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Club-by-club preview – Chernyshev Division

3 September 2014, 21:02

Admiral.jpgAdmiral
Head coach: Dusan Gregor (replaces Sergei Svetlov)
Last season: lost in first round of the play-offs
One to watch: Enver Lisin’s early season form for Admiral earned him a call-up to the Russian national squad and a move to CSKA as the forward began to fulfill some of the potential he showed in Magnitogorsk early in his career. Things at CSKA didn’t quite click for him, but another bright show in the Far East could see him back on the radar of bigger clubs.
Point to prove: Andrei Sigaryov has found game time hard to come by at SKA, where he’s a long way down an impressive roster of forwards. But spending time in such elevated company suggests that the 21-year-old could have something to offer if he can get on to the ice and show what he can do. That’s the task facing him this season.
Prospects: Admiral’s maiden voyage last season was a success, but after failing to keep hold of experienced head coach Sergei Svetlov it’s a step up for Dusan Gregor at the helm. He moves from VHL hockey with Saryarka to try to bring play-off hockey back to Vladivostok. The return of Niclas Bergfors and Enver Lisin offers hope, the departure of Felix Schutz is a cause for concern.

Amur.jpgAmur
Head coach: Yury Leonov (replaces Evgeny Popikhin)
Last season: failed to make the play-offs
One to watch: Slovak forward Rastislav Spirko has a knack of picking up useful points in struggling teams, as he’s shown in Poprad, Yekaterinburg and at Spartak. He’ll likely need to practice that trick again this season in Khabarovsk.
Point to prove: Young Finnish D-man Tommi Taimi has a good reputation from his time at Assat, but now the 23-year-old is looking to step up and face some new challenges. Relocating to the Russian Far East is certainly likely to provide valuable new tests for the youngster.
Prospects: Amur finished rock bottom in the East last year and have since recruited former Vityaz coach Leonov to try to make the team harder to beat. The fans in Khabarovsk deserve a better reward for their support, but it’s hard to see this team emulating Hannu Jortikka’s class of 2011-12 and forcing its way into the play-offs.

Avangard.jpgAvangard
Head coach: Raimo Summanen (replaces Milos Riha)
Last season: failed to make the play-offs
One to watch: Vladimir Sobotka turned down a new deal in the NHL to come to Avangard, and the Czech international offers a wealth of experience after making more than 400 appearances for Boston and St Louis. He would have been part of the Czech Olympic roster were it not for injury, and helped his country to the World Championship semis in Minsk. With the Czechs coming to the end of the Jagr era, this season could be the one where Sobotka steps up to play a dominant role in international and club hockey.
Point to prove: Denis Parshin looked to have a great career ahead of him when he broke into the CSKA team alongside Sergei Shirokov a few seasons ago. But while Shirokov has become a regular contender for international recognition, Parshin’s career leveled out after spells at Salavat Yulaev and Torpedo. Now he and Shirokov are back together, can the pair reproduce the scintillating form of their early days?
Prospects: Things can’t get much worse for Avangard than last season’s flop; Summanen will insist on doing things his way and it’s fair to expect improved results. Whether the locker room can stay united enough to get deep into the play-offs remains to be seen, but there should be no repeat of the failure of 2013-14.

Barys.jpgBarys
Head coach: Andrei Nazarov (replaces Ari-Pekka Selin)
Last season: lost in second round of the play-offs
One to watch: Brandon Bochenski has been the big scorer for Barys in recent seasons, claiming a 58-point haul in regulation play last season. That’s made him a star in Astana, and his line will be carrying the team’s scoring hopes in the coming campaign.
Point to prove: They often say that players should never return to a club where they were successful before, but defenseman Kevin Dallman is out to blow that theory out of the water. The Canadian-born blue-liner enjoyed his time in Barys so much he took Kazakh citizenship and has represented his adopted country at the World Championship. Now back from SKA, he’ll be hoping to repeat the kind of form that made him the KHL’s top scoring D-man in his early days in Astana.
Prospects: Nazarov’s uncompromising coaching style tends to win him the fierce loyalty of his fans, even if it can leave others cold. There’s no arguing with his results either – the clubs he’s led tend to exceed expectations. In Kazakhstan, for the first time, he has a team that has genuine prospects of a good play-off run. Failing to match last season and get through at least one round post-season would be a disappointment.

MNK.jpgMetallurg Novokuznetsk
Head coach: German Titov
Last season: failed to make the play-offs
One to watch: Ilya Sorokin emerged last season as a talented 18-year-old, and made the #1 jersey his own in Kuznya. Given his team’s on-going struggles, he’ll see plenty of action again this time around and his form could be the difference between difficulty and disaster for the Eastern Conference outsider.
Point to prove: Alexander Komaristy looked like a promising young forward at Vityaz and Spartak, but two seasons on the fringes at Neftekhimik have slowed his progress. Metallurg promises game time; can he deliver goals?
Prospects: Merely getting a team on the ice each year is something of an achievement for cash-strapped Kuznya, and every season tends to follow a familiar pattern. Talented young prospects produce great one-off games, but struggle to sustain any form and eventually drop out of contention. There is hope that this season might buck the trend, but this team has to be an outside bet to reach the play-offs.

Salavat.jpgSalavat Yulaev
Head coach: Vladimir Yurzinov, Jr.
Last season: lost in Eastern Conference final
One to watch: Vitaly Koval has the unenviable task of replacing popular young goalie Andrei Vasilevsky. But the Belarusian international brings a wealth of experience to the team and has already featured in a Gagarin Cup final – losing to his current employer while playing for Atlant in 2011.
Point to prove: Dmitry Semin suffered along with many of his Avangard team-mates last season. A chance of scenery could help the experienced 31-year-old forward get back to his best in Ufa.
Prospects: Of the traditional big hitters in the East, Salavat Yulaev has had the quietest summer. Last season Yurzinov’s team reached the last four almost by stealth. They could do something similar here, but need to be wary of a revitalized Avangard and Ak Bars this time around.

Sibir.jpgSibir
Head coach: Andrei Skabelka (replaces Dmitry Kvartalnov)
Last season: lost in second round of the play-offs
One to watch: Patrik Hersley arrives from Sweden with a reputation as a goal-grabbing blue liner. He was the most prolific D-man in the Swedish championship last season, and played under Per Morts in a few Euro Tour games. With Kutuzov and Lekomtsev moving on in the summer the defense will have an unfamiliar look to it – increasing the focus on the 27-year-old Hersley.
Point to prove: The defensive rebuilding job also hands a potential opportunity to 22-year-old Artyom Karavayev. Last season the youngster got regular game time for the first time; now he has a new coach to impress if he is to continue his progress.
Prospects: Last season was a big success for Sibir, but since then much has change. Head coach Dmitry Kvartalnov has gone to CSKA, star player Jori Lehtera left for the NHL and Andrei Skabelka is left with a tough task to emulate the achievements of the previous campaign. Making the play-offs would count as a good return this time around.