Ilya Vorobyov, last season’s head coach of SKA and the Russian national team, has been replaced in both roles. The new man behind the bench is Alexei Kudashov, who was part of the Red Machine’s coaching staff last season. The change took many by surprise: SKA announced its decision, as did the Russian Hockey Federation, late on the evening of July 10 – a time when most clubs were preparing their first days of pre-season camps and reviewing the newly-circulated schedule for the 2019/20 season. Previously Kudashov, a Gagarin Cup winner with Dynamo Moscow, earned his coaching props with spells at Atlant and Lokomotiv. In the latter role, in particular, he was noted for his willingness to trust young players and his ability to nurture them into mature talents.
The schedule for the 12th season of KHL was released during the week. In total, 24 clubs – Slovan Bratislava left the league due to financial difficulties – will play 744 games in 153 game days in the regular season, which runs from Sep. 1 to Feb. 27. It all starts in Moscow, where CSKA faces Avangard for the Opening Cup in a reprise of last season’s Grand Final.
The 2020 All-Star Week will take place in Moscow. Dynamo’s new VTB Arena will be the focal point for all the action as the top talents from the Women’s Hockey League, Junior Hockey League and KHL strut their stuff in the annual showcase. The festivities run from Jan. 11-19.
In keeping with recent seasons, the KHL will once again be pushing new frontiers in the coming campaign. In September, Shenzhen will become the latest city to host the league as Kunlun Red Star plays six home games in the Chinese innovation hub. The arena in the southern city holds 18,000 spectators, making it the largest indoor venue to welcome the KHL. Last season’s successful KHL World Games brand makes a return in December when the ‘Green Derby’ between Ak Bars and Salavat Yulaev goes to Davos, Switzerland on Dec. 23. KHL teams have regularly played Spengler Cup games there, but this will be the first league game in that arena. And the push to boost hockey in Kazakhstan continues with Barys set to play a couple of games at the new arena in Almaty, the most populous city in the Central Asian republic.
Sven Andrighetto is set to become the third Swiss player to feature in the KHL. The 26-year-old, who helped Switzerland to a silver medal at the 2018 World Championship, has joined Avangard from Colorado Avalanche, where he played 133 games in the NHL. Drafted by Montreal, his total NHL career comprises 216 games for 83 (31+52) points, plus a further 11 playoff appearances for one goal. On his return to Europe the Sumiswald native has signed a two-year deal with the Hawks. Only two Swiss have previously played in the KHL – goalie Martin Gerber had a season with Atlant in 2009/10 and defenseman Goran Bezina, once of Medvescak.
Vladimir Tkachyov has signed a two-year deal with SKA. The former Salavat Yulaev man was reportedly interested in crossing the Atlantic once again but instead has opted to remain in the KHL and join Alexei Kudashov’s roster for the coming season. In recent seasons, Tkachyov, who also played for Admiral during his KHL career, has been on the fringes of the Russian national team; working with his country’s head coach may provide the impetus to make him a regular on the international stage. Could Tkachyov be poised to follow in the footsteps of Atermy Panarin and Nikita Gusev, two players whose style he resembles?