The list of the 18 greatest ColoradoAvalanche of all-time has been defensively dominated so far: Ray Bourque, John-Michael Liles, Uwe Krupp. But today, we get a little infusion of offense.
Alright, maybe more than a little. Valeri Kamensky never did score “just a little”.
Long before he arrived on the scene in the NHL, Kamensky was as accomplished a player internationally as one could possibly be. Playing forRussia’s famed CSKA Moscow teams, as well as the Soviet national team, he accrued an impressive list of accomplishments.
He got his start with the top team in his region, Khimik Voskresensk, at just 16 years old. After spending three years with them, he moved up to CSKA Moscow and that’s when his successes started to take off.
Between 1986 and 1988, he captured a World Junior Championship gold medal, a World Championship, a silver in the World Championships as well as the Canada Cup, and an Olympic gold medal at the 1988 games.
Recognizing his talents, the Quebec Nordiques took him with the 129th overall pick in the 1988 draft. However, this was still during the Cold War days when players didn’t just leaveRussia for the NHL, so Kamensky remained in his homeland.
And he kept racking up the championships: two World Championships and a paltry bronze in the 1991 championships, his last forRussiabefore making the jump across the pond.
Kamensky was just beginning to establish himself as a very good scorer when the Nordiques moved to theMileHighCityand in the team’s first year in town, Kamensky had his breakout performance.
In 81 games during the 1995-96 season, the 29-year-old Russian would rack up career-highs in goals (38), assists (47), and points (85). He was just as good in the playoffs that year, with 22 points in 22 games en route to helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in their first year.
Injuries would have their affect on the 30-year-old winger the following year, limiting him to just 68 games. Still, he managed a pretty torrid pace en route to 28 goals and 66 points. Even more impressive, he matched his 22 playoff points from the year before, managing to do it in just 17 games as the Avalanche were ousted by arch-rival Detroit.
It took him seven more games the following season, but he matched his point total of 66; a slight decline as he continued down the wrong side of 30. He also played for teamRussiaduring the 1998 Nagano Olympics, collecting a silver medal after his team was bested by theDominikHasek-ledCzechRepublic.
Injuries and decline would continue to follow Kamensky during the 1998-99 season – his last inColorado. He would muster just 14 goals in 65 games, his lowest since the team relocated and his 44 points were the lowest since his second season with the Nordiques in 1992-93. He would sign with the New York Rangers as a free agent, spending just three more years in the league before returning home toRussia.
Kamensky made a name for himself both internationally and in the NHL with his skating ability, vision, and tremendous hands. Had injuries not limited him during his career, he may have been an even better scorer which is a little scary considering how good he was during his time in Quebec/Colorado.
He also had a penchant for crazy goals, like this one:
Valeri Kamensky’s time inDenvermay have been relatively short but his impact was huge. An impressive scorer, he helped power the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup championship and was an integral part of making the team the dominating presence it was in the Western Conference during the late ‘90s.
And that is why he is one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time.
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