As the transfer market winds down and the serious action is almost upon us, here’s a look at the new arrivals who we expect to have a big impact on the upcoming KHL season. And no, they won’t all be playing for SKA!
Jukka Jalonen (Jokerit)
Jalonen’s previous KHL experience saw him dismissed from SKA, where many coaches have fallen foul of the high expectations at one of the competition’s flagship clubs. But his coaching career in his native Finland has brought success at club and international level and he looks like a good fit for Jokerit. His big task is to bring some steel to the team and get it to deliver on its potential in post-season.
Ben Scrivens (Dinamo Minsk)
Scrivens, 29, faced something of a crossroads in his career after struggling to find a starting position in the NHL. So taking a chance on a spell in Europe makes sense. It’s not the Canadian’s first time in Minsk – he played here in the 2014 World Championship and has spoken warmly of his new home. Off the ice, Scrivens has penned two extensive articles for North American website The Players’ Tribune, detailing his thoughts on the mental and physical attributes a top goalie needs; on this evidence post-game interviews could prove more insightful than many.
Evgeny Medvedev (Avangard)
Medvedev spent last season at Philadelphia Flyers after many years as a reliable figure on the blue line for Ak Bars and Team Russia. But despite a promising start he struggled to settle in the NHL and finished the season with just 45 appearances. Things got worse in April with an arrest on suspicion of DUI and it was little surprise that he opted to return to Russia in the summer. However, with two Gagarin Cup wins, two World Championship golds and three All-Star call-ups, Medvedev remains an asset for any defense and could be the man to push Avangard back into contention for major honors.
Oscar Fantenberg (HC Sochi)
Sochi’s summer dealings have thrown up some intriguing arrivals, and none more so than Fantenberg. The 26-year-old Swede arrives from Frolunda, where he helped win the Champions Hockey League last season. Having proved his pedigree in that Europe-wide contest (he was also the leading scorer from defense) he earned his first call-up to a World Championship, featuring in Sweden’s roster in Moscow back in May. Having made steady progress through his career to date, a shot at the KHL is Fantenburg’s next big challenge.
Pavel Datsyuk (SKA)
An obvious lock for this list, Datsyuk brings a little bit of everything to the table. Some may quibble about his age – at 38, he’s clearly not one for the future and recent years have shown the magician from Yekaterinburg to be more vulnerable to injury. But in terms of sheer talent, creativity and star quality there are few players to match him. His long association with the Red Wings has denied fans in Russia the chance to see too much of one of the country’s greatest players of recent years, although his lock-out stint at CSKA was one of the memorable highlights of that season. Coming here with nothing to prove and no need to garnish his legacy further, Datsyuk’s biggest contribution may well lie in what he can pass on to the next generation.
Max Talbot (Lokomotiv)
If it wasn’t for Max Talbot, Datsyuk might well have three Stanley Cup triumphs to celebrate. As defending champion, the Red Wings reached the final again in 2009. It went to Game 7 against Pittsburgh … and two goals from Talbot gave the Penguins a 2-1 win to clinch the trophy. That was undoubtedly the highlight of the 32-year-old’s career, which has seen him make more than 700 appearances for the Penguins, the Flyers, the Avalanche and finally the Bruins. If he can form a good partnership with Brandon Kozun or contribute to the development of fast-improving youngster Daniil Apalkov, Loko will feel this was a good piece of business.
Joonas Kemppainen (Sibir)
As a big, rugged forward in the Leo Komarov mold, Joonas Kemppainen never quite fit in at Boston Bruins. A return of five points in 44 games left many fans wondering why the organization persisted with him for so long. But the Finn was far more productive in his domestic championship, with back-to-back 30-point seasons at Karpat. That earned him a call-up for Finland’s 2015 World Championship squad and got him the move to Boston. Now Sibir will be hoping that the organization’s talent for spotting underrated players has unearthed another winner.