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Amateur Scout Eronko Fired, Grier Shares How Sharks Have Russian Draft Prospects Covered



Credit: SKA-1946

NASHVILLE – The San Jose Sharks have fired Russian scout Igor Eronko.

Eronko was just hired as a Russian-area amateur scout by the Sharks this past summer. From 2020 to 2023, Eronko was an Avangard Omsk assistant GM, and before that, a prominent NHL/KHL reporter.

GM Mike Grier pulled no punches about Eronko’s dismissal, telling San Jose Hockey Now on Saturday, “We let him go, basically, because he wasn’t fulfilling his duties.”

The San Jose Sharks are in the midst of a long rebuild, kickstarted by Grier in the summer of 2022.

“Where we are, scouting is obviously going to be a huge part of this thing as we go forward,” Grier said. “Everyone’s got to do their work and be responsible for seeing games and our staff has been excellent at it.”

But not Eronko: “Igor didn’t meet the standard. For whatever reason, he wasn’t seeing games and wasn’t doing what we were asking of them. So we felt it was best to part ways with him.”

Grier elaborated: “We gave him several warnings about getting his reports in. Cleaning up his lists. And seeing games. You can’t scout or get a good feel of the players if you’re not at the rinks. For whatever reason, he was given plenty of notice that he needed to improve in this area, and he didn’t.”

It’s obviously unusual to fire a scout not even a full year into his or her employment.

“It’s disappointing. He was an assistant GM with Omsk there. We felt like he had a pretty good in with the league and knew some of the players and young players and had scouted some of them. So, we thought it was a good fit,” Grier said about the initial hire, announced last August. “But ultimately, the situation that Russia is in, when you can’t really be over there and be hands-on and kind of follow people, they can kind of do what they want. He chose to do it half-heartedly. That’s not what we’re looking for.”

SJHN had also heard positive praise for Eronko last summer.

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Russia is currently at war with Ukraine, making it a challenge for the San Jose Sharks’ other Russia-area scout, Nikolai Ladygin, who’s based in the Ukraine, to have live Russian league viewings.

So where does firing Eronko leave the Sharks’ coverage of Russian prospects for the upcoming 2024 Draft?

“This year, we had Martin Uhnak, who’s been covering the Slovak leagues and the Czech leagues, he’s been able to go over there in person, which we’re giving him a ton of credit for, he’s doing more than was asked of him,” Grier shared. “He was willing to get his visa and go over there and travel. So he’s spent a couple of weeks, following those top guys around and watching them, so we feel like we got a pretty, pretty good handle of the players.”

Uhnak, however, doesn’t speak Russian. This is where the well-regarded and connected Ladygin helps out.

“Whenever we have interviews, Nikolai does all the interviews with the guys over Zoom, talks with the coaches too,” Grier said. “Some of the Russian goalies, [Evgeni Nabokov] will get involved.”

Grier also added that the Sharks are getting plenty of video viewings of the Russian leagues: “Chris [Morehouse] and [Scott Fitzgerald] and Shin Larsson did a really good job on getting video viewings. Nikolai Ladygin is in Ukraine, and he’s doing a ton of video viewings, seeing almost every game of the top prospects.”

Fitzgerald is Sharks’ director of player personnel, Morehouse is director of amateur scouting, and Larsson is supervisor of European scouting.

“We still feel good about the coverage,” Grier said.

He also added that he hopes to have another Russia-based scout in time for the next KHL season. The KHL is currently in the midst of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

“We hope to have someone in place for next season but have to find the right person. Not just someone who wants to say they work for an NHL team and not do the work.”

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