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Leafs flesh out the scouting ranks with three new hires

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All the Leafs do these days is hire new people. It’s like the reverse of the 2015 purge, only in slow motion.

World Jr. Hockey: Russia v Canada
Grigori Shafigulin at the WJC in 2005.
Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images

We mentioned yesterday that Jim Paliafito had Senior added to the brass letters on his door, but the hiring of three new scouts is very welcome news.

Grigori Shafigulin

Shafigulin seems to be totally new to the scouting game, since Elite Prospects doesn’t have a staff page for him yet. Generally, the scouts get named as amateur scouts by NHL teams even if they’re in Europe scouting both the junior and professional leagues. I think we can assume Shafigulin will be working the KHL and related leagues.

He’s barely hung up the skates after a career as a centre in the KHL that stretches back to the older Russian leagues that predate the KHL. He is 33 and is from Chelyabinsk, Russia, and he began his career on the local club, Traktor. Chelyabinsk is an industrial city in the east, and it’s nothing like the bright lights and big city of Moscow.

Whether through accident or design, the Russian players the Leafs have signed or drafted have tended to come from similar places and have sometimes gone unnoticed because of that.

Shafigulin moved to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Yegor Korshkov’s club) in the west of Russia at age 16 and stayed with that club through 2007. He played for Ak Bars Kazan (Vladislav Kara’s club) for a few years and then moved around a bit, but spent most of his time on Moscow teams, primarily Dynamo. His last season was 2015-2016 with Spartak.

He’s seen the fall of the Soviet Union, the transformation of the Soviet-era league into the KHL, and he’s won the Cup twice. The Gagarin Cup, that is. He also must have a fascinating set of connections to teams all over the country just from his playing days. He was drafted by Nashville in 2003, but I don’t see any sign that he ever came over and joined the team even in a training camp.

Chris Roque

Roque has had a long career as a scout, working for OHL teams since 2005. His most recent team was — are you sitting down? — The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

He was with the Kingston Frontenacs for many years as well.

He doesn’t seem to have ever had a playing career, so information on him is slight, but the record of player acquisitions in the Soo has been pretty good.

Olegs Koreskovs

Koreskovs, also 33, is from Riga, Latvia. Built like Shafigulin (tall, but not particularly big-bodied) he had a varied career that started in the Latvian league and included two seasons in America in various junior teams when he was 19 and 20. He did fairly well, but returned to Latvia after.

It’s his later career that’s fascinating. He played two years in France, one in Turkey and one in Spain. I bet you didn’t know Turkey even had a hockey league. I didn’t know Spain did, to be honest. That’s quite the adventure to finish his career with.

He retired after his attempt to keep it going in Spain in 2014.

His post-playing career began before he stopped playing. He coached his team in Turkey. After Spain, he moved to America where he was a head coach for some junior teams not that different from some of the ones he’d played on when young himself.

He’s been a scout for the Chicago Steel in the USHL for the last few years.

We should likely imagine that Koreskovs will pick up the slack on the US scouting end left when John Lilley was promoted. But I bet he has some connections in Latvia. And Turkey, of course.


In other news today, the New York Islanders have announced they’ve hired Piero Greco, the Marlies goaltending coach since 2014, to be their NHL goaltending coach.

The Marlies have released no information on this change. Greco has been closely associated with Garret Sparks for some time. Meanwhile the Leafs seem to be committed to Steve Briere as the architect of their goaltending future, so there was no room for Greco to move up in the Leafs organization.