Moscow (17:00 msk)
In the epic first-round showdown against Magnitka, Curtis Valk emerged as a shining star for Avtomobilist. He proved to be an invaluable asset for the Motormen, often dominating the ice with his skill and impressive performance even if Metallurg rallied back in the series to take it in OT in the seventh game.
In the long series, Valk led the league with an impressive 10 points. In game five, he was an unstoppable force, scoring a goal and two assists with a remarkable plus-4 differential, and securing the game-winning goal to seal the victory for his team.
Throughout the playoffs’ first round, Valk proved to be a force to be reckoned with, recording two game-winning goals, three hits, nine blocked shots, and five takeaways. His unparalleled effort and unmatched skill earned him the coveted title of best forward for the first round of the elimination stage, solidifying his place as one of the league’s top imports, being at his fifth year in the KHL.
Curtis Valk was born on Feb 8, 1993, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and began his hockey career in his hometown, playing major junior hockey for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He joined the WHL during the 2010-11 season and quickly proved himself to be a standout player.
In recognition of his exceptional performance during the 2012-13 season, Valk was named to the prestigious 2013 WHL East First All-Star Team, cementing his status as one of the league’s top players after a 91-point performance, followed by 92 points then next year as a captain for the Tigers. After going undrafted, he was signed by the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate in the AHL, the Utica Comets, where he spent the following three years, alternating stints in the ECHL.
After his adventures with the Comets, Valk was then signed by the Florida Panthers to an NHL contract prior the 2017-2018 season. There, he had his debut with the big boys, but his experience limited to one game as he spent the remainder of the season in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds, producing 62 (20+42) points for the Panthers’ affiliates.
Valk, a restricted free agent with the Panthers, chose to put his North American career on hold and signed a one-year deal with Barys Astana on July 3, 2018. Despite scoring a mere 27 (9+18) points in his first regular season with Barys, he played well in the playoffs and convinced the boards not only to give him a new contract, but also to make him eligible to represent Kazakhstan on the international stage.
The Medicine Hat native had another three years in the Kazakhstani capital, with the most productive season being the last one, the 2021-2022 campaign, where he scored 41 (12+29) points in only 47 games – that production was a career-high for Valk. However, after four years in Kazakhstan, and two participations at the IIHF World Championships, he decided to move on and signed with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. The rest is history. Once again, Valk had a strong playoff, but it wasn’t enough for the Motormen to get past the first round. However, the Medicine Hat native is signed throughout the next season, and things may change.