Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell needs two shot blocks to become the NHL’s all-time leader in shot blocks. Heading into Saturday’s game versus the Vegas Golden Knights, Russell is currently at 1997 blocks in 889 games. Brent Seabrook currently holds the record at 1998 blocks in 1134 games.
It’s an incredible record and if it tells you how important it is to his teammates and the NHL as a whole, Zack Kassian once said that he’d rather be punched in the face than block a shot. That Russell has freely given his body to block nearly 2000 of them is a feat rarely seen in the game.
What’s really amazing about Russell’s journey is that he wasn’t considered a defensive shot-blocker when he was drafted and entered the NHL. This is a skill he decided to learn when it was clear his point-per-game pace as a defenceman for the junior Medicine Hat Tigers, wasn’t going to carry over to the pros. He was twice named the WHL’s Defenceman of the Year and winner of the league MVP in 2006-07 and the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted him with hopes he might be an offensive defenseman and quarterback a power play.
Saying he tried working his way in the NHL as the same style of player, it didn’t work and he was traded to the St. Louis Blues where he was slotted in a more defensive role. “I just grabbed it, trying to do anything I could to play Top 4,” he said. It didn’t take long — he saw an opportunity as part of the Calgary Flames — to carve out a niche as a reliable shot blocker and he easily bought himself a few extra seasons in the NHL because of it.
He’s no longer an NHL regular, but he’s played 17 seasons in the NHL and is currently logging regular minutes for the Oilers with Duncan Keith and Darnell Nurse injured and out of the lineup.
There’s a good chance Russell hits that mark Saturday night versus Vegas and he notes his teammates have really been hyping it up.
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