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From Avangard to Dinamo Minsk
A high-profile transfer last week was made by Dinamo Minsk. Regardless of a player’s nationality, it’s extremely rare for a player as eminent as Alexei Emelin to land in the Belarusian capital. And given that the famed blueliner was a world champion with the Russian national team and won the Gagarin Cup with Avangard just over a year ago, it’s even stranger that he wasn’t given a contract by one of the Russian clubs. In the recent past, Emelin captained one of the KHL contending teams. He is a truly iron man, capable of crushing opponents and taking shots of any strength on himself.
Except that over the years, Emelin’s health began to decrease, and his speed is no longer the same. After all, the defenseman with extensive experience in the NHL and international games, is already 36 years old. Various media outlets knocked him off to Traktor and assured that Alexei intended to continue his career in Moscow or the Moscow region. Instead, he goes to Minsk to Craig Woodcroft, who as a true Canadian especially appreciates such selfless fighters. And in the first exhibition game, Emelin showed his hidden attacking potential, scoring 3 (2+1) points against Sibir.
From HC Merano (Italy) to Dinamo Minsk
Emelin found himself in the Bisons training camp not alone, but together with another famous Russian. But while the 36-year-old defenseman received a one-year, one-way contract right away, Nikolai Zherdev has been inked to a try-out deal. Despite the fact that we’re talking about a two-time world champion and one of the top talents of the early 2000s, there’s nothing surprising about that.
Inviting Zherdev to a full contract would have been a huge risk. He hasn’t played in the KHL in four years, missing two of his four seasons. And in his last KHL team, Dinamo Riga, Nikolai didn’t shine at all. But that was the old Zherdev, who in his own words did not shy away from regime violations. In the past couple of years, the forward has made it very clear that he’s on the road to correction. In Slovakia and Italy, where he played, the veteran’s numbers were decent, and he was not seen out partying. But the Austrian and Alps leagues are very average championships even by European standards. Zherdev needs to prove that his immense skill set is still good enough for the KHL.
From Chicago Wolves (AHL) to Spartak
Maybe the Calder Cup is not the most prestigious trophy in the eyes of European fans and hockey players. However, winning the main award of the second strongest league in North America can sometimes be very difficult. Vasily Ponomaryov and Pyotr Kochetkov, who started the season with Spartak and Torpedo respectively, became champions in the last AHL championship. Ponomaryov, still under contract with Carolina, stayed overseas. Whereas two of his teammates from the Hurricanes’ farm club joined the Red-and-Whites this offseason. Artyom Serikov returned to Moscow a year later, while for Joey Keane this trip to Europe will be his first experience. The native of Chicago, Illinois, not only won the Calder Cup but was the top-scoring defenseman in the playoffs. As a right-handed blueliner with good offensive skills, Keane has a good chance of taking control of Spartak’s powerplay units.
From San Jose (NHL) to Salavat Yulaev
Salavat Yulaev found its third international player from another continent, just like the previous two. After Canadians Ryan Murphy and Josh Ho-Sang, this an American moved to the capital of Bashkiria. Thanks to his roots, he understands and speaks a little bit of Russian that should facilitate his adaptation. Chmelevsky goes to the KHL at a fairly young age – he is only 23 years old. However, he’s got plenty of experience: the forward managed to play in the junior and senior World Championships, and at the Hlinka Memorial tournament became the top scorer, surpassing even Andrei Svechnikov in terms of performance. Salavat Yulaev got a fast right-handed center with a decent shot, who has already outgrown the AHL, but could not break into the San Jose main roster. Clad in a green uniform, Chmelevsky has every chance of becoming the new idol of the Ufa crowd, who will surely miss Hartikainen and Co.
From Arizona Coyotes to SKA
Not only Salavat Yulaev (Alexander Chmelevsky) and Torpedo (Dennis Yan) got Russian-speaking foreigners this summer. By signing an international player who speaks Russian or has the appropriate roots, a team can at least avoid difficulties in adapting. The SKA won’t need to worry about Dmitrij Jaskin. The Czech forward was born in Omsk, but also spent two seasons in the KHL. And how those seasons went.
While playing for Dynamo, Jaskin twice broke the Grandmaster’s mark of 30 goals a season and was even the league’s best sniper in 2020-2021. His 0+1 in 12 games for Arizona stands in stark contrast to that. But first, a serious injury prevented Jaskin from securing a spot in the NHL on his second attempt, forcing him to sit out the rest of the season. Secondly, he didn’t have Vadim Shipachyov by his side. A forward with good size, shooting and flair for goals is in dire need of a top-notch playmaker. Is there such a player in St. Petersburg?
From Dinamo Minsk to Vityaz
The signing of a new contract with Daniel Audette and his subsequent parting put Vityaz in a difficult situation. The coaches were left without their top-line center, and management was faced with the task of quickly finding a replacement. The Moscow Region team picked his compatriot Tyler Graovac for his role. He already spent a season in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk. He became the third sniper and the fourth scorer of the Belarusian side.
But the main advantage of the Vityaz’s newly acquired forward is that he combines offensive and defensive skills. If Audette is a classic playmaker, then Graovac is more of a typical Canadian center-forward: versatile and physically powerful. The almost two-meter-tall Tyler should add some muscle to Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team.