Former NHLer Tells Stories Of Enigmatic Russian Draft Bust

Published May 29, 2023 at 11:57

Many modern day NHL fans will remember the story of enigmatic forward Nail Yakupov. Selected 1st overall during the 2012 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Many scouts had him touted as the next big Russian star but after six seasons in North America he was gone back to his homeland in the KHL.

A decade before Yakupov graced the NHL their was another enigmatic Russian prospect scouts had their eyes on Nikolai Zherdev. Selected 4th overall during the 2003 NHL draft, Zherdev had blazing speed and tremendous hands, he had all the makings of a superstar waiting to happen.

Half way through the 2003 season of the now defunct Russian Superleague, the predecessor to the KHL, Zherdev left and skated in 57 games in Columbus, scoring 13 goals and 21 assists. After the 2004 lockout, Zherdev played in 73 games for Columbus and scored 54 points. The 2006-2007 campaign did not go as well for Zherdev, only scoring ten goals in 72 games and he finished with a plus/minus rating of -19.

The 2007-2008 season was the best of Zherdev's career scoring 26 goals and 61 points in 82 games. During the next offseason he was traded to the New York Rangers and after two more seasons Zherdev's six year NHL career was over. He left for the KHL and hasn't looked back, still playing professionally in Europe.

Former Nhler Mike Rupp was on a recent episode of the Nasty Knuckles podcast with co hosts Derek Settlemyre and Riley Cote. Rupp told some really great stories about Zherdev.

Zherdev was not showing up to his scheduled work outs. Head strength coach Barry Brenan noticed and informed management. They came up with a fine policy of $100 for every time Zherdev missed. Management informed Zherdev of the new policy and the next day Zherdev tasked his translator to give a cheque worth $3,000 to pay the next 30 days worth of fines.

This was Zherdev's second season in the NHL. The stones you would need to possess to pull that off.

Another story, Rupp was out drinking with teammates one night when Zherdev shows up with a Russian entourage. They acknowledge Rupp but sit at a different table. After ordering drinks all night Zherdev and his party leave without paying the bill. The waitress goes over to Rupp and he covers his teammates tab.

Rup said his teammates was a
"good guy just kind of operated against authority a little bit."

Zherdev appeared to have all the talent in the world to have a long NHL career but ego, work ethic and failure to comply with authority got in the way.
May 29   |   179 answers
Former NHLer Tells Stories Of Enigmatic Russian Draft Bust

What quality stops players from really reaching the next level in professional sports the most?

Ego5631.3 %
Lack of work ethic11664.8 %
Failure to comply to the rules73.9 %
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