Alexei Makeyev is out in front in the KHL scoring race this season. As of Sunday, the Avtomobilist forward has 26 (15+11) points, two ahead of Teemu Hartikainen of Salavat Yulaev. And Sunday’s 7-2 win at home to Dinamo Riga helped cement Makeyev’s lead — the 28-year-old got his first hat-trick in the KHL. However, the left winger admitted that the circumstances muted the celebrations a little: in Yekaterinburg, games are currently taking place without spectators. “Without fans, it’s harder to feel those emotions but bit by bit we’re getting used to it,” he said after the game. “There’s no alternative, we just have to keep doing our jobs. But it’s a bit of a pity that I scored my first hat-trick in an empty arena. If the fans were there, it would have been a bigger celebration.”
The Czech roster at the upcoming Karjala Cup was announced, and eight current KHL players were chosen for the team. Dynamo’s prolific forward Dmitrij Jaskin was perhaps the biggest name on the list, but on Sunday evening he announced that he had turned down the invitation. The remaining KHL contingent includes Amur’s Zohorna brothers, Tomas and Hynek, plus Metallurg’s Andrej Nestrasil. On defense, Jokerit’s David Sklenicka and Jakub Krejcik won’t have far to travel for the Helsinki-based tournament. Jakub Jerabek (Vityaz) and Andrej Sustr (Kunlun Red Star) complete the KHL contingent.
Host nation Finland, meanwhile, chose an entirely home-based roster for the games. Ahti Oksanen (Jokerit 2019-2020), Jukka Peltola (Sibir 2018-2020) and Jere Sallinen (Jokerit 2014-2016) are the only three players on the team with KHL experience. Sweden also looks set to name a home-based roster, with Johan Garpenlov’s preliminary roster drawn entirely from the SEL. The tournament starts Thursday with Russia taking on Finland in the opening game.
Not everyone buys into the KHL right away — and for some players the prospect of moving East can be a daunting one. But Joni Ortio, the Finnish goalie now at Barys, has a message for anyone who is uncertain about exploring opportunities here. He joined Vityaz in 2018 after playing at home, in Sweden, and in North America. “I didn’t really see myself in the KHL,” he said. “I had some prejudices, stereotypes about Russia. But all that disappeared when I came to Vityaz. Signing in the KHL was one of the best decisions of my life.” Now in Kazakhstan with Barys, the love affair with the league continues — but he does find one thing that causes confusion. “Even here in Kazakhstan, people often think I look like [former Real Madrid football star] Gareth Bale,” he said. “I love football and I’m a Manchester United fan but sometimes here people ask for an autograph and ask if I’m Bale or not. I have to disappoint a lot of people,” he joked.
Sergei Mozyakin ticked off another milestone in his illustrious career on Monday when he became the first KHL player to reach 900 points. A trademark wrist shot past Alexei Melnichuk tied Metallurg game with Torpedo and moved the record-breaking forward to 407 goals plus 493 assists. Point 901 soon followed, an assist on a Taylor Beck goal. His head coach, Ilya Vorobyov, paid tribute to his 39-year-old captain’s achievement. “Sergei is a great player, everyone knows that,” he said. “Can he reach 1,000? We’d be delighted to see him do it.”
Kunlun Red Star travelled to St. Petersburg on Wednesday and recorded its first ever victory over SKA. The teams had met eight times before since KRS joined the league and the Army Men won every one. Only one previous game made it to overtime and most previous results were lop-sided. But, despite falling behind early in the game, the Dragons roared with a pair of quick goals in the second period from Tyler Wong and Ryan Sproul. And Alexei Kovalev’s team held on to claim a memorable win.
The Spartak Angels, the club’s cheerleader troupe, got an unexpected new recruit at last week’s game against Sochi. Dmitry Krasilov, better known as a member of pop group Little Big, came to strut his stuff alongside the girls. Krasilov gained international fame in the clip for ‘Uno’, the song that would have been Russia’s entry in this year’s Eurovision song contest. And he made a typically larger-than-life contribution to the cheerleading display in Moscow.