The Sochi Hockey Open went to the host club for the first time in its history – while SKA finished last under new head coach Alexei Kudashov. HC Sochi won all four of its games to top the table in the first big summer hockey tournament in Russia, with Ilya Krikunov celebrating his return to the Black Sea with two goals in the clinching 3-1 victory over Avangard. The Omsk team handed a debut to defenseman Slava Voynov, who played his first meaningful hockey since the end of the 2017/18 season. SKA, undergoing a major rebuild, suffered a disappointing tournament and ended in last place after defeat to Avangard on the last day of action. Dinamo Riga edged Russia ‘B’ to take second spot.
There was another impressive host team in Kazakhstan, where Barys defeated all comers at the President’s Cup. Andrei Skabelka’s men shrugged off the absence of legendary defenseman Kevin Dallman, who announced his retirement during the summer, to put on a strong show as its fans got a first glimpse of this season’s roster. Avtomobilist, expected to be one of the Eastern Conference front runners again this season, took second place ahead of traditional leaders Ak Bars and Salavat Yulaev. Neftekhimik suffered a tough time, finishing rock bottom with no wins and a -11 goal differential.
The Governor’s Cup in Nizhny Novgorod saw a first outing for Khumo Tashkent, the VHL’s new competitor from Uzbekistan. The Central Asian country has invested heavily in an impressive new arena in its capital city and, on this evidence, has built a solid team to play there. Khumo sprang a surprise in the group stage when it blanked tournament host Torpedo 3-0. It went on to take third place with a convincing 5-1 success against Dinamo Minsk. But the trophy went to Dynamo Moscow. Vladimir Krikunov’s team was undefeated in the competition and took the prize after a 2-1 win over Torpedo in the final.
Two KHL clubs took part in tournaments away from home, and both had good results. Oleg Znarok’s Spartak won the Mountfield Cup in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, thanks to wins over the host club, Dynamo Pardubice, and former KHL team Slovan Bratislava. Sibir won all three games in its tournament in Hameenlinna, Finland, defeating host club HPK, Lahti Pelicans and Frankfurt Lions. In China, meanwhile, an experimental Kunlun Red Star roster reached the final of its home Renaissance Cup tournament but lost to Arizona State University with a team comprising youngsters hoping to stake a case for a role in the Chinese national program.
The Belarusian rebuild picked up pace with the confirmation that Marc-Andre Gragnani was returning to Dinamo Minsk, where he will be joined by Drew Shore. The pair both played for Kunlun Red Star last season and both produced creditable numbers despite the problems faced by the Beijing-based team. Gragnani, meanwhile, was a real star during his previous spell with Dinamo and will be hoping to recapture his best KHL form under the guidance of Craig Woodcroft. Their arrival prompted Quinton Howden’s move to Torpedo which, in turn, saw Andrew Calof swap Nizhny Novgorod for Chelyabinsk.
The start time for the Opening Cup, the KHL’s flagship season opener, has been confirmed. Defending champion CSKA will take on defeated Gagarin Cup finalist Avangard on Sep. 1 at 1530 Moscow time (1430 CET, 0830 ET). Game times for all of September’s action can now be found here.
Russia’s U18s won the prestigious Hlinka Gretzky Cup thanks to a 3-2 success against Canada in the final in Breclav. Alexander Pashnin, 17, scored twice in the final to add to his hat-trick in the semis. The Salavat Yulaev prospect, who made his Youth Hockey League debut for Tolpar last season, finish with seven goals in five games. Goalie Yaroslav Askarov, part of the SKA system, also earned plaudits for his role in the success. Russia last won the summer showcase way back in 1995. The annual event is often regarded as a key test for draft-eligible youngsters at the start of the season.
The Chelyabinsk Governor’s Cup continues with Traktor and Metallurg going head-to-head for the trophy on Tuesday. Elsewhere, Amur and Admiral take part in another tournament in Hradec Kralove while CSKA and Barys continue their preparations at competitions in Switzerland. The Ruslan Salei Cup gets underway in Belarus at the weekend.