Nikolai Borschevsky

Ten years after Russian players were allowed to leave their homeland to pursue National Hockey League careers, there was much debate as to who was the best Russian in the NHL. Pavel Bure, Sergei Federov, Alexei Yashin, Alexander Mogilny....there is no shortage of candidates.

But who does the most famous Russian hockey player feel was the best?

Vladislav Tretiak, the great Soviet goalkeeper and first Russian in the Hockey Hall of Fame, had great admiration for diminutive forward Nikolai Borschevsky. His NHL career was brief due to injuries and lack of size, but had the heart and courage that many of the more talented Russian players lacked.

"If the others had Borschevsky's passion, then they would be very, very good." said Tretiak. "The best in the world no doubt."

Borshevsky was an outstanding skater - lightning quick and slippery in crowds. Most defensemen had problems keeping him in check. Add to that his sniper's wrist shot, which was doubly scary because of his quick release, and Nikolai caught many goalies unprepared for his shot.

The spunky Borschevsky was not a stereotypical Russian in that he was quite chippy. Not a disturber in the classic sense, Nik nonetheless could get under his opponents skin.

Nikolai spent six seasons with Moscow Dynamo, the perennial second banana to the Central Red Army in the Soviet Elite League. In 1989-90 he moved to Spartak and in 1991-92 he led the CIS National and Olympic teams in scoring.

In 1992-93, at age 27, Nikolai made his North American debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had drafted him 77th overall in the 1992 Entry Draft. He stepped right in to the Leafs lineup, and contributed 34 goals and 74 points! It looked like the Leafs found a gem, especially after scoring the over time series winning goal in game 7 of the playoffs series vs Detroit.

However Borschevsky's career took a sharp downturn in his sophomore season. Early in the season he ruptured his spleen. The spleen had to be removed in emergency surgery. Nik lost a lot of time in recovery and was never quite the same again.

Nik returned to Russia during the 1994-95 lockout. When the labour dispute was finally resolved Nik returned to Toronto but really struggled. He scored 0 goals and 5 assists in 19 games before ending his season in Calgary. Nik doubled his assist total with 5 more assists in 8 games with the Flames, but no goals.

Borschevsky signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars, but appeared in just 12 games, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists. However by the end of the season Borschevsky was out of the NHL. He finished the year in Germany.

In 1996-97 Borschevsky returned to Spartak to continue his career for two seasons.

In retirement Borschevsky returned to Southern Ontario coach youth hockey and run his own hockey school. He later returned to Russia to coach in the pro leagues back home.


Ash 8:45 AM  


Anonymous,  11:00 AM  

I probably watched all of Borschevsky's games as a Leaf, and a few in person. He was great to watch. When he was on the ice, just like with Gretzky, I ignored everything else and watched him. He was either going to make something happen, or get killed trying. Great skills. Great hustle. At a time when players started caring more about negotiating their salaries than trying to earn their millions, Nikolai played like a guy determined to EARN his salary.

Arguably, Nikolai might have been the most talented offensive player the Leafs had in the 80-90's. Sadly, because of the injuries, that damn labour dispute...and just playing for the Leafs...he never got to shine. He took a POUNDING every game and kept coming back for more. But because he was on the Leafs, they didn't appreciate, or protect, him the way they should have. No big surprise there.

If he was 15 years older, the "too small for the NHL" forward would've found himself in the WHA. He'd probably be playing on a line with a Dave Semenko to protect him and he'd be a Top 5 point scorer every season. He might even be called "The Russian Gretzky" (he-he).

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