The Russian MHL (Minor Hockey League) is known primary for its ability to produce future KHL stars. In a sense, it's the AHL equivalent of The Motherland, as players tend to jump straight from the MHL to the highest level of hockey across the pond.
But Alexander Delnov is a rare case. Rather than opt for a comfy, well-paying job as a forward in the Kontinental Hockey League, he traveled to North America and is now playing for the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.
Drafted in the fourth round (114th overall) in 2012 by the Florida Panthers, Delnov had the incentive necessary to leave his home country. His goal now is to make it to the NHL, which may not be far away.
The 19-year-old from Moskva has posted 10 points (6 G, 4A) in his first eight games of 2013-14, and has been one of the most valuable players to the Thunderbirds in the early going.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is how much he's improved in the offensive aspect of the game. Last year, despite racking up 49 points with Seattle, had a minus-33 rating. This year, however, he's a plus-one heading into weekend action.
While he is still a few years away from joining the Panthers, the organization has a good amount of confidence in Delnov. They gave him six games with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio last spring, though he failed to register a point. But the fact that he was able to make that jump to the pro level and hold his own at such a young age.
If he can continue to produce at more than a point-per-game pace this year with the Thunderbirds, he'll be in a great position heading into Panthers' camp next September.