The Canucks Top-5 Russians

This is a Guest Piece By Andrey Osadchenko

Vancouver is seen by many Russians as a surreal place – it’s about as far out West from Western Russia (the most populated part of the country) as it gets. Maybe this is why there haven’t been a whole lot of ruskies in the Canucks’ system historically. Perhaps, there’s a another explanation for that, but the fact is several of the Russian skaters who made it all the way out to BC became legendary. At least, 3 of them did. Here’s a quick look at the Top-5 Russians who ever played for the blue- green-and-white (or black-yellow and red).

1. Pavel Bure

  • Birthday – 31.03.1971
  • Position – Right Wing
  • Height – 5’10
  • Weight – 187lbs
  • Drafted – 1989 round 6 #113 overall.
  • Stats with the Canucks – 254+224=478 points in 428 regular season games 34+32=66 points in 60 play-off games

When it comes to Russian Rocket, it’s easy to mince words. Amazing, incredible, terrifyingly good, awesome, unbelievable, uncatchable – these are just a few adjectives that come to mind when you think about probably the best Russian born player who ever made it to The Show. Pavel Bure had an entire generation of hockey fans grow up worshiping him.

He played 7 years for the Canucks finishing twice with 60 goals and once with 51. No defenseman in the league could match his speed when Bure was at his best. However, it wasn’t all about the speed. His skill set was just as terrific, as was his shot release. If it wasn’t for him, the Canucks would have never made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994.

Unfortunately, as often happens to those how shine brighter than everyone else, Bure was forced to put his skates on the shelf too early. After leaving the Canucks, he spent 5 more seasons with the Panthers and Rangers, before Pavel retired at 32. According to his latest interview, he didn’t play hockey since until just recently.

Despite of all his achievements, Bure will go down in history as an amazing player who never won anything. And sadly enough that’s true. Some Canucks fans don’t even think Pavel was the best player in the franchise’s history. One thing is for certain, though. He was the one who in fact put Vancouver on a map for hockey fans all around the world.

2. Alexander Mogilny

  • Birthday – 03.02.1969
  • Position – Right Wing
  • Height – 6’2
  • Weight – 198lbs
  • Drafted – 1988 round 5 #89 overall
  • Stats with the Canucks – 139+169=308 points in 312 regular season games 0+0=0 points in 0 play-off games

Quick fact. When Pavel Bure was just another promising young player he played for Red Army on the ‘kids line’. His line-mates were (heart-attack alert) Alex Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov. They were deployed at the time, as the team’s THIRD line. Jealous?

Mogilny joined Bure in Vancouver for 3 seasons and stayed there for another 2 after Pavel was traded to the Panthers. Ironically enough, Fedorov’s younger brother – Fedor – also played a few games for the Canucks, and famously got punched out by Kevin Bieksa (an episode that earned Bieksa his entry level deal from then Canucks GM Brian Burke).

While the hockey world saw the best out of Alex Mogilny during his time with the Buffalo Sabres, in his first season with the Canucks, the Khabarovsk native scored 55 goals and had 107 points in 79 games. He never scored 50 goals again in one season.

Sadly for Canucks fans, a variety of injuries kept Mogilny and Bure from really rekindling their previous chemistry. Mogilny was inducted to the Sabres Hall Of Fame last year, but he still has a special place in the heart of many Canucks fans. He now works as a consultant for the KHL.

3. Igor Larionov

  • Birthday – 03.12.1960
  • Position – Centre
  • Height – 5’9
  • Weight – 172lbs
  • Drafted – 1985 round 11 #214 overall
  • Stats with the Canucks – 51+92=143 points in 210 regular season games 4+7=11 points in 19 play-off games

One of the Great Five. The Professor. The Magician. At a first glance, this is a remarkably high praise for a guy who only twice in his career had 20+ goals seasons and whose personal record in points was 21+50=71 (in 1995/96 with the Red Wings). Don’t let anybody fool you. Larionov deserves all of it.

He was never known for his ability to put the pucks in the net – although, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t. It’s his playmaking ability that really made him a star. Not only he was able to find passing lanes but he also saw options to finish the attack that no one else could. He was simply the smartest guy on every ice-surface he ever played on.  

Larionov is also a rare example of a long-lasting Russian in the NHL. He retired in 2002 at the age of 42.

He currently resides in California, runs his own winery, works as an agent for a few young players (notably Andrei Loktionov of the LA Kings) and does various hockey-related things. Whenever asked about his favorite city, Larionov answers with no hesitation – Vancouver, BC, Canada.

4. Artem Chubarov

  • Birthday – 13.12.1979
  • Position – Centre
  • Height – 6’1
  • Weight – 203lbs
  • Drafted – 1998 round 2 #31 overall
  • Stats with the Canucks – 25+33=58 points in 228 regular season games 0+4=4 points in 27 play-off games

This Niznhy Novgorod native was never the most skilled guy on any pro team. He always had to grind stuff out, battle for pucks, go into the corners and play in dirty areas. He was the one who, using a saying from his first language, ‘carried the piano on his back’. Thus his OT game- winning goal in 1999 at World Juniors in Winnipeg on Roberto Luongo (who would have thought, eh?) seems as an out-of-this-world kind of thing.

The Canucks were the only team Artem ever played for in the NHL. After spending 5 years in BC he moved back home, won the championship with Dynamo Moscow in 2005 (along with Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Andrei Markov, Alex Frolov and Sergei Samsonov) and retired in 2009 at the age of 30.

He currently resides in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod. According to my sources last season he played for a local amateur team and also runs a restaurant business. He is also the patron saint of Canucks Army, and according to his wikipedia page there is a "somewhat popular parody account" in his name on Twitter.

5. Roman Oksiuta

  • Birthday – 21.08.1970
  • Position – Right Wing
  • Height – 6’2
  • Weight – 229lbs
  • Drafted – 1989 round 10 #202 overall
  • Stats with the Canucks – 21+25=46 points in 68 regular season games 2+3=5 points in 10 play-off games

For a while it looked like Oksiuta was going to have a stunningly amazing career. He started playing hockey in Northern Russia – in Murmansk Region – and was Sergei Fedorov’s line-mate at one point. At the age of 14 he moved to Voskresenk – Larionov’s hometown. He made his debut in the NHL in 1993 at the age of 23.

Oksiuta played just 68 regular season games for the Canucks in a season and a half but points- wise he still is among top-5 Russians who ever laced’em up for the team.

Roman wasn’t all that successful in the NHL and after 5 years that were all up-and-down he returned to Russia. He spent last 6 years of his career with the team that gave him a chance to make it big – Khimik Voskresensk.

He currently works as a coach for a junior team in the Moscow suburbs