The all-time top-scorer among all the stars of the KHL’s Foreign Legion, Barys Astana forward Brandon Bochenski, has announced that he has ended his playing career at the age of 35. Khl.ru pays tribute to the pioneering Canadian (now the proud bearer of Kazakh citizenship), and his impressive exploits over several seasons of the KHL.
Bochenski graced the League for seven years and only dressed in the colors of one club – Barys Astana. In that time, he played 399 games, scored 160 goals and amassed 397 points. There were hat-tricks and doubles, prizes for best forward of the week or of the month, two call-ups for the All-Star Game, and his troika with Dustin Boyd and Nigel Dawes terrorized defenses across two continents and was twice recognized as the League’s best offensive line of the season.
He took Kazakh citizenship, and in 2016 gratefully accepted the call of duty for the national team. Only last month he steered them to a bronze medal in the World Championship second division. It was to be the last honor of many in his long and glittering career. The Kontinental Hockey League would like to thank Brandon Bochenski for all he has done for the Championship and the game, and presents below a brief look back on some of the best moments in the KHL career of a truly great player.
Bochenski in the regular season: 40 games, 45 (22+23) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: 4 games, 1 (0+1) point
In this, the third season of the fledgling League and the year of Bochenski’s arrival, Barys was under the guidance of Andrei Khomutov. The Astana men finished the regular season seventh in the Eastern Conference, but made a swift first-round exit from the playoffs with a 0-4 sweep at the hands of reigning champion Ak Bars. Bochenski appeared midway through the season as an unknown quantity, with an admittedly checkered record in the NHL set against a superb 276 points in 256 games in the AHL. He soon proved his worth in his new surroundings, even surpassing the magical point-per-game mark with 45 (22+23) in 40 regular season outings to add to a plus/minus of +19. His haul included no fewer than 5 doubles.
He had certainly proved he was good for the KHL, but why had he decided the KHL was good for him? Brandon gave his answer to the Barys website: “I played for six different NHL teams, and with each move I had to uproot my family once again. We wanted to find somewhere where at last we could live for a long time, and to try something different. The KHL is the second strongest league in the world. I wanted to play against top-class players, and that is why I chose this league. And I can say the KHL is at least as good as I expected, if not better.”
Bochenski in the regular season: 49 games, 59 (27+32) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: 7 games, 5 (0+5) points
This year saw Khomutov depart and Andrei Shayanov take the helm, and the results showed a gradual improvement: sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and while there followed another first-round playoff exit, it was a battling 3-4 loss to Magnitogorsk. Bochenski missed the start of the campaign through injury, but his end-of-season figures were still stunning: He appeared in 49 of a possible 54 games, from which a haul of 27+32 made him the team's top scorer and the League's top sniper.
Among many other impressive stats was a six-point game against Neftekhimik, with Bochenski contributing a double and four assists in a 7-4 victory. No foreign import had ever recorded so many points in a single game, and Brandon himself had never managed the feat before. There was yet more ominous news this season for opposition defensemen throughout the League - Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd arrived, and together with Bochenski they were to form one of the most fearsome offensive lines ever seen.
Bochenski in the regular season: 48 games, 40 (20+20) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: 7 games, 7 (4+3) points
Another season, another boss. The new head coach was Vladimir Krikunov, and the results mirrored the creditable outcome of the previous season, with the Astana men repeating their sixth-place finish and once again being edged out of the playoffs in a seven-game thriller, this time at the hands of Traktor. The name of the top scorer was also familiar: Brandon Bochenski grabbed 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season, and even managed a point-per-game (3+4) in the knockout stage. After the defeat, Krikunov lauded the efforts of his star attacker: “How could I be anything other than pleased with Brandon Bochenski, when he’s the finest forward in the League?”
The coach, in turn, certainly made an impression on Bochenski: “His camp is something else! In the mid-season break, we went off to Dubai – a 30m sprint in the sand, then another with a teammate on your back, and then another with two of them. I was carrying Dustin and Nigel, and that’s a 400-pound load!” – he told sportbox.ru in an interview.
Bochenski in the regular season: 54 games, 58 (28+30 points)
Bochenski in the playoffs: 10 games, 9 (2+7) points
Finnish specialist Ari-Pekka Selin was now Barys boss, and under his stewardship the team reached new heights, ending the regular season on top of the Chernyshev Division and occupying the dizzy heights of second place in the Eastern Conference. The Astana men also broke through the previously insurmountable barrier of the Conference quarter-final, but suffered a semi-final elimination with a 2-4 loss to Salavat Yulaev. Unsurprisingly, the formidable North American threesome were at the forefront of this success, and Bochenski was the man inflicting the most damage.
