By Joshua Boyd
From Russia with love – and lots and lots of goals. That’s Nikita Lopatin’s story.
The ’99 forward has a knack for matching his goals and assists thus far.
Last year, for the Eels, he posted 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points. Prior to that, he posted 42 goals and 42 assists with the Ontario Hockey Academy.
“Nikita made the adjustment to juniors probably easier than any player I have ever had in my program,” said Eels general manager Frank Scarpaci. “As a ’99, he played with tremendous maturity and poise.
“He stands far above any [other ’99]. He has an extremely high hockey IQ and his skill set is that of a 1996 player,” added Eels USPHL Premier head coach Frankie Scarpaci. “His slapshot is not only cannon-like, but it also reaches the net! He’ll score, create a scoring opportunity with a rebound or garner us a face-off.”
At 6-feet-inches, 190 pounds, Lopatin remains in excellent shape and demands the same commitment from his teammates. Along with 90 minutes each on and off the ice, he also takes 150-200 shots a day.
“He is thousands of miles away from home but he is committed to his Eels team,” added GM Frank Scarpaci. “No question, he is a top NCAA player.”
Additionally, the Eels signed Alexei Sukhomlin and Nikita Pinimyasov (’00) from Russia.
Sukhomlin comes in with junior experience in the Rocky Mountain Junior League, and also time in the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League. He clicked at better than a point-per game (1.06) in the RMJHL.
“I’m very impressed with this young man’s skills, character and level of development,” said Scarpaci. “He came to the U.S. three years ago to advance his abilities to one day play NCAA hockey.”
Speed, transition play and playmaking are hallmarks of his game, while Pinimyasov brings speed, strong stickhandling, and a hard and accurate shot.
“Nikita is very coachable,” said Coach Frankie Scarpaci. “He is anxious to learn the North American style, and his goal is to play NCAA Division 1 hockey. He is looking forward to playing in the three USPHL college showcases this season. He has never experienced this type of exposure and visibility.”
Czech defenseman Petr Staif is a ’99 who brings mobility and an unceasing work ethic to the blue line.
“He has already has bought into our program and he has only been here a few days,” said GM Frank Scarpaci. “This young man shows great poise and vision on the ice. When you combine this with his untiring efforts, we can say he is ‘legit’ in the hockey sense.”