With their 68th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs have drafted Rinat Valiev of the Kootenay Ice in the Western Hockey League.
Valiev is a 6’1, 190-pound left-shot defenceman who was passed over in last year’s draft. He turned 19 in May. Valiev was ranked as the 141st North American skater by Central Scouting last June but the Russian factor and a knee injury appeared to push him out of the draft picture altogether. He was invited to the Dallas Stars rookie camp last September.
Valiev’s described as a two-way defenceman with good mobility and hockey smarts.
The Maple Leafs hadn’t drafted from this area of the world since Mikhail Stefanovich back in 2008, sticking to North Americans and Scandanavians in the 35 picks since. Stefanovich was Belorussian, however, and to find the last Russian drafted by the Leafs we have to go back to 2006 to Nikolai Kulemin.
We had Rinat Valiev ranked at #118 LAST year (2013) & he went undrafted so he went to Kootenay & had a very good year. Solid 3rd Round pick!
— Mark Seidel (@MarkSeidel) June 28, 2014
Dave Morrison on Rinat Valiev:
“He can be gritty when he has to be. He is a really intelligent defenceman, he skates well, he’s got good size. He’s really grown in the past couple years. I just like the fact that he came over here and really wants to play over here. What he did with Kootenay especially in the playoffs when they upset Calgary in the first round, they were an underdog and they lost a defenceman early to an injury and they ran with 3 or 4 defenceman. He was exceptional. We really liked him all along, all season, anyway, but when we saw that we thought ‘this is another guy with a big heart and all the intangibles we look for in a player.’
“Last year was a funny year for him. He came over late, started in Indiana because he didn’t get drafted in the CHL. He really wanted to play in the CHL and that didn’t happen, so he went and played in Indiana. In February he went to play in the Four Nations tournament and he hurt his knee and he didn’t come back. There was all sorts of rumours and all of these different things about how he didn’t want to play in Indiana. Well, he hurt himself and he couldn’t play so he just stayed at home. What he originally wanted to do was play in the CHL. He did get drafted by Kootenay, and he came over and played on the same day he arrived because he was late getting his VISA. They had a game that night in Red Deer and they said “no, no, you don’t have to play.” He said, ‘no, no, I want to play.’ To me it’s just another thing that tells you about the kid; so eager to get in the lineup.
“Certainly in the last half and the playoffs he took his game to another level. I will say he was on our radar going back to the 2012 Ivan Hnilka. We really liked what we saw at that time. We were actually following him in his original draft year. Things went south and we didn’t have all the information. We weren’t satisfied. We had him on our list last year, but we weren’t satisfied with what was going on, so when this year started and he ended up on Kootenay we got on him pretty quick. Roy Stasiuk, who is our West area scout, was Kootenay’s head scout for a long time and actually even when they won the Mem Cup. Roy has a real strong relationship with them. We were following him pretty closely early on.
“How far away he is depends on his strength. His intelligent enough, he skates well enough, he’s tall enough, but it’s more of the strength thing. How strong is he going to be in a year? We could qualify him after this year and he could go back as an overage. But when you go back as an overage as an import you’ve taken two spots; you’re taking an overage spot and a Euro card spot. A lot of times the junior teams don’t want to do that. In his case, we’d be hopeful he’d be able to play in the AHL at that point.”
Rinat Valiev Scouting Report
A mobile rearguard with the physical tools and offensive instincts to succeed at the next level, he has definitely found his comfort zone, playing with a lot more confidence as the season has progressed.
– Hockey’s Future
Rinat Valiev Statistics
Rinat Valiev Video
Kootenay head coach Ryan McGill on Valiev:
Valiev fights sixth overall pick Jake Virtanen in March: