This week’s action all points to Switzerland, with the second KHL World Games taking place in Zurich. Elsewhere, Danis Zaripov is close to an all-time record, Kristian Vesalainen is heading to Helsinki and SKA is showing off its planned new arena.
The latest stage of the KHL World Games takes place this week, with Dinamo Riga heading to Zurich, Switzerland, for its home games against SKA (Monday) and CSKA (Wednesday). Following the success of the first World Games in Vienna last month, this week’s follow-up is set to show Swiss fans the best of what the KHL can offer.
Stanley Cup winning goalie Martin Gerber, the first Swiss player to appear in the KHL, is looking forward to the big event. “I’m definitely curious to see how the KHL has developed since I left the league,” he told KHL.ru . “It’s interesting to see the work that is going into it. In the KHL, the game is faster and in Switzerland we don’t have so many chances to see that. Of course, we have seen Russian teams at the Spengler Cup but it’s a different story when it’s a league game.”
Both games will be played at the Hallenstadion, home of the Zurich Lions and scheduled host of the 2020 IIHF World Championship.
The Ak Bars forward is two games away from setting a new mark for games played in Russian championship hockey. Currently the 37-year-old is on 1,162 appearances, one behind current record holder Alexei Kalyuzhny. Ak Bars has games Monday, Wednesday and Friday and if Danis Zaripov is involved in them he will set a new all-time high. In his career he has won five Gagarin Cups and one Russian Super League, as well as making six KHL All-Star teams. On the international scene, he is a triple World Champion.
Jokerit has signed Winnipeg prospect Kristian Vesalainen on a loan deal and the forward could go into the roster for Monday night’s game at Dynamo Moscow. Only 19, Vesalainen already has an impressive haul of trophies with World U18 gold and silver for Finland plus a Swedish title at Frolunda and a Finnish championship last season with Karpat. He also helped Frolunda to the Champions Hockey League. In the summer he was traded to Winnipeg and made five NHL appearances before being assigned to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. That prompted the decision to return home and continue his development in the KHL, a path so successfully followed by Eeli Tolvanen, who had a break-out season last time around in Helsinki.
The second group of All-Star players has been selected, this time by KHL journalists. Vitaly Kravtsov, the #9 NHL draft pick this year, booked his place in the January showcase after getting the nod. The Traktor forward, who lit up last year’s playoffs, has 13 points from 29 games in a struggling Chelyabinsk team and has been selected for team Kharlamov. Marc-Andre Gragnani, the Canadian defenseman who topped the fan poll last year while playing for Dinamo Minsk, is poised to return to the event. He’s now at Kunlun Red Star and was another of the 12 players nominated by the media.
Playing in front of the biggest crowds in the KHL has inspired SKA to look at upgrading its home arena. The club’s current venue, built to host the 2000 IIHF World Championship, is set to be replaced in time for the international tournament’s proposed return to the city in 2023 – and the new build is planned to be the world’s biggest hockey arena. During the week, the club released images of how it’s new home might look – and it’s pretty impressive.