Two of the brightest young talents at Ak Bars are staying in Kazan for the foreseeable future. Dmitry Voronkov, 20, whose break-out season in the KHL took him all the way to a World Championship debut, inked a two-year extension with the club, while Artyom Galimov, 21, signed up for three more years. Voronkov was the team’s top scorer in the playoffs with 10 (6+4) points, while Galimov had seven points in post season.
Czech international goalie Patrik Bartosak is on his way to Khabarovsk. The 28-year-old was an unused goaltender at the 2018 Olympics and made six appearances at the following year’s World Championship. The one-time LA Kings draft pick replaces another Czech, Marek Langhamer, who left Amur to move to Finland after two full seasons on the team.
Much-travelled Canadian forward Taylor Beck is on his way to Dinamo Minsk. The 30-year-old winger previously represented Avtomobilist, Kunlun Red Star, Avangard and Metallurg, posting 137 points in 209 regular season games. In 2019, Beck helped Avangard to the Gagarin Cup final and his 16 playoff assists topped the charts in post season. The former Nashville Predator has a one-year deal in Minsk.
After resolving its financial problems, Admiral is busy building a roster for its KHL return. Dmitry Sayustov was the first to sign, with the forward returning to the club where he reached the playoffs in 2016 and 2017. Goalie Nikita Serebryakov also returns to the team where he made his KHL debut and spent three seasons from 2016 to 2019. Other familiar names on the roster include defensemen Maksim Matushkin (ex-Metallurg) and Leonid Metalnikov (previously with Barys) and forwards Artyom Gareyev (Severstal) and Mikhail Kotlyarevsky (Spartak).
A special hockey game in Moscow saw several KHL players — plus Stanley Cup winner Dmitry Orlov — take to the ice with a team of partially-sighted youngsters in a bid to raise funds and awareness for the game. Orlov, of the Washington Capitals, was joined by NHL-bound Gagarin Cup winner Yegor Chinakhov, Dynamo Moscow’s Mikhail Fisenko and Andrei Pedan, Amur’s Nikita Pivtsakin, plus German Shaporev, most recently of Vityaz. The game was played ‘by ear’, with the pros taping over their visors before taking on the Fortuna team of partially-sighted youngsters. A scaled-up, hollowed-out puck is packed with 12 ball bearings so players can hear it across the ice.
And Saturday’s game was more than just a publicity stunt: the pro players donated various signed mementoes to be auctioned off in a bid to raise funds for Russia’s fast-growing blind hockey league. Within a year, teams have appeared in six parts of the country under the auspices of the Children’s Sledge Hockey League, and Fisenko hopes this can keep growing.
“I hope the auction is a success and we can help the guys at the Children’s Sledge Hockey League to keep playing their favorite game. We need to look out for these kids, to help and support them so that they understand that nothing is beyond them, and they can also play hockey.”
Russia’s sledge hockey team, fresh from success in a home tournament in Sochi, won World Championship bronze in Ostrava. Saturday’s 7-0 thrashing of South Korea — Paralympic bronze medallists in 2018 — secured the country’s first medal in six years and gives the program a real boost ahead of the 2022 Games in Beijing. It might have been even better for Ruslan Batyrshin’s team: the semi-final against Canada ended in a narrow 1-2 loss, with Evgeny Petrov denied a tying goal by Greg Westlake five minutes before the hooter. Russian forward Nikolai Terentiev finished as the leading scorer in the tournament with 17 (9+8) points.
Andrei Sokolov is now looking to build on this competition and go for bigger honors in Beijing. “Before Beijing, we will look back at every mistake we made against Canada in the semi-finals because at the Paralympic Games our goal will be the gold medal.”
That will mean getting ahead of the Canadians and Team USA, which took top spot in Ostrava.