Belarus hasn’t always been the first destination on everyone’s hockey itinerary – but that hasn’t stopped Dinamo Minsk from recruiting some impressive foreign talent. Two players won Olympic medals while playing for the Bison; two more guys on our list liked the country so much that got a passport.

Kevin Lalande

G, Canada. 96 games, 90.3 save percentage, 2.82 GAA

Kevin Lalande was one of several players who became such a fixture in Belarus that they ended up taking citizenship and representing the country in international play. For this Ontario-born goalie, three World Championship campaigns were arguably the highlight of five seasons with Dinamo. He debuted for the national team in the familiar surroundings of Arena Minsk at the 2014 World Championship and was a big part of the country’s run to the quarter-final in 2015, having moved to CSKA Moscow in the previous summer. For Dinamo, meanwhile, he produced flashes of excellence but also struggled for fitness after a string of concussions. Often left to backstop a team that faced an uphill battle to make the playoffs, Lalande was a creditable performer and regularly returned to the Belarusian capital for more. However, those concussion problems forced him into retirement at the age of just 30 after he made just seven KHL appearances in the 2016/17 season.

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Ville Peltonen

F, Finland. 51 games, 26 (6+20) points

One of Finland’s greatest players, Peltonen captained Dinamo in 2009/10 after returning to Europe from the NHL. On a roster that failed to make post season, Ville Peltonen was third in scoring behind Geoff Platt and Hannes Hyvonen. But the greater impact came off the ice. With the KHL in only its second season and Minsk not widely regarded as the most attractive destination for imports, the capture of a man who had won four career Olympic medals (the last of them, a bronze, came during that season in Belarus), a World Championship and domestic titles in Finland and Switzerland spoke volumes for the pulling power of the new set-up. And, in addition to an All-Star appearance, Peltonen added another title to his honors list with Dinamo, helping the team to the Spengler Cup that season. Inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in Moscow in 2016, Peltonen, 46, is an active coach and was behind the bench at Lausanne in the Swiss League last season.

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Geoff Platt

F, Canada. 271 games, 177 (92+85) points

Toronto-born Geoff Platt was another arrival who found a home from home in Belarus. He joined the club in the KHL’s first season but moved on to Finland during that first season. However, he was back right away and led the team in scoring with 44 (26+18) points in 2009/10. That earned him the first of three All-Star calls and cemented his status as a star player in Minsk. To this day, his tally of 177 (92+85) points from 271 games remains the club’s all-time scoring record in the KHL. Belarusian citizenship arrived during his stay and Platt made his World Championship bow for his adopted nation on home ice in 2014. That was the forward’s last season with Dinamo – traded midway through the campaign, he went to Lokomotiv and later played for CSKA and Jokerit before signing a deal with Avtomobilist for the 2019/20 season. However, he remains a key part of Belarusian hockey: in April he top-scored in Nur-Sultan as the national team booked its return to the top flight; Platt’s feats earned him the title of Belarusian player of the year.

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Lukas Krajicek

D, Czech Rep. 266 games, 68 (8+60) points

No import has played as many games on the blue line as Lukas Krajicek; his 266 outings are second only to Platt’s record among foreign players. The big Czech arrived with more than 350 NHL appearances under his belt and spent more than five seasons in Belarus after his arrival in 2011. Generally known as a stay-at-home type, his scoring was never electrifying but his solid presence at the back helped Dinamo to two playoffs during his time at the club. In 2016/17 he left the club to return to Ocelari Trinec of the Czech League, where he won his second championship last season at the age of 36.

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Marc-Andre Gragnani

D, Canada. 116 games, 73 (10+63) points

The second most productive blue liner in franchise history, Marc-Andre Gragnani has an even more impressive claim to fame. In the 2018 All-Star Game he was the most popular player in the entire KHL! During the fan poll to select the first lines for each division, the Quebec native earned more votes than any other player in the league, ahead of SKA’s Ilya Kovalchuk. True, most of those votes were from Belarusian IP addresses, but the stats show what an impact this offense-minded defenseman had in Belarus. In two seasons with the club he was consistently among the points – so much so that he wore the ‘A’ in his second campaign. His contribution did not go unnoticed back home: in 2018 he was recalled to Canada’s ranks and went to the Olympics, his first major international tournament since the Worlds in 2011 when he was emerging at Buffalo. In PyeongChang he won a bronze medal, matching Ville Peltonen’s Olympic achievements while playing for Dinamo. At the end of that season, Gragnani moved to Kunlun Red Star where injuries hampered his progress. But he still received a warm welcome on his return to Minsk.

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Andy Potts Andy Potts
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