It’s been a busy week in Yaroslavl as the club looks to move on from the brief tenure of Craig MacTavish as head coach. Last Monday brought news that Mike Pelino would be taking over behind the bench as the Canadian stepped up from his assistant coaching role to replace interim head coach Alexander Ardashev. Pelino, 59, is well known in the KHL, having worked on Metallurg’s Gagarin Cup-winning rosters and helped Avangard to last year’s grand final.
And there are also changes to the playing staff. Forward Ty Rattie has been released, while Magnus Paajarvi Svensson arrives. Rattie, who joined Lokomotiv from the Oilers during the summer, was widely regarded as a MacTavish pick. He had 9 (3+6) points from 16 appearances. Swedish international Paajarvi Svensson, a first-round NHL Draft pick in 2009, arrives after leaving Ottawa in the summer. The 2018 World Champion returns to Europe for the first time in since 2010, having played 478 times in the NHL and amassed 128 (63+65) points. He made his debut for his new club last week, helping the team to overtime wins over Barys and SKA.
That might not be the end of the activity in Yaroslavl, with news that veteran defenseman Andrei Markov is joining Lokomotiv on a try-out. The veteran defenseman, who made over 1,000 appearances for the Canadiens before joining Ak Bars two seasons ago, joins his fifth Russian club. The 40-year-old began his career at Khimik Voskressensk and also represented Dynamo Moscow and Vityaz.
Dinamo Minsk is hoping that a new forward can lift the team up the Western Conference table. Ryan Spooner, 27, joins the Belarusians from Swiss team HC Lugano as Craig Woodcroft seeks to arrest a losing streak. Drafted by Boston in 2010, Spooner made the bulk of his 329 NHL appearances with the Bruins before having short spells with the Rangers, the Oilers and the Canucks. His brief stay in Switzerland was his first taste of hockey outside of North America.
As the second month of the season comes to an end, the huge archive of data collected by the KHL’s ‘smart puck’ technology continues to grow. And some trends are starting to emerge. One of them is the prominence of Dinamo Minsk defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. The 32-year-old is skating an average of 5,683.3 m per game and holds the current record of 6,584m against Barys. As a two-way defenseman, he’s also third on the list for time spent with the puck (42 mins, 37 seconds), behind only SKA playmaker Vladimir Tkachyov and Torpedo blue liner Chay Genoway. Gragnani is also third in distance skated with the puck, again behind Genoway and Tkachyov. Minsk also benefits from Gragnani’s playmaking abilities: with a pass completion rate of 88.1%, he’s second in the KHL behind SKA’s David Rundblad. This detailed insight into an individual player’s contribution highlights what Gragnani brings to Dinamo far more clearly than the bald figures for goals and assists, illustrating the value of smart pucks for teams and supporters alike.