From Orebro HK (SHL) to Vityaz
Signing internationals this offseason is still a rare occurrence. But the main thing, as is often the case, is to get started. Vityaz made an important step by signing Daniel Audette to a one-year deal. Some may think the Moscow Region club just extended the contract with the Canadian, who scored 39 points last season and was the third leading scorer for Yuri Babenko’s team.
However, the center then moved to Sweden for a couple of months. Playing for Orebro, he scored six points in 11 regular season games and added three helpers in the playoffs. His temporary team, to which Admiral defenseman Libor Sulak also moved in the winter, dropped out in the playoffs’ second round. Now, having returned not to Podolsk, but to Balashikha, and not to Babenko, but to Vyacheslav Butsayev, Audette will become even more important to Vityaz than before. After all, right now he’s the only import with a current contract for the upcoming season.
From Torpedo to Lokomotiv
Lokomotiv made its most powerful offseason deal last week. The acquisition of Ivan Chekhovich is a move that can work in both a long-term perspective and here and now. The 23-year-old forward clearly hasn’t reached his peak yet, but he’s already capable of scoring more than two dozen goals a season and producing more than 30 points. The flamboyant winger will add balance to the Railwaymen’s offense.
Paradoxically, Igor Nikitin’s team has an overabundance of centers, whom the coaching staff has to use on the wing. For Chekhovich, who was the main asset of Torpedo in the offseason, Lokomotiv had to give up an interesting set of forwards. For Maxim Letunov, Vladislav Firstov, and Dennis Yan, who are playing overseas, however, it’s just the rights on them. As for Alexander Daryin, who is a year younger than Chekhovich, he’s moving to Nizhny Novgorod and will try to replace him in the Torpedo lineup.
From Spartak to Salavat Yulaev
Following Stanislav Bocharov and Evgeny Timkin, Salavat Yulaev acquired another forward. While Timkin is an elite checker and Bocharov is an all-rounder, Ivan Drozdov is more likely to be a top-six player. Though in Spartak, where he came as a free agent, he started at the bottom of the ranks and rose through the hierarchy gradually. The Belorussian, who was no longer needed by Dinamo Minsk, became the main discovery for Boris Mironov’s team.
First of all, the Vitebsk native stood out for his speed. In his first full season in the KHL, Ivan scored a dozen pucks in the regular season, added a goal in the series against SKA, and also played quite effectively for the Belarusian national team. In the next three years, Spartak’s third scorer will play for Salavat Yulaev. The Ufa club won the competition for Drozdov by giving the Red-and-Whites the rights to forward Alexander Pashin and monetary compensation.
From Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) to Dynamo Moscow
Another Belarusian has found a job at a Russian club. Dynamo Moscow, which has embarked on a rejuvenation plan, has signed the 23-year-old Maxim Sushko. He spent the last three years in the Philadelphia Flyers’ system and played two games in the NHL for the Flyers. The former captain of the of the Belarus WJC squad, who has took part in three World Championships, also has experience in the KHL. While there was no hurry to start the 2020-2021 season overseas, he crossed the Atlantic with other young Belarusians and landed in Minsk.
The tough forward, who doesn’t shy away from physical play, fit in seamlessly within Craig Woodcroft’s model. However, while Sushko played for Dynamo Minsk on loan, he signed as a free agent in Moscow. His entry-level deal with Philadelphia came to an end, and in the Russian capital he received a one-way, two-year contract.
From Severstal to Metallurg
Less than a year ago, during the preseason preparation, Sibir dissolved Ilya Khokhlov’s contract. The defender turned out to be as a superfluous card in Andrei Martemyanov’s deck. And now, Khokhlov is signing with the Gagarin Cup finalists. In between these two events, he had a very decent season at Severstal, where he returned after a year-long assignment to Sibir. His 21 points in 35 games was the best result in the career of the 27-year-old blueliner, who became the third leading scorer for the Cherepovets team, surpassing several forwards.
In Magnitka, according to Andrei Razin, Khokhlov will earn four times more than in Severstal. Theoretically, a defenseman with such attacking potential should replace the departing Swede Linus Hultstrom.
