This article is the fourth in a series ranking all Penguins throughout history from different countries. Some lists will rank just the top 10, due to the number of players from those countries. Today, we continue by ranking all Penguins players from Russia.
There have been 11 Russian players to suit up for the Penguins in their history — one goaltender, four defensemen and six forwards.
Let’s see how the Russian Penguins rank, not necessarily in terms of overall skill, but more so by their impact on the Penguins during their time in Pittsburgh.
11. ROMAN OKSIUTA
The Penguins acquired Oksiuta from the Ducks in March 1997 in exchange for Richard Park. Oksiuta appeared in just seven games to finish the season, recording no points and a minus-4 rating.
The Penguins did not re-sign Oksiuta, and he split the next season between Norway and the IHL. He returned to Europe for good in 1998 when he signed in Finland. After one year in Finland, he played five more seasons in Russia. He didn't play during the 2004-05 season, then played three games during the 2005-06 season before retiring.
10. SERGEI PLOTNIKOV
The Penguins signed Plotnikov as a free agent in 2015, and expectations were high. He had scored a combined 101 points in 159 games over his previous three seasons in the KHL.
It didn't work out.
Through 32 games, Plotnikov recorded just two assists. He was a healthy scratch for nearly two months. The Penguins finally traded Plotnikov to the Coyotes for AHL forward Matthias Plachta in February.
Plotnikov never found his game with the Coyotes, either. He played in 13 games to finish the season and recorded just one assist.
Plotnikov returned to Russia in 2016, and his scoring touch returned. He scored 29 points in 46 games, 39 points in 55 games, and 39 points in 61 games over the past three seasons in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg.
9. ALEXANDER PECHURSKY
Pechursky, the Penguins' fifth-round pick in 2008, was signed to a tryout contract out of the WHL on Jan. 16, 2010 after Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson both went down with injuries. John Curry got the start that night against the Canucks, with Pechursky backing up. Pechursky, who didn't speak English, answered questions at the morning skate through Ruslan Fedotenko.
"He's not nervous," said Fedotenko. "He's excited to be here, to be a part of the team."
Curry allowed five goals on 14 shots in 24:29 and was yanked. Pechursky entered the game in relief, and played the remaining 35:31 of the game. He stopped all 10 shots he faced at even strength, and two of three shots he faced on the power play. The Penguins still lost the game, 6-2, but Pechursky at least gave them a chance to come back. He was named the No. 3 star of the game for his debut.
Pechursky spent the following year in the minors, then returned to Russia in 2011. He spent the past two seasons in the second-tier Russian league, the VHL, playing for teams in China and Kazakhstan. Now 29, he's signed with Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the VHL for 2019-20.
8. MAXIM GALANOV
The Penguins signed Galanov during free agency in 1998. Galanov played 51 games that season, scoring four goals and three assists and registering a minus-8 rating.
Galanov played in one playoff game that season, a Game 3 win against the Devils in the first round. He was scoreless in 4:43.
Galanov was not re-signed in the offseason, and played for the Thrashers in the 1999-00 season. He bounced around the following season, from the Lightning to the IHL to the Leafs' AHL team, and then returned to Russia in 2001. He played 11 seasons in Russia and one in Germany before retiring in 2013.
Following his retirement, Galanov was the general manager of the VHL's Sokol Krasnoyarsk from 2013-15.
7. DMITRI MIRONOV
The Penguins acquired Mironov (along with second-round pick, used on Josh DeWolf) from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Larry Murphy in July 1995.
Mironov played in 72 games in the 1995-96 season, scoring three goals and 31 assists and recording a plus-19 rating. He played in 15 postseason games, registering one assist and a minus-6 rating.
Mironov began the 1996-97 season in Pittsburgh, and had scored one goal and five assists in 15 games by mid-November. He was traded along with Shawn Antoski to the Ducks for Alex Hicks and Fredrik Olausson.
The Ducks traded Mironov the following season to the Red Wings. He signed with the Capitals in 1998, and played three more seasons to finish his professional career.
6. SERGEI ZUBOV
The Penguins acquired Zubov and Petr Nedved from the Rangers in August 1995 in exchange for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson. The season before, Zubov, along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexei Kovalev became the first Russians to win the Stanley Cup when they won with the Rangers.
Zubov played 64 games for the Penguins in the 1995-96 season, scoring 11 goals and 55 assists. His plus-28 rating led all Penguins defensemen that season. He scored one goal and 14 assists in 18 playoff games in the spring, finishing fourth on the team in postseason scoring. His plus-9 rating in the playoffs led the team.
Zubov was traded to the Stars for Kevin Hatcher in the offseason, and Zubov spent 12 seasons in Dallas. He returned to the KHL and played for SKA St. Petersburg in the final season of his career, and retired in 2010.
Zubov, 48, worked as an assistant coach in the KHL from 2011 until he was promoted to head coach of St. Petersburg in October 2015. He's been the head coach of HK Sochi since 2017.
5. GERMAN TITOV
The Penguins acquired Titov and Todd Hlushko in the 1998 offseason from the Flames in exchange for Ken Wregget and David Roche.
Titov was the Penguins' third-leading scorer in the 1998-99 season, scoring 11 goals and 45 assists in 72 games. He was the fifth-leading scorer in the playoffs, with three goals and five assists in 11 games.