“When I played in the NHL, it was like a roller-coaster, with many ups and downs, but here in the KHL I have begun to love the game again and I am enjoying life a lot more,” – was how Brandon explained it to Sport-express
This season took him past yet more impressive career milestones. On January 4, against Vityaz, he registered his 100th assist in KHL regular championships, and on January 27, against Avangard, he recorded his 200th point. He finished the campaign with his highest goals total, 28, and he earned his second invitation to the KHL All-Star Game.
Bochenski in the regular season: 60 games, 56 (20+36) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: 1 game, 0 points
In 2014, the team came under the command of Andrei Nazarov, who steered the Astana men to a commendable fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but once again, Barys had a battling, courageous, but early elimination in the post-season, losing in seven games to Avangard in the first knockout round. Bochenski appeared in all 60 regular season games and yet again led the team in scoring, although he saw his goals tally beaten (20 against 32) by friend and partner Nigel Dawes. The impressive 56 points hid a curious statistic – the season included 14 straight games in which Brandon failed to find the net. “I think it is the worst dry spell in my whole career,” – said a bemused Bochenski.
Statistical blips aside, he was deemed good enough to be appointed Barys captain. “I’ve waited a long time for the chance to become captain, and for me it is very interesting to be in this new role. I hope I will justify the faith shown in me by the coaching staff,” – he told the Kazakhstan news site, vesti.kz.
At the end of September, in a match against Lokomotiv, Bochenski struck his 100th goal in KHL regular championships, giving him an overall total of 211 (100+111) points in 201 regular season appearances. At the end of the campaign, for the first time, the attacking troika he formed with Dustin Boyd and Nigel Dawes was honored as the finest in the League.
Bochenski in the regular season: 60 games, 61 (20+41) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: -
This season was the darkest period in the history of Barys in the KHL, with multiple changes to the coaching staff (the head coach role, alone, was filled by Erlan Sagymbaev, then Evgeny Koreshkov, then once again by Andrei Nazarov) and a dire regular season which finished in a first-ever failure to qualify for the knockout stage. Against such a background, Bochenski’s results are even more impressive – the superstar forward appeared in all 60 games and his account read 61 points, including no fewer than 41 assists. In October, against Dinamo Minsk, he reached the 150-assists mark, achieved in only 269 games.
His perma-partners, Boyd and Dawes, were also blameless for the poor team showing, and the trio was again honored as the most prolific attacking line in the League. In April, following the premature end to the season, the three were given the green light by the IIHF to lead the offense for the Kazakhstan national team at the World Championships. Bochenski’s career figures in international hockey would make any forward proud – a total of 12 (5+7) points from 15 games.
Bochenski in the regular season: 57 games, 53 (17+36) points
Bochenski in the playoffs: 2 games, 3 (0+3) points
The IX season of the KHL for Barys was a story of triumph over adversity. By the time head coach Andrei Nazarov was replaced by Eduard Zankovets, the team was trying to dig itself out of the lowest position it had occupied in its KHL history. Things were made tougher by a serious injury to Dustin Boyd, but with commendable dedication and spirit the team recovered and even equaled its best-ever showing by reaching the Conference semi-final.
Brandon Bochenski, as the figures above show, had another great year, although he was finally beaten in the club top-scorer race by his long-standing comrade, Nigel Dawes, who recorded nine more points. Nonetheless, the landmark achievements kept coming. In 2016-17, Bochenski provided his 200th assist and collected his 350th point in KHL regular championships. On November 10, his two points against Slovan meant Bochenski had replaced Patrick Thoresen as the highest-scoring foreign player in KHL history.
While this was yet another impressive season for the team and for Bochenski, he was denied a happy ending. On February 16, in a match against Novokuznetsk, he received a heavy blow to the head. He shrugged off reports that his career was over, and he made enough of a recovery to feature in two playoff games and to lead Kazakhstan at the World Championships, but then he made the tough decision to hang up his skates.
A little earlier in the season, Brandon gave an interview to khl.ru in which he spoke of his respect and affection for his new friends, comrades and surroundings: “You know, when you play in the same team for a long time, with pretty much the same guys, you regard them as brothers - you feel a native in the team and in the country ... We only get one life and choose one route, and even if I could, I would not want to change a single thing. I have no regrets.”