From Barys to Metallurg
If last season’s finalist can make up for the loss of Hultstrom, even if collectively, it’s much harder to find an adequate replacement for Mikhail Pashnin. It’s hard to find in the league other tough defenders who can move the puck. Valery Orekhov isn’t as willing to go to the snaps, but if there’s anyone to choose from the Metallurg new signings to be Pashnin’s heir, then it’s the 22-year-old Kazakhstani.
However, he can also play the role of Grigory Dronov, who as a restricted free agent has not yet accepted the Steel Foxeas’ offer. Orekhov’s three goals at the recent IIHF WC for Kazakhstan speak volumes. His two points in the game against Italy helped Yury Mikhailis’ team to its first and lone victory at the tournament. It’s symbolic that it was on this day that Orekhov’s move to a new team became officially known. Barys had the right to repeat Metallurg’s offer, but opted against doing so.
From Vityaz to Avangard
The center forward is one of the most important positions in modern hockey. It’s also one of the most scarce positions in Russian hockey. It’s not easy to find centers that can play defense, win faceoffs, and direct the offense at the same time. For Avangard this spring, that problem has been magnified: Kirill Semyonov left for Ak Bars, Nikolai Prokhorkin moved to SKA, Corban Knight, a key player for the Omsk team, and Ilya Kablukov are out of contract. So Avangard’s front office had to patch up the roster. Fedor Malykhin was the first new center to sign for the Hawks.
A few years ago there was a real transfer hunt for him, which was won by Ak Bars. However, Malykhin failed to repeat his 40+ points performance he had before moving to Kazan. At 31, Fyodor is currently more of a hard worker for the bottom lines, while also being able to help his teammates in the offensive zone.
From Admiral to Avangard
Just a year ago, the experienced defenseman won the Petrov Cup with Yugra and won a contract with Admiral. The fact that another year later Fyodor Belyakov ended up at Avangard might seem like a crazy move. However, if we rewind the tape a few years back, we see that he played regularly in the KHL, got playoff experience and set records. His 127 blocked shots in the 2016-2017 season proved to be something previously unseen for our League. Only three years later, Belyakov’s record was broken by Ville Pokka. Now, in fact, Fyodor is stepping into the Finn’s skates.
They are both selfless, courageous, and experienced in playing in penalty killing units. Simply put, they are “iron men”. Belyakov should be very comfortable in his new position. If Dmitry Ryabykin sticks to Bob Hartley’s line, the defenseman, who is used to blocking shots abundantly, will come in handy. Belyakov’s strength is the foundation of Avangard’s defensive system.
From Sokol (VHL) to Avangard
Another Avangard transfer that should rather be considered as a move for its VHL farm team. Nikita Mikhailov is sure to play for the Omsk Wings, but since his contract is on a two-way deal, we should also consider the forward as a reinforcement for Dmitry Ryabykin’s squad. Yes, Mikhailov has spent the last two seasons in the VHL almost permanently, where he managed to change three teams. Only in Krasnoyarsk did he really shine. Almost as much as he did once, playing with Sibir. The 2018-2019 season turned out to be a real breakthrough for the young forward.
Then, due to injuries in the preseason, the Novosibirsk main team had a gap forward. In order not to break the links, Vladimir Yurzinov Jr. put a kid from the Sibirian Snipers MHL team in the first unit. Mikhailov settled in and secured a place on the power play. Playing mostly on rebounds and ricochets, Nikita scored 13 goals and was a serious contender for the Alexei Cherepanov Award. However, the second season syndrome didn’t spare him. In Omsk, which is close to Novosibirsk, the 24-year-old forward will try to recharge his KHL career.
From Kunlun Red Star to HC Sochi
While Kunlun is taking a pause and not making any acquisitions in the first month of the offseason, former Dragons players are finding themselves new clubs. Mikhail Abramov is another young player that Andrei Nazarov will try to uncover. What’s interesting in this Sochi newcomer? First of all, he is a native of the Yakutian city of Neryungri, where no other KHL players were ever produced. Second, the newcomer to the South can be quite called a product of Chinese hockey.
The thing is that this 23-year-old forward spent three seasons with Chinese teams playing in different Russian leagues. In addition to playing 23 games for Kunlun, Abramov played for the Dragons’ junior team and also represented Chinese clubs in the VHL. This impressive record even allowed Mikhail to play for the Chinese national team at the 2022 Olympics, but at the last minute the forward was left out of the final application.