April 17, 2016

Vitali Prokhorov

When Soviet and other Eastern Bloc players began arriving in the National Hockey League in the early 1990s, most teams began stockpiling their systems with the talented and mature talent out of Eastern Europe.

One of the last teams to the party was the St. Louis Blues. The Blues did not tap into Russia until 1992 when they selected Vitali Prokhorov, Vitali Karamnov and Igor Boldin with three of their five draft picks that year.

While Boldin never came to North American, Prokhorov and Karamnov came to St. Louis right away and were the subject of intense curiosity.

Neither of the Russians were very well known in North America at all, unlike Igor Larionov or Viacheslav Fetisov. So perhaps expectations were unrealistic for the men dubbed "Little V" (Prokhorov) and "Big V" (Karamnov). Both had their troubles adjusting to life in the West and both returned to Russia with less than 100 career games in the NHL.

Prokhorov was a tiny but speedy winger who spent nine seasons with Moscow Spartak before joining the Blues. He was not a regular on the Russian national team until his final season. He played at both the Olympics and the Canada Cup in the 1991-92 season.

Prokhorov's rookie season in St. Louis was derailed by a bad shoulder injury that needed surgery and ended his season after just 26 games.

He returned in 1993-94 and showed glimpses of what he could do, scoring 15 times in just 55 games. He was a darting winger with a great release and was a conscientious defensive player, but he had trouble staying healthy. The heavy hitting in the NHL neutralized his talents.

Prokhorov left North America at the conclusion of his contract. He spent the 1995-96 season in Sweden before returning to Russia where he played several more seasons.

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