The Montreal Canadiens selected Andrei Kastsitsyn tenth overall in the 2003 NHL entry draft, after the impressive showing he had at the U-18 tournament, where he had 15 points in only six games. After Redline proclaimed Kastsitsyn to be one of the top talents in the draft, Hab fans were jumping for joy when they found out the young Belarusian scoring star was now apart of the storied organization. But with all the international tournaments Kastsitsyn takes part in, it makes it difficult to track the progression of his play, as he suited up for six different teams this year. One things for sure, each team was happy to get such a gifted offensive forward, and proof of that can be found in five of the six different teams Andrei played for won it all.
In case you don’t know much about Kastsitsyn’s past, up in till he was 17 years old, he played in the Polimir Novopolotsk hockey program in Belarus. At the age of 17 and half, he was signed by CSKA and brought over to Russia where he got to dress in 6 games for CSKA and their famed coach Victor Tikonhov. While not having much success in the RSL, he did find success internationally with some impressive play for the U-20 team and the U-18 team.
After being drafted by the Canadiens this year, fans expectations were high, but information would be hard to come by. Here’s a breakdown of his time this season.
Kastsitsyn struggled to earn much ice time with CSKA as an 18 year old. He did get in 11 games out of around 40, but was used mostly if not entirely on the fourth line. While playing on a line with Nik Zherdev, he was able to get an assist on the game winning goal for his only point in the RSL. Lack of experience playing against top notched players and a poor defensive game could be the main reasons as to why he saw such little ice time.
After being sent down by CSKA to quote “work on his consistency”, he did just that, scoring close to a goal a game. In 27 games he scored 25 goals, 38 points and 28 pims. Then he left the team on loan to the Belarus men’s league, but he did return to play in 2 games during the regular season, was held pointless in those games though. He also dressed in the final three playoff games, recording one goal, two points and 6 pims, to help CSKA-2 win the 1st league Championship. His loan goal in the playoffs was scored 30 seconds after seeing his team go down 3-0, Kastsitsyn broke the shutout bid with the only goal late in the 3rd period. His assist in the final game put his team ahead 2-1, they went on to win it all 3-2.
WJ- At the U-20 World Juniors Division I Group B, Kastsitsyn was 3rd in the tournament and team scoring with 10 points in five games, with five goals and 12 pims. He helped his team go on to win the Division I Group B, meaning they will be back in the WJC’s next year, and he along with his linemates and younger brother combined for 45 points in the tournament.
WC- At the World Championships he was one of only two junior aged players on the team, yet put up an impressive three goals and six points in five games and was also a +4 without any pims and two of his three goals were game winners. He also helped his team to win their division, thus going back to face the top hockey nations in the world.
Euro Ice Hockey Challenge
Kastsitsyn joined Team Belarus for the Euro IHC, where he played against Ukraine, Poland and Hungary. He picked up two goals and six points in three games, as Belarus won the Euro IHC, although the competition was not strong.
Kastsitsyn was loaned back to his homeland to prepare for the WC’s, and in getting ready he was loaned to the EEHL, where the Belarus men’s league plays. He helped his team, Yunost Minsk, win the EEHL championship. In six games he recorded four goals and four assists with 18 pims as well.
In looking back at this year, one can see Kastsitsyn and his offensive abilities helped him and his teammates secure many victories, and championships. It has to have been one heck of a season for the 19 year old, as he was a part of winning two Championships with CSKA-2 and Yunost Misk, winning two divisions at the U-20’s and WC’s helping his country move back into the top level once again, which has to bring great pride in the hockey player one would think, and finally to help win the Euro IHC as another feather in his cap. What a season for Kastsitsyn, who although couldn’t find success in the Super league, found it everywhere else he played.
What lies ahead for him next season is anyone’s guess, as the upcoming potential lockout could force him to reconsider coming over this summer. The lack of a contract between the IIHF/Russian Federation and the NHL may not be a problem, as NHL teams should be able to sign a player out of Russia if the money is right, at anytime in the season, according to some experts of Russian hockey, although nothing seems set in stone for what will happen in the near future.
If not signed by Bob Gainey, Kastsitsyn hopefully will have better success in the RSL with a new coach to oversee things, who was once a scoring star himself for the Red Army team.