There’s an international feel to the news from the previous week, with Canada’s KHL stars looking to boost their Olympic prospects while several teams announce pre-season games across Europe.
News that Team Canada is planning to contest this year’s Karjala Cup – and is in talks to send a team to Moscow for December’s Channel One Cup – has intensified the Olympic ambitions of several KHL players.
Following the announcement earlier this year that the NHL was not going to release its players for the international showcase in Korea next February, speculation has grown about the likely make-up of the Olympic rosters from across the Atlantic. Hockey Canada is already actively seeking opportunities to assess the quality of European-based players in a process that started at last year’s Deutschland Cup when Dave King and Mike Pelino called up several KHL stars to wear the Maple Leaf.
Lokomotiv’s Brandon Kozun was among them, and in an interview during the playoffs he admitted that the Olympics were in his thoughts, even though it was a long time in the future.
“For me, of course, it would be an honor to go to the Olympics and play for my country,” he told KHL.ru. “It’s always an honor to be involved with Team Canada. But right now, it’s too far in the future to think about. It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen. I will always be ready if someone gives me the call, but my main focus has to be with the team here in Yaroslavl.”
Kozun’s team-mates in the Deutschland Cup included several other players currently contracted to KHL teams, including his Loko colleague Max Talbot, CSKA forward Greg Scott, much-travelled goalscorers Matt Ellison and Paul Szczechura, D-men Mat Robinson (Dynamo Moscow), Chay Genoway (recently moved to Lada) and Geoff Kinrade (Kunlun). Slovan goalie Barry Brust was also on the roster.
As pre-season comes into view, there are plenty of opportunities for European KHL fans to get a glimpse of some of the stars in Germany, Italy and Slovenia during the summer preparations.
The Wingas Cup, in Kassel, Germany, will feature three KHL teams – Slovan Bratislava, Vityaz Podolsk and Dinamo Riga – in a four-team tournament with the local Kassel Huskies from Bundesliga 2. That event runs from August 8-10.
Vityaz will get to see a bit more of Germany, beginning its summer scrimmages with two meetings against KHL rivals. Valery Belov’s men will face Avangard in Fussen on July 27 and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Garmisch-Partenkirchen two days later. The Moscow Region team also has two intriguing match-ups with the Italian national team in Brixen, high in the Italian Alps, on July 31 and August 1.
Slovan is also taking KHL hockey across the border to the Czech Republic for warm-up games against Dynamo Pardubice (July 19 and 20) before heading to Maribor, Slovenia for a match-up with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (July 27).
It’s been a quieter week on the trade market, with relatively few eye-catching moves. However, two Finns have signed up for the coming season. Forward Olli Palola, who featured for Vityaz in 2015-16, has agreed a move to Jokerit after spending last season with the Vaxjo Lakers in Sweden. His compatriot, Tuukka Mantyla, is swapping Beijing for Khanty-Mansiysk after inking a deal with Ugra.
Kunlun, once again, has been the busiest team of the week. Mike Keenan’s has added two more North Americans to his roster. Forward Cory Kane, who spent time with the Bruins and Stars organizations, arrives in China after a season at Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Republic. D-man Mikael Tam, who has extensive experience in the North American minor leagues and one season at Norway’s Sparta Sarpsborg, also arrives. The club has confirmed that two other blue liners, Brett Bellemore and Arturs Kulda, will return next year.