Welcome to the new KHL Report!
Seemingly against all odds, the 2020-21 KHL season is due to start on September 2nd. The 23 teams will play 60 games each, with the regular season running until February 27th. Playoffs will then commence on March 2nd and are scheduled to finish by April 30th.
In this article, we will look at some of the most intriguing NHL prospects playing in the KHL this season. The delayed start to the North American leagues has seen NHL teams loan some of their European prospects to KHL teams for the 2020-21 season, resulting in a slightly larger NHL prospect pool than normal. In no particular order, here are some of the players to watch this season.
Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (Vancouver Canucks)
Podkolzin is arguably the most interesting prospect in the KHL this year. The 19-year-old right winger will be hoping to play a key role for SKA this season, after only averaging 8:49 time on ice per game last year and spending some time in the VHL. He undoubtedly has the tools to succeed at the KHL level, combining good size (6-1, 192lbs) with a willingness to drive the net and play in the dirty areas. He is also a highly skilled forward who can create offense out of nothing. I will be keen to see how he produces with more regular ice time and another year of physical development.
Kirill Marchenko, LW, SKA St. Petersburg (Columbus Blue Jackets)
This could be the year that Marchenko, a 2nd round pick in 2018, announces his arrival as the top NHL prospect playing in Russia. He has all the attributes to be a dominant player at this level – 6-foot-3 and 187lbs, with elite skill and good speed to match. Like his teammate Podkolzin, he split last season between the KHL and VHL but expect him to spend the whole year in the KHL this time around. Marchenko and Podkolzin have been line mates in pre-season so far so SKA should be a fun team to watch this year.
Ivan Morozov, C, SKA St. Petersburg (Vegas Golden Knights)
Morozov is a two-way center who is versatile and well-rounded. He put up five goals and seven points in 16 games with SKA last season, showing that there is some offense to his game as well. An argument could be made that his offensive ability is underrated so it will be interesting to see if he can produce on a consistent basis this season. Whilst he is not the fastest player on the ice, he competes hard and has decent size (6-1, 196lbs) and should be a regular for SKA this season.
Pavel Dorofeyev, LW/RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (Vegas Golden Knights)
Dorofeyev is an exciting offensive player who has displayed high-end puck skills and creativity. He moves to Traktor after two pro seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Last season he only averaged 9:29 minutes of ice time per game, so he will be hoping the move to Traktor will lead to a more prominent role. The biggest knock on Dorofeyev is that he tends to play on the perimeter too often, especially considering he’s not the smallest player (6-1, 174lbs). If Head Coach Anvar Gatiyatulin can get him to put it all together, Dorofeyev could easily become the next big NHL star coming out of Russia.
Artur Kayumov, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Chicago Blackhawks)
After a strong 2019-20 season, Kayumov will be hoping to keep the momentum going as he looks to become one of the leading pure goal scorers in the league. Last season, he put up 16 goals and 25 points in 60 games, which is a decent total for a 22-year-old. He also averaged over 15 minutes of ice time per game which shows he is already a key member of the Yaroslavl team. He’ll still have to round out his game before he could ever be considered more than a depth option at the NHL level, and it’ll be interesting to follow his progression this season.
Nikolai Kovalenko, RW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Colorado Avalanche)
Kovalenko was another Yaroslavl player who had an excellent 2019-20. Averaging 14:38 minutes of ice time, he put up 10 goals and 21 points in 54 games, really announcing himself as one of the premier under-21 prospects in the KHL. Although he is not the biggest player (5-10, 185lbs), he is a responsible 200-foot player who is willing to play on the inside as well as the perimeter. Another strong season could really put him on the Avalanche’s radar.
Ilya Konovalov, G, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Edmonton Oilers)
The 2020-21 season presents an opportunity for redemption for Konovalov. Last season, he posted a save percentage of 91.2%, leaving him 38th out of 50 goalies who had played at least 10 games. Statistically, this was his worst year since turning pro in 2017-18. Konovalov is an athletic goalie who plays quite a compact game. His biggest issue in terms of NHL projection is his size. He is 5-foot-11 in an era where NHL goalies tend to be much bigger. However, if he can get back to the same level of play that he showed in 2018-19 then he still has a chance of making it.
Dmitry Voronkov, C, Ak Bars Kazan (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Voronkov played the whole of last season in the KHL as a 19-year-old with decent results (five goals and 12 points in 34 games). At 6-foot-4 and 190lbs, he is a big body who is reliable but is yet to show he has the offense to take him to the next level. His performance at the World Juniors was impressive though, so there is still hope that he can be a difference maker in the KHL.
Alexander Khovanov, C, Ak Bars Kazan (Minnesota Wild)
Khovanov is the first player on this list who will be making his debut in the KHL this season, as a result of his loan deal from the Wild. He is an exciting offensive player who put up 32 goals and 99 points in 51 games in the QMJHL last season with the Moncton Wildcats. Khovanov can score from anywhere on the ice, thanks to his elite shot. It will be interesting to watch how quickly he adjusts to the pro game and how effective he can be offensively against men. Ak Bars are a deep team as well so he may also struggle to get much ice time.
Vladislav Kolyachonok, LHD, Dinamo Minsk (Florida Panthers)
Another beneficiary of an NHL loan, Kolyachonok will be making his pro debut for his hometown Dinamo Minsk. The 6-1, 190lbs defenseman has all the tools to succeed at the pro level and will hopefully get a chance to show this in the KHL this season. He is a fantastic skater who can close quickly on attackers, preventing clean zone entries. He may not be the most creative passer but he makes good reads and is also keen to jump into the rush when the opportunity arises.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @a_coulterhockey for updates throughout the season.