The World Championship is underway in Slovakia and Russia reeled off two wins in three days to start its campaign. Ilya Vorobyov’s men defeated Norway 5-2 before blanking Austria 5-0. Of last season’s KHLers on the roster, Nikita Gusev is the leading scorer with 4 (1+3) points. Among current KHLers, Sweden’s Anton Lander hit a hat-trick as the Tre Kronor demolished Italy 8-0 on Sunday afternoon to bounce back from an opening day loss to the Czechs. The center, who recently moved from Ak Bars to Lokomotiv, said: “I’m happy with three goals but the most important was three points. We’re on the scoresheet now as a team. It was a lot of fun, I scored a hat-trick and my line-mates really made it happen.”
In total, 46 KHL players were on the initial World Championship rosters. Russia has 11 of them, Latvia 12, with Dinamo Riga’s 10 representatives making it the club with the biggest contingent at the tournament. Jokerit is also well-featured, with four men on the Danish roster and three more playing for Finland, while Slovan has four players on the team of host nation Slovakia.
Defenseman Mathew Maione was one of last season’s hottest stars – on and off the ice. In addition to a thoroughly productive season on the blue at Dinamo Riga, he also lit up the KHL All-Star Weekend with his vocal talents during an impromptu jam in Kazan. Now he’s getting ready for a new challenge after signing a one-year contract with Kunlun Red Star. The Beijing club is primarily interested in the kind of scoring that brought 46 (11+35) points in 58 games last season, but also admitted that Maione is just the kind of colorful, popular character that Red Star seeks as it continues to serve as an ambassador for hockey in China.
Goalie Anders Lindback and defenseman Chay Genoway are heading to Nizhny Novgorod after signing one-year contracts. Swedish international Lindback arrives in the KHL for the first time after 140 career appearances in the NHL with Nashville, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Last season he played in Switzerland with Davos. In 2010 he won a World Championship bronze with Sweden, spending a total of one second on the ice during the competition. Genoway returns for a fifth KHL campaign, having previously represented Dinamo Riga, Spartak, Jokerit and Lada. He also helped Canada to Olympic bronze in PyeongChang.
The league has unanimously agreed a revised tournament. Once again, the KHL will run with 25 teams in four divisions, and there are no changes to the composition of those divisions. Teams will play 62 games in total, but unlike last season teams will meet every opponent four times – twice at home and twice on the road. There will be a further 14 games (seven home, seven road) against opposition from within the same conference, bringing the total to 62 games.