in and around their first round conversation, while others don't even have him going in their opening two rounds. To provide some added context, Draft Prospects Hockey, who we don't feature in our preliminary rankings here above, have him ranked 50th overall as well.
Going back to the initial question; should we be worried about the fact that Metallurg Magnitogorsk has kept Kantserov in the MHL for three full seasons without even trying him in the senior second tier?
Well, yes and no. Metallurg's AHL affiliate is not a local one. Their VHL team plays their games in Kurgan, a city 600 kilometres away from Magnitogorsk. Hence, it can in some ways make sense to keep a young player around, playing MHL hockey and remaining under the tutelage of the KHL management in the home city. Especially when you are still eligible for junior hockey. Development is key, and playing games is crucial.
We can see from Zauralie Kurgan's roster that they currently have two players born in 2003 and an additional four players born in 2002. This adds to the theory that Metallurg chooses to hold their most talented youngsters in the MHL for as long as they can, only lifting them up to play senior level hockey as they are aging out of Junior.
In a few years time, it's completely possible that we look back at the 2023 NHL Draft and see one of the best Russian classes in recent memory. Apart from obvious ace Matvei Michkov, players like Daniil But, Dmitri Simashev, Mikhail Gulyayev, Timur Mukhanov, and Alexander Rykov will have their fans among the scouting communities.
However, the fact remains that there are considerable risks involved with using an early draft selection on a player who has yet to demonstrate his dominance beyond his own age group. Especially when the player in question is an undersized winger playing in Russia.