A Look Back At Alexandre Volchkov

 

The summer of 1996 was a memorable one.  Independence Day was due out in theaters on the fourth of July, the Spice Girls were driving parents of teenage girls insane, and the internet explosion was in full swing.

Washington Capitals fans had much more to be excited about than technological marvels and aliens attacking the White House.  Their team had the number four overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, which was to be held June 26, 1996 in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The Caps were coming off a 1995-96 season that saw them exit the playoffs in the first round to their rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Morale wasn’t necessarily low amongst Caps fans, but many were clamoring for a big impact player in that summer’s Entry Draft.

Enter Alexandre Volchkov.

Volchkov was a six foot one inch forward from Moscow, Russia with what was thought to be ultimate goal scoring potential and strength to go along with it.  Caps fans were buzzing with the idea of having a legitimate offensive threat at left wing.

Those hopes ended up being terribly misguided.

As the fourth overall pick, expectations were high.  In his career, Volchkov played a total of three games for the Capitals, totaling zero points and a minus two +/- rating.  Not exactly a great return on investment.

After putting up respectable numbers with the Barrie Colts of the OHL (65 goals and 145 points in two seasons from 95-97), Volchkov totaled just 17 goals over the next three seasons with various minor league teams.  In 2000, the Caps had finally had enough and cut their losses.  Volchkov was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a fourth round pick.  The player taken fourth overall in the 1996 draft had been turned into a mid-fourth round pick.  Gross.

After just 25 games with the Oilers’ minor league team, Volchkov was released and he returned to Russia.

So what exactly went wrong?

For starters, Volchkov had a bad attitude.  He was reportedly unreliable and lazy during games and practice.  In a playoff game with the Capitals' minor league affiliate the Portland Pirates, Volchkov walked out on his team.  Not exactly what the Caps were hoping for out of a fourth overall pick. 

Volchkov was interviewed in 2003 while playing in Belarus, where he provided a litany of excuses as to why his NHL career flamed out.  When asked what caused his disastrous time in the NHL, Volchkov said “Maybe luck.  After all, this is an important factor in the life of any athlete.  I think that sometimes one smile of fortune can help more than years of hard training.” 

Sounds like a copout if I’ve ever heard one. 

What Volchkov didn’t understand is that his being drafted fourth overall in the NHL draft was his “smile of fortune.”  He failed to apply himself after that and his career never got on track. 

Since that fateful summer of 2006, the Caps have had better luck drafting Russian-born players.  Alexander Ovechkin, Semyon Varlamov, and (hopefully) Evgeny Kuznetsov have all been draft day successes.  But to this day it still pains Caps fans to look back and see what could have been with Volchkov, who is yet another example of a pro athlete with top talent and skills, but no heart or dedication. 

 

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