One of the KHL’s newest teams, Admiral started from scratch in 2013. But that hasn’t stopped it from nurturing players who featured at the PyeongChang Olympics, nor hiring a veteran Stanley Cup winner and World Champion. Here’s a look at five of the most colorful foreign signings in the Pacific port.

Jonathon Blum

D, USA. 143 games, 72 (11+61) points

Admiral’s most productive defenseman, Jonathon Blum joined the Vladivostok club in 2015 after making 110 NHL appearances in five seasons on the bubble at Nashville and Minnesota. The California-born blue liner wasted little time in adapting to the view from the opposite shore of the Pacific, picking up 30 (8+22) points in his debut season for Admiral and helping to steer the club into the playoffs. He also earned himself a call to the All-Star Game. That persuaded the club to name Blum as captain for the following season, although injuries limited Blum to just 36 regular season outings (2 goals, 19 assists) as Admiral returned to the playoffs. The 2017/18 campaign saw Blum called up to the American Olympic roster but he left Vladivostok before jetting off to PyeongChang. After collecting 19 (1+18) points in 43 appearances for an Admiral team that fell short of the top eight, he moved to HC Sochi. Overall, he is tied for second top scorer at Admiral alongside Vladimir Tkachyov. Last season, Blum played for Dinamo Minsk but the 30-year-old left the KHL over the summer and joined Swedish outfit Farjestad.

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Niclas Bergfors

F, Sweden. 144 games, 93 (42+51) points

When Admiral was founded in 2013 there were high expectations of the first crop of imports to go to the Far East. Swedish forward Niclas Bergfors absolutely lived up to them. He finished that debut season as the team’s leading goalscorer with 17, and was second in overall scoring, two points behind Felix Schutz. This was the kind of production Ak Bars had hoped for when it brought Bergfors to the KHL two seasons earlier, but the former Devils, Thrashers, Panthers and Predators winger made just eight appearances in Kazan before moving to Severstal. Happy with life at Admiral, Bergfors remained for another season-and-a-half. His best season came in 2014/15 when he had 44 points; his overall tally makes him the club’s top scorer. However, in 2015/16 Bergfors made a slow start and was moved on midway through the season. He ended his KHL career at Amur and his last goal in the league came, ironically, against Admiral. After leaving Russia, Bergfors returned to his native Sweden and is set to turn out for Djurgardens next season.

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Felix Schutz

F, Germany. 74 games, 48 (21+27) points

Felix Schutz was Admiral’s top scorer in its debut season, with a 38-point haul that just edged out Bergfors’ tally. The German centred for Bergfors and Richard Gynge and that troika played a key role in firing Admiral to the playoffs at the first attempt. Among Schutz’s stand-out performances was his two-goal display against Metallurg in the opening round of the playoffs. Twice he put Admiral ahead in the first ever post-season game played in Vladivostok and his efforts were rewarded when the team secured an overtime win against the eventual Gagarin Cup champion. In the KHL, Schutz never achieved such heights again: his second spell at Admiral ended with a move to Avangard; the following season saw him play for Dinamo Riga and Torpedo before leaving the league to go to Sweden. But there was another notable achievement to come in 2018 when he was part of the German team that got all the way to the Olympic final before losing out to the Russians in overtime. Schutz played in last season’s DEL with Kolner Haie.

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Robert Sabolic

F, Slovenia. 104 games, 69 (20+49) points

Robert Sabolic rose to prominence as part of the Slovenian roster that defied the odds to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, it took him two more seasons to get a shot at the KHL, eventually joining Admiral from Sparta Prague. In Vladivostok he made an immediate impact with 44 (19+25) points in the 2016/17 campaign as Admiral sailed into the playoffs once again. Sabolic remained with the club for much of the following season – and went back to the Olympics with Slovenia in 2018. By then, though, he was already a Torpedo player. His total of 69 points is still the fourth highest ever for the club in its short history.

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Mike Commodore

D, Canada. 31 games, 6 (3+3) points

OK, Michael Commodore’s time in Vladivostok was only a footnote in his career. But attracting the services of a Stanley Cup winner and World Champion to an expansion team on the farthest-flung edge of Russia was, nonetheless, something of a coup. Commodore, who was a week shy of his 35thbirthday, made his KHL debut in a shoot-out win at Dinamo Minsk on November 1 and got his first goal in a home victory over Ak Bars in the team’s next game. The journey from Belarus to Vladivostok was Commodore’s first taste of the Far East team’s unique geographical challenges – when he contacted his former defense coach from the Devils, Slava Fetisov, the veteran D-man admitted he didn’t even know where Vladivostok was! Some years later, in a radio interview back home, Commodore summed up his time in the KHL. “Basically, I’m happy that I went there,” he said. “It was a great experience. I saw things that I would never have seen otherwise, would never even have heard of. The hockey was really good – it’s just a long way to travel.”

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Andy Potts Andy Potts
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