International Ice Hockey Federation

Kurashev one to watch

Kurashev one to watch

Swiss U18 Star already shining in North America

Published 13.04.2017 10:10 GMT+2 | Author Ryan O'Leary
Kurashev one to watch
Philipp Kurashev is chased by Team USA’s Luke Martin during last year’s IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Photo: Minas Pangiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
It was a full, first year for Philipp Kurashev in Quebec, a product of Swiss hockey and Russian genes. And it was a great year.

There was the monstrous 57-point performance, a last-second cut from the World Junior Championship, a scary knee incident, a 98-mph slapshot at a skills competition, and yes of course, a lot of attention on the 2018 draft-eligible forward from Switzerland of Russian origin.

Yes, it was an eye-opening experience for Kurashev, whose Swiss team is preparing for Group A foe Latvia on the eve of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Slovakia.

The Quebec Remparts must have a little luck when it comes to drafting hockey talent with Russian names. For the past 12 years, the Remparts have drafted and developed some pretty high-profile names.

Alexander Radulov’s number is retired and hanging from the rafters at the Centre Videotron. Nikita Kucherov was discovered by the Remparts and imported to North America in 2012.

But this year, it was all about Philipp Kurashev on the north side of the St. Lawrence River. Yet, Kurashev might not even be in Quebec without a chance encounter.

Quebec Remparts head coach Philippe Boucher was on a flight to the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in North Dakota when he heard Russian being spoken. After hearing a few minutes of the dialogue, he decided to take action.

“How many people are speaking Russian and flying to Grand Forks?” Boucher joked. “I knew they were heading to the tournament, so I introduced myself.”

The people Boucher are referring to were Kurashev’s mother Elena and Igor Larionov, the NHL Hall of Famer who is now his agent.

“They told me all about Philipp and that he was competing for Switzerland at the tournament,” said Boucher. “They told me how talented he was so I knew I had to keep my eye on him at that tournament,” Boucher added.

Philipp, already in Grand Forks preparing for the tournament, learned of this discussion 36,000 feet above the ground and met the news with enthusiasm. After all, playing in North America was Kurashev’s childhood dream and now another brick in the foundation was laid.

“It’s hard to explain in English how excited my mom and I were,” Kurashev said through his thick Russian accent. “Just a great feeling to know that a team was interested.”

Once in Grand Forks, Boucher saw Kurashev’s speed, shot and most importantly, passion for the game up-close and in person. As a young 16 year-old he only notched two points, but the promise of his skill was not to be questioned.

“I coach junior hockey because I’m passionate about hockey,” added Boucher. “We want players here who are passionate as well and Philipp really loves the game.”

Impressed, Boucher sent a note to his assistant general manager that Kurashev should be on their draft board for the CHL Import Draft.

On the other end, Kurashev made up his mind that he’d play the 2016/2017 season in North America despite being drafted by KHL side SKA St. Petersburg the same year.

The necessary interviews and scouting were executed and as chance would have it, Kurashev was still available when the Remparts’ 21st pick came in the 2016 CHL import draft.

Professional hockey is not unfamiliar to Kurashev who comes from good stock.

Kurashev’s father, Konstantin, played for Dynamo Moscow in the Soviet Union before leaving his homeland in 1992 to finish his hockey playing days in Austria.

For the past 18 years he’s served in various coaching roles throughout Switzerland from junior hockey to the top senior league. Kurashev was born in 1999 in Switzerland during that time and spent most of his junior career with the SC Bern organization before moving to Zurich for his last season in Switzerland.

The younger Kursashev says everything about hockey rubbed off from his father – from bringing him to practice every day to teaching him the fundamentals of his explosive shot and explaining the finer points of the game – it all grew his love of the game.

The Swiss product with a Russian name holds passports from both countries, but says it was an easy decision to play his international hockey under the white cross.

“Russia and Switzerland are both home,” Kurashev began. “But, I’ve always played for Switzerland and I’ll stick with them.”

Kurashev fell in love with hockey early on and developed through the Swiss ranks quite quickly.

“Swiss hockey is getting better and better,” said Kurashev. “We look at Kevin Fiala, Roman Josi and say we want to have the same success.”

Back in Quebec, Kurashev’s transition to live in the QMJHL was made easy this year by Coach Boucher and two Russian Players – Igor Larionov Jr., the son of Philipp’s agent, and goaltender Yevgeni Kiselyov.

“It was nice having two Russian players help me get used to the team, the league and life in Quebec,” says Kurashev. “They made me feel comfortable early on.”

Boucher sensed that comfort and gave Kurashev a long leash – playing him in all situations despite his lack of experience in North American hockey.

“Even though he just turned 17, I gave him first line duties right away,” says Boucher. “I also put him on the power-play and gave him a ton of responsibility early on.”

Kurashev responded by finishing fifth amongst rookies in scoring – delivering a team-high 54 points in 65 regular season games. He would add another three points in four playoff games as Quebec was swept in the opening round by Gatineau.

That total also made him the highest scorer amongst 2018 draft eligible players.

What’s more than the points and accolades is what Kurashev proved to himself and the hockey world throughout this past season

“What I learned this year is that I can play at a very high level and I can help my team win,” said Kurashev.

Next season is primed to be huge for Kurashev on many levels. First of all, he’s already established that he’ll return for second year with the Remparts – a move that will hopefully bolster his already high draft stock.

"I have learned a lot – it was difficult to play that many games but I got used to it,” says Kurashev who admitted to fatigue late in the season.

“Next season will be even better."

The 2017/18 campaign will also give Kurashev a chance to make the World Junior Championship team for Switzerland next winter. Last season he was the last one cut prior to the tournament, something that has motivated Kurashev.

“I want to prove that I’m one of the best in my age group in the whole world,” says Kurashev.

No matter what next year brings, Boucher knows that Kurashev is primed for greatness.

“All the scouts came to watch the 17 and 18-year-olds, but they all make comments about Philipp, they all ask about him,” Boucher bragged.

“They say he's going to be a franchise player - they say you got a good one.”


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