From HC Lugano (Switzerland) to Spartak Moscow
Spartak maintains a self-determined trend for Belarusians. Most recently, the Red-and-Whites found a replacement for Ivan Drozdov, who moved to Ufa – Artyom Demkov arrived from Minsk on a familiar path. But the Muscovites didn’t stop there. Of course, Shane Prince is not a Belarusian by blood, but he still played more than a dozen games for the national team. In particular, he participated in the IIHF World Championship and Olympic qualifying tournaments. However, the American-born Belarusian moved to the Russian capital not from Minsk, but from Lugano, Switzerland. There, he finished the last season after Avtomobilist failed to make the playoffs. The Spooner-Prince lineup, which was highly anticipated in Yekaterinburg, didn’t work out. Now each of the forwards would have to rebuild their reputations individually. Spartak got a potentially quick and sharp forward for the first unit.
From Barys to HC Sochi
Last week, Sochi added their first foreign player to the roster this offseason. He is a Canadian defenseman who has already played for two KHL clubs. Representing Dinamo Minsk, Joe Morrow is remembered as more of a stay-at-home defenseman. He didn’t score in 22 games, but he wasn’t above getting into scuffles either. After a season break in Finland, he found himself in Nur-Sultan where he showed his new side. His 13 points are not bad for a half season. Only Darren Dietz scored more among Barys defenders. As for Morrow’s background, he was once part of Tyler Seguin’s big trade from Boston to Dallas. Joe comes from a hockey dynasty, but neither his father nor his uncle and brother made it to the NHL, while Joe has over 150 games in the league.
From Tappara (Finland) to Amur
Miks Indrasis should have been the first Latvian player to sign in the KHL this summer. However, his contract with Spartak is under dispute. The forward has publicly stated that he is not going to fulfill his obligations. Meanwhile, his compatriot Janis Kalnins not only signed with Amur, but also hastened to say in interviews that he’s determined to make it to Khabarovsk. There he will challenge the modest-looking Evgeny Alikin, who has managed to outplay more than one foreign goalie in recent years. Patrick Bartosak and Marek Langhamer are among the Russian’s goalie victims. Can the former Jokerit goalie steer clear of the path blazed by his Czech predecessors?
On a try-out with Ak Bars
Kazan made another bid to become the oldest lineup in this year’s KHL. And by a wide margin. The vast majority of Ak Bars’ newcomers are over 30. Maxim Chudinov who won the 2007 U18 WJC together with Vyacheslav Voynov, Vasily Tokranov, Kirill Petrov, and Dmitriy Kagarlitsky just turned 32. But age, as such, is not a problem. Chudinov, on the other hand, has been plagued by injuries for more than a year. Over the past three seasons, he’s played a combined total of fewer than fifty games. Last season, the big-shooting defenseman missed the season altogether. Hence the try-out contract. Oleg Znarok, who worked with Chudinov in SKA and the Russian national team, believed in Maxim. This is in the spirit of the Ak Bars mentor who believes in those with whom he used to win until the end. He and Chudinov won one of their three Gagarin Cups together. Will they be able to win a fourth one?
From Metallurg to Barys
Mikhail Grigoryev returns to Kazakhstan after 10 years. It was in the city which was then called Astana that the young defender spent his first full season in the KHL. He made his debut in the league back in Ufa, but back then he played for the Salavat Yulaev’s system squads in the VHL and JHL. Grigoriev was compared to Ufa’s hockey star Kirill Koltsov for the time being, but Mikhail took a different path. Instead of adventurous jumping into the attack, he opted for a very tough style of play. Even his modest size does not prevent him from getting under the skin of his opponents and playing uncompromisingly near the boards. Andrei Skabelka is traditionally favored by such players, and his return to Nur-Sultan determined Grigoryev’s future. At his new-old place, the Gagarin Cup winner should get a more significant role than at Magnitka, where he was the first candidate to rise from reserve.
From Buran (VHL) to Traktor
The early departure of Roman Will has exposed the goaltending problem in Chelyabinsk. The club, a serious contender for the Gagarin Cup, was left with only Emil Garipov, who, although he won the main KHL trophy, had almost no regular game practice for the last two years. Will Traktor start the season with Garipov as its primary goalie? Or will the franchise find an option overseas? But whether a foreigner appears behind the crease of the Chelyabinsk side or not, Anvar Gatiyatulin’s team needs serious insurance. For starters, the Ural team traded the rights on Belarusian netminder Kirill Ustimenko. Soon he should be back from America, where he hasn’t received an offer from Philadelphia. And if the contract with Ustimenko is a matter of the near future, the transition of Ilya Proskuryakov is already a fait accompli. He spent his best seasons in nearby Magnitogorsk, for a long time he was considered the strongest goalie in the country in shootouts, but he played in the VHL last term. The 35-year-old goalie could have started the next season there as well and even signed a contract with Buran. Proskuryakov never made it to Voronezh, however. With the current shortage of goalies on the market, the KHL clubs need that kind of talent.