2015 NHL Draft Profile #49: Nikita Korostelev

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While Nikita Korostelev is Russian born, there shouldn’t be as big a concern about the Russian factor with him as there is with other players of Russian decent.  He came to Canada to play in the GTHL for the Vaughn Kings, and later the Toronto Jr. Canadiens at the age of 14, showing an early commitment to want to be an NHL player.  Due to the move to play his last two years of minor hockey in Ontario, Korostelev was not considered an import in the CHL, and went 9th overall in the OHL Priority draft in 2013.  This was an advantage to the Sting who have Pavel Zacha, and Nikolay Goldobin occupying their two import spots. Despite missing some time with a shoulder injury he suffered in December of this year, he still had a strong campaign, putting up 24 goals and 53 points in 55 games for the Sarnia Sting. Korostelev added three points in five playoff games.

Nikita Korostelev

Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Feb 8 1997 — Moskva, Russia
Height 6.02 — Weight 195 [188 cm/88 kg]

Nikita Korostelev is a dynamic skater. He has very good top end speed, and excellent acceleration. He is able to use that speed to drive wide on defenders and cut to the net. If a defender does not respect that speed, he has the ability to pull up and cut to the middle for a shot. Korostelev has great agility and edgework, allowing him to be very slippery in the zone, and get around defenders, both with the puck and when trying to find open space. He also shows good balance on his skates and is tough to knock off the puck.  He could stand to dig harder for pucks in the corners though as he can seem to lack that compete level from time to time.  When he does work to dig pucks out, he is very good at it with his good balance and quick hands.

Nikita Korostelev has a strong offensive skill set.  A natural sniper, he has one of the best wrist shots in the draft class, featuring power, accuracy and a lightning quick release.  Korostelev also has an excellent one timer.  He can stickhandle in a phone booth, with outstanding puck control and the ability to make defenders look silly one-on-one.  Korostelev’s soft hands are also seen in tight to the net where he has a variety of moves that can beat goaltenders.  He also has shown good vision and passing skills, but he doesn’t always use them as often as he maybe should.  He can start to get tunnel vision at times, trying to do it all himself and score every goal.  He will need to mature and learn to use his teammates more going forward.  Korostelev can throw a big hit on the forecheck and be involved in the tough areas of the ice, but seems to lack consistency in doing so.

Defensively, Nikita Korostelev is a major project.  He flies the zone early, looking for the break away pass and does not always make sure his teammates will get the puck out at the line.  He can get caught puck watching at times, and drift away from his man in coverage.  He also has a tendency to make high risk plays with the puck on his stick, which can result in some bad turnovers at the offensive blue line, and odd man rushes against.  Overall, it will take some time with good coaching and real commitment from Korostelev before he is ready to play a regular shift in the pro game.

Nikita Korostelev is a real boom or bust type of prospect.  His offensive skills are tantilizing and he could definitely become a second liner if he reaches his ceiling.  There may even be first line type of offence in this package.  However the defensive game is a major concern, and he could find himself having trouble earning a coach’s trust if he doesn’t show more commitment in his own end.  His game is reminiscent of a combination of Alex Kovalev and Phil Kessel, but that is a stylistic comparison only, and not one based on talent.

Below are some videos of Korostelev in action.

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