Nikita Korostelev of the Minor Midget Toronto Jr. Canadiens could be a high pick in this year’s OHL Priority Selection. (John Sokolowski photo)
By Adam Dunfee
The skill set Toronto Jr. Canadiens forward Nikita Korostelev possesses makes him a very unique player.
The fact he was born in Russia, well, that’s not all that unique on his team.
Korostelev is one of three Russian-born players on the Minor Midget Canadiens this season and their contributions helped the team to a third place finish in the GTHL regular season.
Canadiens coach Dave D’Ammizio came across Korostelev during the 2011/12 season while looking for a player to round-out his Vaughan Kings Minor Midget team. Despite being a year younger than most of his teammates and the players he was going up against, Korostelev held his own on the ice while learning a new culture and language off of it.
“Nikita is a special player, there’s no question about it. Last year, as an under-ager, he quickly learned the language, learned the style of play, learned to communicate, and then flourished by the end of the season,” says D’Ammizio.
When D’Ammizio took the head-coaching job with the Jr. Canadiens for the 2012/13 season, Korostelev followed him and helped the team to a 19-7-7 regular season record.
Korostelev made the move to Canada from Moscow two years ago to better his odds of making the NHL.
But the transition wasn’t easy at times he says, especially early on.
“Last year it was hard, I’m not going to lie, especially the first couple months when my family was in Russia still.”
But his teammates helped him to adapt.
“Last year, he was probably one of the most liked kids on the team,” said D’Ammizio. “He’s a very loveable kid.”
Korostelev has good hands and a very dangerous shot but also likes to hit.
“He’s an exceptionally talented and skilled player and like (Alexander) Ovechkin in his early days, he’s a physical player—he plays the game very hard. He does a lot of things we say we don’t normally see in Russian players. He goes to the net hard, he goes in the corners and is physical,” says D’Ammizio.
Because of that, he’s projected to be an early pick in this year’s OHL Priority Selection.
“He just practices with passion, plays with passion and he’s transitioned great and he’s very, very excited about playing in the OHL.”