OAKVILLE, ON — I was strolling through the KHL transactions on Elite Prospects a couple weeks ago when I came across a name that was quite familiar to me. When I first started to follow the Montreal Canadiens back in 2002, there were a few players that I really liked to watch in particular: Saku Koivu, Yanic Perreault, Doug Gilmour, Patrice Brisebois, Jose Theodore and of course, you can’t forget Oleg Petrov.
Yes, Petrov never was a top goal scorer for the Canadiens, but it was hard to not like him. The first Russian trained player to suit up for the Montreal Canadiens, Petrov is one of only two (the other being Paul Dipietro) former Montreal Canadiens still playing professional hockey to have won the Stanley Cup in 1993. Despite not playing enough games to actually get his name on the cup, Petrov’s 55 points in as many games was good enough to garner him a long stint in the NHL the following season.
Few people thought that Oleg Petrov would ever play in the NHL. Being a Russian during a time where the European footprint in the NHL was still rather small, some wondered whether his small five-foot-nine-inch frame would be able to handle the hard-hitting game North American hockey fans are accustomed too each night. It all started when the Canadiens scouting staff decided to give Petrov a chance by drafting him 127th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to getting to drafted, Petrov was playing with the famous Soviet team CSKA Moscow, but very few North American fans had knowledge of what the small forward brought to the table. A member of the Russian team at the 1991 World Junior Hockey Championship, Petrov recorded eight points in only seven games to help lead the Soviet Union to a silver medal loss to the Canadian squad that featured Brisebois, Felix Potvin and Eric Lindros.
After three seasons overseas, the Canadiens brought Petrov over to Montreal, where he would crack the Canadiens lineup in 1992-93. The undersized winger did not stick with the Canadiens that year despite recording three points in nine games on the bottom line, but he did garner a point per game average with the Fredericton Canadiens. Despite his 1.09 PPG average over four seasons, Petrov was never able to stick up with the Canadiens for an entire season, with his highest game total being 55 in 1993-1994, when he recorded 12 goals and 27 points. After posting 46 points during his short tenure with the Canadiens and unable to establish a regular spot with the club, he headed back overseas, to play in Switzerland with Ambrì-Piotta (he had a short 14 game stint in Italy) where he would rack up two league scoring totals during his three seasons in the mountain country.
After competing at the 1998 World Championships, Petrov re-joined the Canadiens in what would be his second chance at proving himself as an NHL regular. An up-and-down 1999-2000 season saw him once again move between Montreal and the farm team, which had become the Quebec Citadelles. During his first full year with the Habs in 2000-2001, Petrov posted a career high 30 assists and 47 points while getting some time on the second line, tying Saku Koivu as the team’s leading scorer. Known for his superb agility and quickness, Petrov quickly became a fan favorite in Montreal, but unfortunately, only for a short time. The following season, he scored a career-high 24 goals and recorded 41 points, but after a tough start to the 02-03 campaign, Petrov was traded to the Nashville Predators for the final 17 games of his NHL career in return for only a fourth round draft pick that was later traded to the Capitals for their 2003 4th round pick (123rd overall, Dany Stewart) and 2003 7th round pick (217th overall, Oskari Korpikari). Neither player would actually play for the Canadiens, as Stewart retired to become a fisherman, while Korpikari has spent his entire professional career in the SM-liiga over in Finland.
He left the NHL to continue his career in Switzerland and signed with Genève-Servette in the NLA in 2003-2004. The following year, he inked a deal with EV Zug, where he was the team’s leading scorer in 2004–05 with 30 goals and 23 assists. After three more seasons with the club, Petrov returned to Russia, signing with Ak Bars Kazan in 2007-2008. Over two years with team, Petrov had 44 points (22 points per), a much lower total than in previous years over in Switzerland. He signed a two year deal in what he said would be his final professional hockey contract with Atlant Moscow Oblast in the KHL, and thanks to improved numbers (including 29 points in 2010-2011), decided to give it another go in 2011-2012 with Kazan.
Petrov only managed to pot four goals and five assists in 31 games with the Russian squad, which didn’t result in a contract renewal for the 2012-2013 season. In August 2012 Petrov signed a one-year contract with Spartak Moscow, also announcing, at the grand age of 41, that 2012-2013 would be the last season in his career…for real. After 40 games and 15 points, Spartak traded the Russian forward to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, however has yet to actually play a game for the rebuilt club as of mid February. Petrov totalled 72 goals and 115 assists for 187 points in 382 career NHL games, but just like former teammate Dipietro (as well as Glen Metropolit), his real success came in Switzerland, where he had 171 goals and 438 points in 314 career games.
In an interview with the Montreal Canadiens official website, Petrov stated that “The whole experience in playing in Montreal, the most exciting hockey town in the world, was really special. There’s not just one game in particular that stands out, but I’m proud that I’ve played the majority of my NHL career in Montreal.”
It may have only been for a short time, but we are glad too, Oleg.
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