Kris Russell (born May 2, 1987) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman and an alternate captain for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was a third round selection, 67th overall, of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and played four seasons with the team between his 2007 debut and trade to the St. Louis Blues in 2011. He has also played for TPS in the Finnish Liiga. Russell was a top defenceman in junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was a member of two Western Hockey League (WHL) championship teams, was twice named the WHL's top defenceman and won the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the league's most outstanding player in 2006–07. Internationally, Russell has represented Canada on several occasions: He was a member of two gold medal-winning teams at the World Junior Championship and has played in two World Championships. Kris and his twin brother Ryan briefly played together in Columbus.
Kris Russell was born May 2, 1987, in Red Deer, Alberta. He has an identical twin brother, Ryan, born to mother Terri and father Doug. They grew up in the nearby village of Caroline. Doug was a professional bull fighter on Alberta's rodeo circuit – someone who protects bull riders while they escape the ring following their rides by distracting the bulls – and made four appearances at the Canadian Finals Rodeo, but left the sport when his sons were born. Kris was coached by his father for much of his minor hockey career, and was moved to defence by Doug when he was ten years old.
The Medicine Hat Tigers selected Russell with their eighth round selection, 138th overall at the 2002 Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft. He played four seasons with the Tigers and the first time he played Ryan, who was a member of the Kootenay Ice, in a game, the brothers fought each other. Kris described the event as "fun" while noting that neither was trying to hurt their brother. He was a member of league championship teams in his first season, 2003–04, and his last, 2006–07. Russell was highly decorated in his junior career. He was named to a WHL All-Star Team three times and was twice named recipient of the Brad Hornung Trophy as the league's most sportsmanlike player. He twice led the league in goal scoring and won the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as top defenceman in both 2005–06 and 2006–07. In his final WHL season, Russell was also named the winner of the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the league's most outstanding player and was name the Canadian Hockey League's Defenceman of the Year.
Internationally, Russell twice represented Canada as a member of the national junior team. He first played at the 2006 World Junior Championship where he recorded one goal and three assists for the gold medal-winning Canadians. Returning for the 2007 tournament, Russell tied Jonathan Toews for the team lead with four goals as Canada again won the gold medal.
The Columbus Blue Jackets selected Russell with their third round pick, 67th overall, at the 2005 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft. Shorter and lighter than his peers throughout minor hockey, he was often told he was too small to play in the NHL. Listed at five feet, ten inches tall, Russell defied expectations and earned a spot with the Blue Jackets in his first professional season, 2007–08. He made his NHL debut and scored his first point with an assist in a 4–0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on October 5, 2007. Russell's first two NHL goals came on January 22, 2008, against goaltender Mike Smith, and was named the first star in a 4–2 win over the Dallas Stars. He added eight assists to finish with 10 points in 67 games for Columbus.
Russell spent the majority of the 2008–09 season with the Blue Jackets but also played 14 games with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. He had 21 points in 66 games with Columbus and added a goal and an assist in his first four NHL playoff games. He led Blue Jackets' defencemen with seven goals in 2009–10 and set a career high with 23 points in 73 games in 2010–11. He was briefly a teammate of his brother as the Blue Jackets acquired Ryan prior to the 2011–12 season. Kris played only 12 games for Columbus that season, however, as he was sent to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Nikita Nikitin in a November 11, 2011, trade. The deal reunited Russell with Ken Hitchcock, who had previously coached him in Columbus before becoming the head coach of the Blues.
In 55 games combined between Columbus and St. Louis, Russell scored 12 points and he made his second playoff appearance by playing nine post-season games with St. Louis. When the 2012–13 NHL season was delayed by a labour dispute, he signed with TPS in the Finnish SM-liiga. Russell suffered a slight tear to his Medial collateral ligament early in the season and missed some time before rejoining TPS. He recorded 14 points in 15 games before returning to St. Louis when the NHL season finally began. With the Blues, Russell recorded seven points in 33 games but dropped down the Blues' depth chart and did not appear in any post-season games for the team.
A restricted free agent following the season, Blues management expressed doubt that he would be one of the club's top seven defencemen. He was placed on waivers and went unclaimed. The Calgary Flames acquired Russell on July 5, 2013, in exchange for a fifth round selection at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.