Before the 2020-2021 season, Chelyabinsk has undergone dramatic changes. The hockey operations staff had a profound transformation, while the team itself underwent a complete rebranding. Anvar Gatiyatulin was appointed as the team’s new head coach for his second term with the team. After a disappointing 2019-2020 campaign, when Traktor failed to reach the postseason for the fourth time in its history, the franchise had a much better season, reaching fifth place in the East. However, Traktor only lasted five games in the postseason as Salavat Yulaev defeated them 4-1 in the first round.
Goalie: Emil Garipov (Dynamo Moscow);
Defensemen: Konstantin Klimontov (HC Sochi), Evgeny Kulik (Spartak), Albert Yarullin (Ak Bars);
Forwards: Vitaly Abramov (Ottawa, NHL), Kirill Kapustin (Severstal), Alexei Potapov (Avangard), Teemu Pulkkinen (Lokomotiv), Andrei Stas (Avangard), Nikita Tertyshny (TO, Yugra, VHL), Vladimir Tkachyov (Lokomotiv).
Goalie: Roman Will;
Defensemen: Dmitry Alexeyev, Nick Bailen, Igor Isayev, Ilya Karpukhin, Alexander Kripichnikov, Roman Manukhov, Lawrence Pilut, Sergei Telegin, Pyotr Yasinsky;
Forwards: Alexei Byvaltsev, Tomas Hyka, Sergei Kalinin, Vyacheslav Osnovin, Alexander Podkorytov, Lukas Sedlak, Alexander Tridchikov, Artyom Shvaryov, Marsel Sholokhov.
Goalie: Ivan Fedotov (CSKA);
Defensemen: Denis Bodrov (Sibir), Stanislav Gareyev, Dmitry Ogurtsov, Oleg Yevenko (Spartak);
Forwards: Pontus Aberg (Ottawa, NHL) Alexander Avtsin (Spartak), Vladimir Bobylyov (Spartak, trade), Daniil Ilyin (HC Sochi), Ruslan Karpin, Yaroslav Kosov (Avangard), Vitaly Kravtsov (New York Rangers, NHL), Maxim Mayorov, Igor Polygalov (Neftyanik, VHL), Nikita Yazkov (Spartak, trade).
Traktor did a colossal job this offseason on the transfer market. Netminder Ivan Fedotov moved to Moscow, joining CSKA, but the franchise signed Emil Garipov. The goalie had a couple of rocky seasons, but he knows how to win a Gagarin Cup. Albert Yarullin will strengthen the team’s defensive lineup, where players like Evgeny Kulik and Konstantin Klimontov will compensate for those who left. And the same goes for the offense. The local talent Vitaly Kravtsov left for North America, but Traktor signed back Vitaly Abramov and inked Nikita Tertyshny from the VHL. For the bottom lines, Kirill Kapustin, Andrei Stas, and Alexei Potapov will bring their skills to the team, with the latter two already winning a Gagarin Cup in the past. If that’s not enough, Traktor also inked two high-caliber players in Teemu Pulkkinen and Vladimir Tkachyov.
Anvar Gatiyatulin will be in his fourth full season with Traktor. His best result was reaching the Eastern Conference finals back in 2018. Last year, Gatiyatulin improved the team’s play, and getting to the playoffs was no problem for the Chelyabinsk side. The next season will be essential for the coach to check whether he will lead Traktor to another significant achievement and cement his position as one of the league’s top coaches.
Traktor will have at its disposal two solid options on goal. Roman Will had his debut last year, and he showed excellent numbers. The expectations on Will are now high — to repeat Pavel Francouz’s success. But the numbers are on Will’s side. For example, he won 17 games out of 37, while Francouz only had three Ws in his debut season. But Will shouldn’t think that he’ll be the team’s #1 goalie no matter what — Emil Garipov had a significant contribution to Ak Bars’ Gagarin Cup triumph in 2018. After two rocky seasons, Garipov will have a chance to revive his career with Traktor.
Traktor retained the two most productive blueliners in Nick Bailen and Lawrence Pilut (producing 35 and 28 points for the team, respectively). But the Southern Urals franchise added to an already solid core Albert Yarullin — the best D-man available on the market. Additional depth will be guaranteed by local option Konstantin Klimontov and Evgeny Kulik, who led all the Spartak defensemen last term with a plus-5 rating.
Naturally, losing Vitaly Kravtsov was tough to swallow, but the newcomers should not only cover his loss but even strengthen the team. Vitaly Abramov is a top signing, and with Vladimir Tkachyov and Teemu Pulkkinen, the team secured two solid and versatile options in the offensive zone. Alexei Potapov and Andrei Stas will give depth and experience to the bottom lines. Traktor demonstrated excellent results forward in the first preseason games, and the coaches are now focused on getting the right mix in the different lines.
It would be easier to highlight Vitaly Abramov, Nikita Tertyshny, and Ilya Karpukhin, but all of them are 1998-born players, and usually, we look at players born in 1999 and younger. In this case, we need to have a look at the defensemen: last year, Sergei Telegin had an excellent debut season on the blueline, as did Alexander Kirpichnikov and Pyotr Yasinsky. Forward Mikhail Goryunov-Rolgizer also has a chance to get regular call-ups during the season.
The team will enter the 2021-2022 campaign as one of the contenders for the Gagarin Cup triumph. The summer recruitment campaign confirmed that Traktor is hoping for a push in the playoff. Considering Traktor’s roster, Gatiyatulin’s influence behind the bench, and Avangard and Ak Bars’ rebuilding needs, it’s reasonable to expect Traktor to have a chance to reach at least the Eastern Conference finals.