F, Finland. 128 games, 86 (38+48) points
This Finnish forward has been part of both the Vityaz teams that made the playoff team in the KHL era – and has never failed to go to post-season with the club. Thus, his presence in Podolsk in the coming season is grounds for great optimism for the Moscow Region team. Miro Aaltonen, now 26, arrived at Vityaz in 2016 after putting together a run of three promising seasons in his homeland. Once in the KHL, his scoring exploded: 44 (19+25) points from 59 games represented a career-best haul as Valery Belov’s team made history by breaking into the top eight in the Western Conference. It took Aaltonen to the World Championship and secured him a deal with the Maple Leafs. That Trans-Atlantic trade didn’t quite work out: the Joensuu native never played in the NHL, but did help the Marlies to lift the Calder Cup before returning to Vityaz. Second time around he was also prolific, compiling 42 (19+23) points as the team went back to the playoffs. This is a story to be continued in 2019/20.
F, Czech Rep. 228 games, 116 (59+57) points
Czech forward Roman Horak spent four seasons with Vityaz and scored regularly throughout that time. As the club’s longest-serving import, he pulled on the red jersey from 2014 through to 2018, making 228 appearances in total. Along the way, he potted 59 goals and 57 assists for 116 points. His 31-point haul in 2016/17 helped the team make the playoffs, where he played four games for a solitary helper in the club’s first post-season action in the KHL era. That campaign also saw Horak make his World Championship debut with the Czech Republic; the following year he also played at the Olympics. Horak’s achievements at Vityaz saw him captain the team in 2015/16 and climb to third place on the team’s all-time scoring list in the KHL, the highest-ranked foreign player. After leaving Russia, the former Calgary Flame moved to Sweden and played last season with Vaxjo Lakers
D, Czech Rep. 116 games, 55 (14+41) points
Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik recently confirmed that he will remain in Podolsk for a third season – and is poised to consolidate his position as the all-time leading scorer among blue liners for the club. He’s already amassed 55 (14+41) points in 116 games to date, securing himself a solid spot in the affections of fans in Moscow Region. One stand-out moment came in his first season, when he scored twice in a 3-1 win at CSKA.His success also saw the Mlada Boleslav native, now aged 26, score a place on the Czech Olympic roster in PyeongChang last season, reaching the bronze medal game alongside fellow Vityaz man Roman Horak. A KHL All-Star in his first season, he helped Vityaz to the playoffs last season. Will there be more to come from Mozik in the coming campaign?
G, Finland. 136 games, save percentage 92.1, GAA 2.71
Goalie Harri Sateri, like Kempe, spent three years in Podolsk and ended his time with the club by backstopping that run to the 2017 playoffs. Now aged 29, he joined Vityaz after a spell in the San Diego system which saw him dress for one NHL game but fail to make it to the ice. Too much time on the bubble in North America tempted him back to Europe and the KHL was the perfect environment for this butterfly-style goalie to hone his game and break into Finland’s national team. In total, Sateri played 132 regular season games for Vityaz, claiming 52 wins and stopping 92.3% of the 4,320 shots he faced for a GAA of 2.63. That set him up for a move across the Atlantic and an NHL debut with the Florida Panthers (he ultimately played nine games in the NHL). After two years, mostly in the AHL, he returned to Russia this summer to join Sibir.
F, Canada. 113 games, 80 (37+43) points
Not many players have arrived in the league with the kind of varied baggage that Chris Simon brought with him when he came to Vityaz at the start of the KHL era. On the plus side, there was his Stanley Cup win at Colorado in 1996. On the debit side, Simon picked up suspensions totalling 65 games in the NHL and faced eight disciplinary hearings during 15 seasons in the league. At Vityaz, we saw both sides of his character. In three seasons with the club, he picked up 80 (37+43) points from 113 games in a struggling team. However, his appearances were limited due to more disciplinary issues: 484 penalty minutes represented an eye-catching return even on a team noted for its raft of uncompromising enforcers. Indeed, only team-mate Darcy Verot’s 713 PIMs kept Simon from being the KHL’s most penalized player. However, love him or hate him, the Canadian winger was an example of the kind of experienced North American player that the KHL was immediately able to bring across the Atlantic. After leaving Vityaz he had a brief spell at Dynamo Moscow before wrapping up his hockey career with two seasons at Metallurg Novokuznetsk.