Aivis Kalnins Aivis Kalnins
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Yet another week of KHL’s regular season has concluded and it’s time to look at the best performing young players. But instead of your regularly scheduled U23, this special edition features the best performing U20 players from the start of the season to this very point of it. World Juniors are here shortly and this is your chance to get to know some of the key Russian players. This edition includes three SKA St. Petersburg players from different positions, a representative of Severstal Cherepovets, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and Dynamo Moscow.

Marat Khusnutdinov

F, SKA St. Petersburg
Season: 29G, 11 (4+7) points

Marat Khusnutdinov and his SKA St. Petersburg have had a season of ups and downs but they currently sit comfortably in first place of the KHL Western Conference standings. Marat has played in 29 matches managing to score 4 goals and earn seven assists as well as a positive rating of 5 and 8 penalty minutes. The 19-year-old player got off to a quick start this season managing to earn 4 points in his first 3 games this season — an assist against Cherepovets was followed up with a goal and an assist vs Lokomotiv. In the match, he scored a quicky with a flowing wrist shot right off of a face-off. He finished his streak with an assist in a 9:2 victory against Admiral. His second goal of the season came against Dinamo Minsk when he put his team up by 1:0 — the player snuck up to a battle near the boards, stole the puck, and went to the net to cash in while falling. Not long after his goal gave his team a 1:0 victory over Lokomotiv Yaroslavl late in the second period — the puck had bounced off of the goalie and as he went past the net he used the netminder who was scrambling to direct the puck into the net. His final goal so far this season came in a 5:1 win against Avangard Omsk — Nikita Gusev sent the puck to Mikko Lehtonen who assured that a cross-ice pass would go through for Khusnutdinov to wrist it past the goalie.

Nikita Guslistov

F, Severstal Cherepovets
Season: 30G, 8 (3+5) points

Nikita Guslistov and the Severstal squad he represents have had one of the best seasons in their KHL franchise history to date. The team had an incredible run earning at least a point in 19 games in a row. They currently sit 5th in the Western Conference. The 19-year-old forward has a negative rating of 1 and has been booked for two penalty minutes. His first point of the season came in his team’s 6th game of the season against Amur Khabarovsk — he reached a tie in the game. Robert Rooba sent the puck to Guslistov who entered the zone and with a strong wrist-shot sniped it past Alikin. He had to wait a while to get his second of the season — in a 3:2 victory over Salavat Yulaev he clinched his team a victory, David Dumbadze made a cross-crease pass from behind the net for the youngster to only have to put his stick in the way to direct it in. He was also stellar in a match against Torpedo Nizhny-Novgorod where he scored a goal and earned a positive rating of 2. Guslistov broke the stalemate while his team was shorthanded — a misunderstanding between the opposing goalie and his defenseman behind the net assured that the forward had all the time and space to get back in front and shoot the puck into the net.

Shakir Mukhamadullin

D, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Season: 34G, 7 (3+4) points

Shakir Mukhamadullin is one of the highest regarded KHL prospects and has performed well so far as has his Salavat Yulaev Ufa team that currently sits 3rd in the East and as always is one of the top playoff contenders. Mukhamadullin has a positive rating of 12 and earned 7 penalty minutes. The 19-year-old defenseman has come up big in moments when necessary for his team despite playing some limited minutes from time to time. He earned his maiden assist of the season against Neftehimik Nizhnekamsk to follow up with a two-point match against SKA St. Petersburg where he scored a goal and earned an assist. He first assured that Sakari Manninen would put his team up by a goal and then managed to double the lead — Manninen returned his favor with a drop-pass for Mukhamadullin to slap the puck at the net to make 2:0 in a match where their team came out victorious with a score of 4:2. His next goal came six days later in a match against Avtomobilist — once again a power-play situation and Maninnen’s pass led to slap-shot for a goal. There is no KHL season without a green derby and on one of many occasions, Shakir was there to showcase himself — he went coast-to-coast with the puck, ended up losing it but after his teammates retrieved it he had placed himself on the left side of the offensive zone to use a tennis technique in order to score a goal.

