Several of this season’s most eye-catching young players are emerging into the KHL under the guidance of Alexei Kudashov at SKA. Goalie Yaroslav Askarov was the talk of the league last week as he got a win on his debut at the age of 17, but he faces stiff competition from Amir Miftakhov of Ak Bars, another recent KHL debutant. Then there’s forward Kirill Marchenko, whose explosive introduction to senior hockey earned him an extended contract this week, and defenseman Danila Galenyuk. Another prospect, Vasily Podkolzin, hit the headlines last year as the first KHL player to be born in the 21st century. With center Ivan Morozov close to making the step up from SKA-Neva of the VHL and defenseman Nikita Zorkin also progressing through the second tier, there could be a strong Petersburg accent on this team.
Lokomotiv enjoys an enviable reputation for developing young talent and, once again, the Railwaymen have players on the roster who are on the right track for a successful career. Grigory Denisenko is returning for his World Juniors. Last year he had 9 (4+5) points in Russia’s bronze medal campaign, illustrating why he is viewed as one of the brightest prospects to emerge at Lokomotiv, and why he was a first-round pick for Florida in the 2018 NHL draft. The 19-year-old left winger continues to develop, with 8 (4+4) points from 26 KHL games so far this season while he clocks a healthy 13 minutes a night in the senior game.
Denisenko is not the only Lokomotiv player on this year’s team. He’s joined by defenseman Daniil Misyul, who emerged late last season and got his first KHL goal in the 2019 playoffs before being taken by New Jersey in the NHL draft. This season, Loko’s youngsters haven’t always found it easy to win the confidence of the club’s North American coaches, but Misyul continues to feature regularly and has added a couple more goals to his tally. Goalie Daniil Isayev, 19, is a third Lokomotiv player on the long list. He got the first of his five KHL starts back in January and has lost just once so far.
Alexander Romanov, 19, has already established himself on the blue line at CSKA. The defenseman moved up to Igor Nikitin’s team last season and currently has 75 regular season outings plus four playoff appearances under his belt. That all came after he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round in 2018. Alexander is the new scion of a Romanov hockey dynasty: he’s the grandson of Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and his dad, Stanislav, represented Russia at the 1995 World Championship, scoring 5 (4+1) points in six games. The youngest Romanov, meanwhile, heads to the Czech Republic with more KHL experience than any other player on the team. He’s also got valuable experience of the World Juniors: this time last year he was the most productive D-man in the tournament, potting 8 (1+7) points from seven games.
Romanov isn’t the only CSKA player on Bragin’s long list. Forwards Nikita Rtishchev and Maxim Sorkin have already appeared in the KHL, while Lev Komissarov is attracting attention with Zvezda in the VHL.
When Romanov’s grandfather was head coach at Ak Bars, he tended to trust experience over youth. This season, though, Dmitry Kvartalnov is starting to change all that. Gone are the veteran defensemen, and in come the likes of Daniil Zhuravlyov. With 28 games on the blue lines (seven assists so far), the 19-year-old has been rather more than just a bit-part player. He’s averaging 13:50 per game and has played his part in steering the team to the top of the table with a +8 rating. He was drafted by Colorado back in 2018 and played on last season’s bronze-medal roster.
While much of the talent comes direct from the big clubs, several other youngsters have been making an impact in the KHL this season. Neftekhimik’s Maxim Groshev is still only 17, but that hasn’t denied him a first KHL goal in a 4-6 loss to Dynamo Moscow last month. Dynamo center Ilya Kruglov did not feature in that game, but this season has brought his first goals in the league. The 19-year-old is now back in the first team after a spell out of action and got his second of the season in Kazan on Dec. 1.
Metallurg’s Pavel Dorofeyev has been one of the most active youngsters in the KHL this season, making 34 appearances for 7 (4+3) points. The winger broke into the league last term and was drafted by the Golden Knights in the summer. Two defenseman, Sochi’s Mikhail Gordeyev and Daniil Pylenkov of Vityaz, also enjoy break-out campaigns this time around as they make regular appearances in the KHL. Spartak’s Zakhar Shablovsky is the other player on the list with KHL experience, playing nine games for one assist under Oleg Znarok this season.