The IIHF World Championship, which concluded in Tampere on Sunday night, went ahead without Russia or Belarus. But there were still plenty of KHL players among the medals.
Finland celebrated gold on home ice for the first time and Jukka Jalonen’s roster boasted close to 3,000 regular season games in the KHL. That included several players who were active in the league this season. Goalie Juho Olkinuora (Metallurg) played a huge role in his country’s medal run, with four shut-outs in the group stage helping him earn the MVP. Marko Anttila (Jokerit) came up with two big goals to salvage the Leijonat’s quarter-final against Slovakia, and former SKA defenseman Mikko Lehtonen was the top-scoring blue-liner in the tournament. Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen continued their effective partnership from Salavat Yulaev with Mikael Granlund – brother of Ufa team-mate Markus Granlund. Another former Jokerit forward, Hannes Bjorninen, contributed a goal and two helpers. Avangard’s Ville Pokka missed a couple of Finnish games during the tournament but returned for the medal round. In addition, cover goalies Harri Sateri (Sibir) and Frans Tuohimaa (Neftekhimik) also played in this year’s KHL.
Canada’s roster included Eric O’Dell, who played 282 games in six seasons with Sochi, Metallurg, Sibir and most recently Dynamo Moscow. He featured in three of Canada’s games, scoring one goal.
On the bronze roster for Czechia, nine players had experience in the KHL. Defensemen David Sklenicka (Jokerit) and Michal Jordan (Amur) played in the league this season, while captain and championship top scorer Roman Cervenka won a Gagarin Cup with SKA in 2015, the climax of 218 games in Omsk and Petersburg. Tomas Kundratek, Hynek Zohorna, Marek Langhamer, Michal Kampny, Matej Stransky and Jiri Smejkal complete the playing contingent. Head coach Kari Jalonen is also a KHL veteran, having led Lev Prague to the 2014 final.
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Canadian forward Daniel Audette signed a one-year extension with Vityaz. The former Canadian U18 international went to Sweden at the end of the KHL regular season, playing for Orebro. However, he’s agreed a return to the club where he scored 39 (17+22) points in his rookie campaign in our league.
SKA’s offense is set to look very different next season. In the early weeks of the summer, the likes Anton Burdasov, Joonas Kemppainen, Leo Komarov and Kirill Marchenko all left Petersburg, while Nikita Gusev is currently out of contract. This week, though, we saw signs of next season’s roster taking shape. Damir Zhafyarov, prolific for Torpedo in recent seasons, inked a two-year deal. Much-travelled, Zhafyarov was on the fringes of the Russian national team in 2019-2020 and followed that up with a break-out 61 (21+40) points in 58 games the following season. In an abbreviated campaign last term, he had 45 points in 47 games despite Torpedo’s failure to make the playoffs.
Marat Khairullin, arriving from Neftekhimik, is another emerging Russian talent. He’s spent his entire career in Nizhnekamsk, establishing himself in the first team in 2017-2018. Since then, he’s steadily upped his production on a team that typically faces a battle for a playoff berth. Last season he had 35 points in 50 games. On defense, SKA acquired defenseman Andrei Pedan from Dynamo Moscow, with young forward Alexander Skorenov going in the other direction.
After leading CSKA to this year’s Gagarin Cup, Red-and-Blue captain Sergei Andronov is following a new track. The hard-working center was also part of Russia’s Olympic roster in Beijing, having earlier helped to win gold in PyeongChang. Now 32, Andronov had 8 (6+2) points in the regular season followed by one goal in 12 playoff outings.
Oscar Fantenberg is leaving SKA. The Swedish defenseman played 45 games last season, compiling 9 (1+8) points. He remained on the team during the playoffs but has opted not to return to Petersburg next season. Similarly, Czech defenseman Ronald Knot has terminated his contract with Neftekhimik. The blue liner played his first KHL campaign last season, making 52 appearances and producing 21 (4+17) points. Knot compatriot, Simon Hrubec, also parted company with Avangard, where he won the 2021 Gagarin Cup. These were among the last remaining European players still holding a KHL contract.
In addition, American defenseman Steven Kampfer is leaving Ak Bars to join the Detroit Red Wings. Kampfer had one season in the KHL and played for Team USA at the Olympics in Beijing. Now he’s hoping to rebuild an NHL career that was stalling when he headed to Russia last summer.