Rafikov wakes up to draft news
NEWARK, NJ -- While the 2013 NHL Draft was on prime time in North America, the time change in Russia makes it difficult to keep up on the activity.
So when Rushan Rafikov was selected in the seventh round, 187th overall by the Calgary Flames at approximately 9:45 PM ET, the 18-year-old defenceman was sound asleep. The pick came at approximately 5 AM for Rafikov.
In fact, he didn't realize Calgary had selected him until he checked his phone the next morning to discover the Flames had started following him on Twitter.
"I watched first round and went sleep," he told Roman Solovyov of R-Sport. "[I] woke up in the morning check my phone and noticed that the Flames started following me on Twitter and understood."
If Rafikov woke up to a bit of a surprise that the Flames drafted him it's understandable. The 6-foot-2, 181-pound defenceman is Calgary's first Russian since Yuri Artemenkov and Viktor Bobrov were selected in the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Neither Russian played in the National Hockey League.
Rafikov -- one of eight Russians drafted in New Jersey -- has different designs.
"I want to play one day here, but now only Lokomotiv," he said.
His focus is currently on Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, where he's spent the past two seasons playing for their junior team and is eying a full-time roster spot in the KHL.
"It's honour to be chosen at the draft but my future is now Lokomotiv where I have a two-year contract," said Rafikov, who had one goal and 10 points in 53 games this season.
But if things don't go according to plan, the Flames could see the Russian sooner rather than later.
"If something goes wrong in Russia, I'll go overseas to change opinions in Calgary about Russians."
Because as Rafikov put it, it's time for a change on that front.
Scouting Report: International Scouting Services (ISS) has classified Rafikov as a talented defenceman with plenty of tools in his toolbox. He has some offensive upside, is a strong skater and good vision which allows him to create offensive opportunities. The ISS lauded the rearguard on his work ethic, calling him a fierce competitor who leaves it all on the ice. He is extremely hard to play against as he loves to get in his opponent's face and plays with an edge. He has a good frame to grow into (6-foot-2, 185 lbs) which will aid in his development as he loves to play an aggressive game.
The ISS had Rafikov ranked 88th overall in this year's draft class, NHL Central Scouting had him 21st amongst international skaters (7th amongst international defencemen) and Red Line Report had him listed at 196th amongst all draft-eligible players.