Titov was having another successful season in 1999-00, recording 17 goals and 25 assists in 63 games, when he was traded to the Oilers for Josef Beranek in March.
Titov spent the next two seasons in Anaheim, then returned to Russia for two seasons before retiring in 2005.
Titov has been a head coach off and on in the KHL since 2013, coaching the Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Spartak Moskva, Avangard Omsk, and most recently the Traktor Chelyabinsk. Titov was replaced as Chelyabinsk's head coach in October 2018 with former Penguin Peteris Skudra, the greatest Latvian Penguin of all-time.
4. ALEXEI MOROZOV
Morozov was the Penguins' first round pick in 1995. He made his debut with the Penguins in the 1997-98 season, and he scored his first goal on his first shift and first shot in the NHL.
Morozov played 451 career games with the Penguins from 1997-2004, the second-most games of any Russian Penguin. He scored 84 goals and 135 assists with the Penguins.
If Morozov could have played every game of his career against the Devils, he might have ended up a little higher on this list. Appropriately nicknamed “The Devil Killer,” Morozov amassed 12 goals and 13 points in 30 career regular-season games against the Devils. Of his four career playoff goals, three were against the Devils.
"The kid’s got probably over 25 percent of his career goals on me," said Martin Brodeur. "It’s unbelievable. ... When he’s going to make a pass, I think he’s shooting. When he’s shooting, I think he’s making a pass. The guy’s in my kitchen. He’s in my head. I can’t get rid of him."
Morozov signed with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL during the 2004-05 lockout and never returned to the NHL. He was named captain in 2007, and remained with Ak Bars Kazan through the 2012-13 season. He signed with HC CSKA Moscow in 2013, and played one season in his hometown before retiring.
In 2016-17, Morozov was president of MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva in the MHL, a Russian junior hockey league.
3. SERGEI GONCHAR
Gonchar's impact was huge during his time with the Penguins after he was signed as a free agent in 2005. He led all Penguins defensemen in scoring in four of the five seasons he played in Pittsburgh, except for 2008-09, when he missed much of the regular season with a shoulder injury.
Gonchar played 322 games in a Penguins' uniform, and scored 54 goals and 205 assists. One of his biggest contributions came off the ice, as he helped Evgeni Malkin get assimilated to America.
Gonchar and Malkin are the first Russians to win the Stanley Cup with the Penguins, when they won it in 2009. Gonchar never managed to win the Norris Trophy during his 20-year NHL career, but he did finish fourth in voting three times, including in 2008 with the Penguins.
Gonchar was not re-signed in 2010, and he retired in 2015 after stints with the Senators, Stars, and Canadiens. He was hired as a developmental coach for the Penguins' defense prospects in 2015, and was promoted to assistant coach in 2017.
2. ALEXEI KOVALEV
The Penguins acquired Kovalev and Harry York from the Rangers in November 1998 in exchange for Petr Nedved, Sean Pronger, and Chris Tamer.
Kovalev played the third-most games (365), and scored the second-most goals (151) and points (354) of any Russian Penguin.
Kovalev's best individual season of his 19-year NHL career came with the Penguins in 2000-01. He scored 44 goals and 51 assists in 79 games, finishing second only to Jaromir Jagr in team scoring.
The Penguins traded Kovalev, Dan LaCouture, Janne Laukkanen and Michael Wilson to the Rangers in February 2003 in exchange for Rico Fata, Richard Lintner, Mikael Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard and cash.
Kovalev would go on to play for the Rangers, Canadiens and Senators before the Penguins re-acquired him in February 2011 in exchange for a seventh-round pick (which the Senators later used on Ryan Dzingel). Kovalev's second stint in Pittsburgh was brief and unimpressive, scoring two goals and five assists in 20 games. He scored one goal and one assist in seven games in the playoffs as a depleted Penguins team was eliminated by the Lightning in the first round.
Kovalev returned to the KHL the following season, then came back to play for the Panthers in 2012-13. He returned to Europe in 2013, signing with EHC Visp of the Swiss NLB. He led Visp to a championship win with 22 goals and 30 assists in 44 regular season games, and seven goals and eight assists in 11 playoff games. He retired after the win.
“Unfortunately, I have to retire because of my injuries,” Kovalev said following the championship. “I’d have loved to play until I’m 50, but the injuries from the last few seasons don’t let me continue my career. It’s a hard decision for me but it is what it is. It was my last season.”
It was not his last season.
Kovalev took over as Visp's general manager in 2016-17, and came out of retirement after Visp lost a key forward to injury. Kovalev, at 44 years old, scored three goals and seven assists in 11 games before (presumably) retiring for good.
Kovalev, now 46, is an assistant coach for the Kunlun Red Star, the KHL team based in China.
1. EVGENI MALKIN
Malkin is arguably the No. 4 Penguins player of all time, and an easy choice for the top Russian in team history.
Malkin is the 88th player in NHL history to hit the 1,000th-point mark, and the fifth Russian to do so. He hit that milestone in 848 career games, the fewest games needed of any Russian player to reach that mark. He's one of the greatest Russian players in NHL history.
He’s still Mr. 101 in the eyes of the NHL, though.
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