With North American hockey fans waiting impatiently for the return of NHL play, many have an eye on the Kontinental Hockey League. In the middle of their second regular season week, its 27 teams across Belarus, China, Finland, Khazakstan, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia feature widespread NHL prospects, former players, and potential future players.
Among current noteworthy prospects are recent Predator first round selection Eeli Tolvanen who, as mentioned previously, started his KHL career by becoming the youngest in the league to nail a hat trick. The scoring pace has slowed but he remains a top scorer with three goals and three assists in four Jokerit Helsinki contests and, as this is written, is tied with Ilya Kovalchuk for tops in shots on goal with 22.
Two familiar names connected for CSKA Moscow’s first points of the campaign as Minnesota Wild top prospect Kirill Kaprizov (tied for team lead in scoring with four points) dished to former Sabres’ first round selection Mikhail Grigorenko (two goals and one assist in three games) who fired one from the left faceoff circle into the net.
It wasn’t enough though as Islanders’ prospect Ilya Sorokin gave up four goals in dropping the opener 4-2 to Western Conference-leading SKA St. Petersburg featuring Kovalchuk, Slava Voynov and Pavel Datsyuk. The 22-year-old, 2014 third round NYI selection, considered one of the world’s best goalie prospects, has performed well in subsequent games evening out his record to 1-1-1 with a 1.92 goals-against and .905 SV%.
Kaprizov also landed his first goal of the year along with the shootout winner against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, beating them 2-1 in their next contest. Ex-Canadien and Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov got the assist. CSKA Moscow also features Dallas Star prospect Valeri Nichushkin, recent Maple Leaf Alexey Marchenko and a host of others with NHL connections.
NY Rangers’ highly-ranked prospect netkeep Igor Shestyorkin has also done well for SKA St. Pete. While he did not play in the opener, in their two games since he shut out Tolvanen’s Jokerit squad 2-0 and, after a 4-3 shootout victory over Vityaz Podolsk (including long-time Buffalo Sabre Maxim Afinogenov and former New Jersey defenseman Vojtech Mozik) boasts a .947 SV% and 1.45 goals against.
Other vets of interest include Andrei Markov who is off to a strong start distributing five assists in three Ak Bars Kazan contests, leading the team and tied for second among all KHL defensemen in scoring. Ex-Vancouver Canuck Nikita Tryamkin in his return to Avotomoblist Yekaterinberg continues to ply his bruising trade with the Russian squad, but has yet to register a point. Listed at 6-07, 265-pounds he’s been given a big A on his sweater this year.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date on league goings-on, check out the KHL website which offers English, Russian and Chinese translations.
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