The 2021 NHL draft is going to be a major challenge for scouts and GMs, but as always, there are hidden gems and sleepers to get excited about in the class. One such player is BCHL Chilliwack right winger Sasha Teleguine, a former prep schooler from Massachusetts with devastating skills and very intriguing upside. The story gets even more interesting when you find out that his father is a Russian skills coach.
"To be honest, I wouldn't be the player I am today without him," Teleguine said. "My dad has been the backbone for me my whole life. The amount of times he purchased ice for skill sessions, just me and him 1-on-1 and growing up working on skating, edges and simple puckhandling…Even nowadays, before I got out here I'd spend four or five hours a week with him working on small skills that could translate in games. He's been a fundamental piece of the player I am today."
Victor Teleguine grew up playing in the famed Central Red Army program back home and around 1997, he came to New York to teach at a friend's hockey camp. The skaters loved what Teleguine was doing, so he kept extending his stay in America. Then he got a call from Red Army legend Vladimir Lutchenko, who was running his own camp in Boston. Teleguine worked there with the two-time Olympic gold medallist and eventually did skill development with the Boston Bruins. He also laid down roots in the area and in late 2002, Sasha was born.
But the kid didn't take to the game right away. In fact, Sasha didn't start skating until he was seven.
"He really didn't want to play hockey before," Victor said. "Two years in a row I bought him equipment and when I put him on the ice, he started crying. So I put it all away, I didn't want to pressure him."
Eventually, Sasha caught the bug. He started pestering his father at the rink, asking for one more shot.
"He walked around me for two weeks," Victor said. "And I was thinking, does he really want to try or will he give me another headache?"
So Victor bought his son another set of equipment. This time, the skates hurt, so they got him a different pair - and that's when the magic happened.
"All of a sudden, he started skating right away," Victor said. "That was in July and in September, he had already made the AAA team."
Teleguine was off to the races and as a teen, he ended up playing for Thayer Academy, the prep school that boasts alumni such as Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte (who now coaches there), Ryan Whitney and Charlie Coyle. Last year, he led Thayer in scoring with 52 points in 26 games. It was time for the next step and a lot of teams were interested in Teleguine - including the BCHL's Chiefs.
"We were watching him at Thayer and he catches your eye right away," said Chilliwack coach and GM Brian Maloney. "He's a pretty quick and dynamic skater and not only is he fast, but he's a little bulldog out there. He's not afraid to get into the high traffic areas and he's always driving his feet and taking pucks to the net."
Teleguine has three points in his first three games for Chilliwack, who just began their BCHL 'pod' season. He may be far from home geographically, but the fit in British Columbia sounds perfect.
"A lot of it had to do with the development," Teleguine said. "You don't really come across a lot of coaches like Brian Maloney; he was super-invested in my development. He was fully aware of my offensive abilities, but he made it clear that he wanted to take time to work with me on D-zone play and positioning to help me become a complete player. It was an easy decision; I've never had someone so invested in me and that stood out from the other teams that reached out."
In prep school, Teleguine could stand out based on his individual skill set, but he has already seen that in the more competitive and strategic BCHL, it would take more.
"The puck skills are there," Maloney said. "It was just a matter of working on other areas and breaking some bad habits from high school - learning to play away from the puck and stopping on pucks - but he has a lot of great attributes that will help him be a great player.
"He loves the game - you can tell he's constantly thinking about it. He asks a lot of questions and he always wants to run through his shifts on video. Sometimes I have to tell him to take a day off and check out mentally and we'll get back to work on it. He always wants to get better and he's learning a lot here - we're just scratching the surface."
And that's what is so intriguing about the kid. When you watch him play for Chilliwack, you see a player with amazing vision and creativity, with the puck skills to back it up. He also has a number of NHL franchises buzzing for the draft, particularly those with strong Russian scouting ties (funny enough, Lutchenko was a long-time New York Rangers scout who recently retired).
As the son of a skills coach, Teleguine has also been able to skate and train with a number of pros and college players over the years, while also growing up with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman John Marino, whose dad is best friends with Victor. But the older players don't take it easy on Teleguine during those sessions - something else Sasha thanks Victor for.
"He tells them to be hard on me," Sasha said. "It helps me become more competitive and it sets the standard high so when I go out at my level, I'll be ready for whatever hits me."
But once Teleguine becomes a finished product, will his opponents be ready for him?