The 2009-10 season saw the launch of the KHL's Youth Hockey League, an important step towards developing the future stars of the game. For too long youngsters found themselves struggling for competitive game time in the lower levels of the adult leagues, slowing their development and prompting many to look abroad to further their hockey training.
Now they have their own 22-club league - mostly comprised of youth squads from the KHL's adult league - modelled on the Canadian system established three decades ago. And that's great news for rising stars like Alexander Avtsin, of Dynamo Moscow, regarded as perhaps the most talented player in his age group. Were it not for the YHL he would almost certainly be playing in North America this winter, having been the 109th pick in the draft and called up for a training camp with Montreal Canadiens.
The member clubs have their own names, logos and schedules, forging a separate identity from the adult teams. For example, CSKA Moscow's juniors are known as CSKA-Red Army while police force team MVD have called their youngsters Sherif. At present the KHL's three non-Russian teams have not entered the YHL. However, second-tier sides Krylya Sovietov Moscow and Khimik Voskresensk have got involved despite not featuring in the men's top flight.