From Utica Comets to Avangard
After last year’s fiasco, Avangard is working hard on the market to give Bob Hartley another chance. After trading for Alex Khokhlachyov, signing Sergei Tolchinsky from CSKA and getting Oliwer Kaski — among the other moves — last week, the Hawks announced the signing of the American scorer Reid Boucher.
Boucher, who will turn 27 in September, will be at his first adventure in Europe, after seven seasons as a pro in North America. A three-time AHL All-Star, Boucher also played 133 NHL games with the New Jersey Devils, the Nashville Predators, and the Vancouver Canucks. However, he is most known for his excellence in the AHL, especially with the Canucks’ farm team, the Utica Comets. The Comets — whose president is the former Ak Bars, SKA, and Dinamo Minsk goaltender Robert Esche, had a player who was able to score more than a point per game for three consecutive years, but who couldn’t rank up and become a full-time NHLer. His path remembers a little bit the experience of the former Hawk Sergei Shirokov, who also scored a lot in the AHL, but couldn’t make the jump with the Canucks.
The Hawks clearly signed Boucher with the hope that he will be a first-line player for them. The native of Michigan won the gold medal at the 2011 U18 WJC in Germany — scoring the 3-3 goal with less than two minutes to the horn — and had a stable career in the OHL. However, once he turned pro, he couldn’t wholly fulfill his potential — maybe he will be able to do it with Avangard under Bob Hartley.
From Cleveland Monsters to Barys
Unlike Avangard, Barys sustained severe losses during the market, seeing the departures of Ed Pasquale, Corban Knight, Atte Ohtamaa, and Iiro Pakarinen, with a certain passivity on the new players in. However, things are slowly changing, especially after the Kazakh franchise announced the local specialist Yuri Mikhailis as the team’s new head coach. Yuri, whose son Nikita Mikhailis also lines up for Barys, his working with the team before the establishment of the KHL — he is expected to help by the fact that he knows the environment inside and out. Barys recently announced to have renewed ties with Linus Videll, returned Matt Frattin from Ak Bars, and signed back to the KHL Joni Ortio from Switzerland. Last week, Barys signed the Swedish hard-working forward Jakob Lilja. A concrete player with excellent two-way abilities, Lilja played 37 games in the NHL last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The native of Malmo is a sort of late boomer and one of the few Swedish players with NHL experience without lining up for Tre Kronor at any major tournament. He had a breakthrough 2018-2019 campaign at home with Djurgardens, leading the team with 37 (12+25) points in 52 regular-season games and playing with Vityaz’s newcomer Linus Holmstrom — then he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, Lilja will have a chance to enjoy a more prominent role in a high-level team and develop further. At almost 27, he’s yet to reach his peak.
After missing the playoffs last year, Amur is trying to move on the market to strengthen its lineup. After the previous weeks’ trades with SKA and Metallurg, and Yakupov’s move, the Far East franchise communicated a couple of exciting news to its fans. First, they announced the return of Novosibirsk-native Valentin Pyanov. In Khabarovsk, the 28-years-old forward had a career-high 27 (6+21) points in the 2018-2019 campaign. Then, Amur also secured for a further year the services of Vyacheslav and Vladislav Ushenin. The twins are critical players for the Tigers, and last year both had a breakthrough season compiling 32 and 34 points, respectively.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod is another team that, like Barys, had a slow start on the market. However, things are changing. After signing defenseman Brady Austin, Torpedo secured two young defensemen in Mark Marin and Semyon Ruchkin. A native of Togliatti, Marin spent most of his career in Kazan. The large-framed blueliner spent the whole season in the VHL, logging more than 15 minutes a night. Ruchkin played 14 games with Avangard last year and spent the rest of the season with Dynamo St. Petersburg and Izhstal Izhevsk in the VHL. Dave Nemirovsky will have at his disposal two exciting options on the blue line — Ruchkin and Marin are young and eager to show their worth in the KHL.