CSKA forward Ivan Telegin is set to be a hot property in the coming KHL season – after completing a spectacular recovery from injury problems that almost forced him out of the sport.
As a youngster, the rugged Novokuznetsk-born forward was earmarked as ‘one to watch’. Two call-ups for the World Juniors (2010, 2012, one silver medal) and a stellar season in the Ontario Hockey League (64 points in 46 games for the Barrie Colts) rocketed him into the pro game – but serious concussion while playing for the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL franchise slowed him down in 2012/13.
Things got worse. Medical and contractual issues kept Telegin off the ice altogether in 2013/14, sending him back to Russia to try and make an impact at CSKA.
“It was really hard,” he said in an interview at that time. “I could work out in the gym at CSKA but I couldn’t train on the ice because I didn’t have a contract with the club. And watching hockey in the arena was impossible. I just couldn’t do it. I’d sit and worry and fidget, knowing that there was nothing I could do.”
Some might have quit, but Telegin battled on. “In hockey you have to stay positive, you can’t dwell on your problems,” he added. “You have to keep training, and keep believing that things will work out OK.”
It took time to return to prominence: the Army Men’s stacked roster left the forward with limited game time in his first season and it wasn’t really until the latter stages of the last KHL campaign that he started to pick up some serious minutes.
Then things took off again. A big role in CSKA’s run to the Gagarin Cup final, a World Championship call-up to represent Russia in Moscow and a strong showing at international level made Telegin – still only 24 – one of the hottest properties in Russian hockey.
Again, it took time to adapt to a new level. Telegin, whose wife, folk singer Pelageya, also got a World Championship call-up to sing the national anthem at the opening ceremony, went pointless in his first four games before pouching 2+4 in the remaining six to announce his arrival – with some help from CSKA team-mate Roman Lyubimov.
"I was playing my first ever games in the World Championship so I was a bit too nervous and I was maybe trying too hard," he told iihf.com after the Switzerland game. "But then I started to get a feel for my game again and I could play with more confidence. When Roman gave me that pass I already knew exactly where he would play it. I could hang back and the Swiss all skated past me."
With an uncompromising style at the net his game is reminiscent of the likes of Leo Komarov, and it was no surprise that Oleg Znarok – who built his Dynamo team around Komarov – was eager to take Telegin north to SKA on his return to KHL coaching.
That move didn’t happen. Telegin was happy to sign a contract extension after the capital club matched the offer from Petersburg and now, following the departure of star forward Alexander Radulov, he can look forward to playing an even bigger role on Leningradsky Prospekt in the coming months.