Matvei Michkov

F, SKA St. Petersburg
Season: 13G, 5 (2+3) points

Matvei Michkov is a 17-year-old wonder kid who has spent time across three leagues so far this season — at the junior level he has played 11 games where he has collected 28 points (11G+17A) making things look effortless and when playing KHL minutes he has also stood out. In KHL he has 5 points, a positive rating of 2, and no penalty minutes to show. His brightest KHL moments have been in two high-scoring affairs, first against Admiral Vladivostok where he had a three-point night after being iced in three consecutive power-plays. First up a well-read by him to stay open on the left side of the offensive zone, he snuck up to the net unnoticed and roofed the puck past Admiral goalie who was already down and out of the situation. His second goal came 7 minutes later and was once again roofed as much that it went in the net off of the post and flew out. It was so good that without an eagle eye you couldn’t even tell that it had gone in. 44 seconds till the end of regulation the youngster added an assist to finish the game off to run up the score and make it 8:2. His second multi-point career game came against Neftehimik where he assisted twice — first to help make it 3:1 and then once more for 6:1 in a game where SKA pocketed another 8:2 victory.

Nikita Novikov

D, Dynamo Moscow
Season: 30G, 4 (1+3) points

Another young defenseman who has a great ceiling and has his team allowing him to play and develop on the big boy squad. His Dynamo Moscow team currently holds a comfortable 4th place in the West. Nikita Novikov has a positive rating of 2 and also 6 penalty minutes to show. The young defenseman’s ice-time has varied from as much as 13 minutes and 37 seconds to 1 minute 10 seconds in a game. However, he has established himself in the league already and it didn’t take him long. In his 4th career KHL game, he got himself his first and second career point. Playing on a pair with Voynov, the youngster got the puck to his line-mate who pushed it up the ice to team forward’s that managed to get a two-on-one and a one-goal lead from Nikolai Chebykin. Amur followed up to level the score but Novikov wasn’t done playing — a battle in the offensive zone near the blue-line led to two tiger players left behind as Novikov stormed towards the net to beat the goalie for his first-ever KHL goal and a double point night that led to his team’s victory. He followed up with an assist against Sibir where he assured that the puck would reach the offensive side for a secondary point. His final assist to this point came in another high-scoring match where Moscow’s side managed to beat the Minsk team — Novikov ruined Minsk’s chances to clear the zone dumping the puck closer to the net for Eric O’Dell to eventually find a rebound and capitalize on it.

Kirill Kirsanov

D, SKA St. Petersburg
Season: 24G, 4 (0+4) points

If anything Russia has nothing to worry about when it comes to defense because Kirill Kirsanov is another young and perspective stud. At age of 19, he has established himself within the SKA organization — something that doesn’t happen often. In 24 games he has played he has a positive rating of 6 and 4 penalty minutes. Kirsanov entered the league with a bang earning two points in his first three KHL battles. Against Severstal, he helped to ring in a comeback to assure that the game would be tied to an attack that he began. In the 8:2 win against Admiral, Kirsanov was there to set up the goal that led to 4:0 — he pushed the puck to Kirill Marchenko who entered the zone, dangled past multiple opponents, and finished off the sequence with a goal. He added another assist in a loss against Salavat Yulaev. What you could call his best game to date was against Barys Nur-Sultan where he had his career-high in ice-time at 23:28 as well as earned an assist — after a face-off win Kirsanov blasted the puck towards the goal and it changed its course twice that led to the first tie of the game. His efforts weren’t enough as the team ended up losing 3:4 in the shootout.

Yaroslav Askarov

G, SKA St. Petersburg
Season: 5G, 2.01 GAA, .904 SVS%

Yaroslav Askarov has entered his second KHL season while still alternating between the highest level and VHL. One of the biggest goaltending prospects has been easing into the league and the team while showing some incredible goaltending on the way. He made his season debut against Amur Khabarovsk’s side where he faced 18 shots on goal and allowed only one of them to squeak past him. He finished off the game with a .944 SVS%. The next time he appeared in the net was in relief of his teammate when the 19-year-old stepped in to lead his team to a shootout where they failed to finish things off with a victory. In the five games that Askarov has appeared in the net, his team has won on three occasions while twice have conceded the victory. The young goalie has faced a total of 83 shots and on those, he has been beaten eight times. Most recently he played against Dinamo Riga where he helped to pull his team to a 5:3 victory.

Aivis Kalnins Aivis Kalnins
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Related clubs

Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Severstal (Cherepovets) Severstal (Cherepovets)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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