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While the Penguins have been fortunate enough to draft some of the most highly touted prospects in NHL history such as Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, one of the most acclaimed prospects in franchise history is one that few fans remember.
Nicknamed the "Russian Rocket II" because of his great speed and stick-handling and for his playing style that was reminiscent of Russian great Pavel Bure, Konstantin Koltsov was too good to pass up.
For a team looking to rebuild like the Pens, Koltsov's upside outweighed his limited production with the Severstal Cherepovets of the Russian Super League, and they selected him with the 20th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
As a team stocked with Russian-trained talent in players such as Alexei Kovalev, Alexei Morozov, German Titov and Darius Kasparaitis, the Pens seemed like a good fit for a developing talent such as Koltsov, and the early returns on their investment were promising.
In his first full season of North American hockey, Koltsov was nearly a point-per-game player with the Pens' minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The following season, Koltsov became a regular with the Pens, but while he showed flashes of skill, he struggled to adapt to the North American style of play and the smaller ice surface.
During the NHL's 2004 work stoppage, Koltsov returned to Russia and seemed to find a level of comfort that he never had in the NHL. After once again struggling to find his game in 2005, Koltsov was released by the Pens, having recorded just 12 goals and 26 assists in 144 games.
Koltsov returned to Russia to join the newly formed KHL and has never returned to NHL.