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European Report: The November break reveals the cracks in this hockey season

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It’s hard to believe sometimes, that we made it to the first break in the season for international play — a lot of which has been cancelled.

Kontinental Hockey League: Avangard Omsk vs Jokerit Helsinki Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

The November break is about to begin in Europe. Normally this first co-ordinated break in the regular season schedules allows for things like national team tournaments, junior national team tournaments, the Champions Hockey League and just some rest for the bulk of the players.

This year, the Champions Hockey League has been cancelled, some leagues never even started, some are paused, and some have had more games postponed lately. The Deutschland Cup, which is usually full of second-tier national teams, will be formed from two German teams and Latvia. The Karjala Cup, set for Helsinki, has one junior team (Russia), one half junior team (Czechia) and two men’s teams with no one from the KHL (Sweden and Finland).

A lot of Leafs prospects are set to play in the Karjala Cup, largely due to the oddities of the times. At the same time, Sweden and Finland are playing a set of games with their junior teams to help form the WJC rosters. It’s not really a tournament, more of a two-country camp. Because these events are imminent, some of the usage of players in league play has been unusual.

There’s also a new name on the list today as Semyon Der-Arguchintsev has been loaned to Torpedo in the KHL.

If you find things confusing, all the leagues and acronyms and unusual concepts, check out the Glossary.

Drafted Prospects

Rodion Amirov

LW - 19 years old - shoots left - second pro year with some KHL time

Amirov, who was playing on the top line a few weeks ago, has been getting 5-8 minutes per game on the fourth unit lately. The rest of his team who were all sick or quarantined from COVID-19 at the time of the draft have returned to the lineup.

The fourth unit on KHL teams is a variable size, usually made up of three to four forwards and sometimes a seventh defender. KHL teams are allowed to dress two “designated juniors” and have them not count to roster limits, so that’s often who you see there, playing very few shifts and sitting on the bench a lot.

In Amirov’s case, he’s on the Russian Karjala Cup U20 team, so if he cools his heels on the bench between now and his trip to Finland, that’s no big deal. There is only another short stretch to play before the WJC camp meets in Russia. He may move to the VHL for that time, he might keep on with the seven shifts per game.

In 19 games so far, he has: 3G, 3A, 6Pts. His average TOI/GP has dropped to 14:22. One interesting thing to watch with KHL players is the SOG/GP. It would be much nicer to have this as well as the points rated out per 60 minutes, but you need everyone and not just the prospect you like for it to have context. But in my experience, NHL players or very good KHL prospects have a SOG/GP of near to or more than 2. Amirov, even with his seven-shift games is at 1.6, so that’s good, but not great.

Roni Hirvonen

C - 18 years old - shoots left - second pro year in Liiga

Knocked down to the third line by the arrival of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Hirvonen has also moved to the wing. He’s set to go to the U20 camp in Sweden in a few days, so his team will be totally without him.

He had a goal in his Halloween day game:

And yes, that is Jesse Puljujärvi who looks very bad on this play. He took a lot of criticism for the whole game.

Hirvonen has 2G, 2A and 4Pts in 12 games, which puts him two points behind Andreas Borgman on his team, who is — double checks — still a defenceman.

Peter Tiivola, who you see making Puljo look dumb there, is the star of Ässät so far, and he has 15 points in those 12 games. Nick Merkley, who played mostly in the AHL last year, is also doing very well on the team. Hirvonen hasn’t quite jumped over AHLers and Liiga lifers yet. He still has a terrible Corsi, and his line is getting hemmed in too much, but there’s nothing like a few trips back to junior hockey to calm a young player’s mind and remind them that they’re very good.

Topi Niemelä

D - 18 years old - shoots right - Liiga for one year, back in U20 for a time

Playing against Hirvonen on October 31, was Niemelä in his third Liiga game after starting in junior. He set up a goal:

Whoever drafts Aatu Räty next year is one lucky team, I think.

That is Niemelä’s only point in his three games so far. He is also travelling to Sweden with team Finland for junior action.

Mikko Kokkonen

D - 19 years old - shoots left - fourth year pro, third in Liiga

Kokkonen, who turns 20 right after the WJC, seems like an old man compared to his younger countrymen. He just plays his game, usually on the second pair, and lately with Axel Rindell most of the time. He’s snakebit for points, going 10 games with some zeros to show for it. But Jukurit is actually pretty terrible so far this season with two wins to show for their efforts. They’ve only scored 18 goals as a team, which works out to yikes/game.

Kokkonen is the third Leafs prospect on the Finnish team going to Sweden, and he’s a lock for the WJC.

Filip Hållander

W/C - 20 years old - shoots left - fourth pro year, third in SHL

Luleå had some men’s team games cancelled because of a COVID-19 outbreak, so Hållander last played on October 24. The SHL resumes on November 10.

In 9GP, he has: 1G, 4A, 5Pts. But he leads his team in Corsi with 57%. Ah, to be a scoring winger on the top line, life is just so simple then. As long as you score.

Artur Akhtyamov

G - 18 years old - catches left - first pro year in KHL/VHL, will play some MHL

There is nothing more fun about the Leafs new goalie prospect than the fact Tampa drafted his teammate and rival. I am fully invested in our guy beating out their guy.

Our guy has three appearances so far in the KHL and a SV% of .904. Their guy (Amir Miftakhov) has seven and a SV% of .917.

Ak Bars, their team, is leading the East Conference decently comfortably, which might be why the kids are getting so many starts, but they did send Akhtyamov back to the VHL for three starts since his last KHL game. His SV% there is now .940 in six appearances.

Akhtyamov will be going to the Karjala Cup with Russia’s team, and that seems to indicate he will be the number three goalie at the WJC. Miftakhov, by the way, is a year older, and no longer eligible.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov

F - 18 years old - shoots L - MHL, with some KHL appearances

Ovchinnikov has been spending most of his time in the MHL lately and has: 6G, 6A, 12Pts in 10 games played.

Axel Rindell

D - 20 years old - shoots R - second year pro in Liiga

Playing regularly now with Mikko Kokkonen (just in time for Kokkonen to leave) Rindell is doing better on the team that never scores. He’s second in points behind their only really effective forward, Vitali Abramov, with 1G, 4A and 5Pts in 10 games played. Yes, five points has him second on the team in scoring.

Another reality check about the Liiga this year: Abramov, who played almost entirely in the AHL last year, is way too good for this league.

Semyon Kizimov

RW - 20 years old - shoots left - first year in the KHL after two in VHL, now back on a VHL contract

Kizimov signed a KHL deal in the offseason and lasted four pointless games before his KHL deal was dissolved, and he signed back with VHL team Lada. He has two assists in three games there.

Kalle Loponen

D - 19 years old - shoots right - first full pro year in Liiga after one OHL season

Sitting behind Topi Niemelä on the Kärpät defence depth chart, Loponen is still in junior. In 16 GP in U20, he has: 3G, 7A, 10Pts.

Eemeli Räsänen

D - 21 years old - shoots right - first year in Liiga after two in KHL

Coming off some undisclosed minor injury or ailment, Räsänen has five games for HPK in the Liiga so far with no points. HPK is almost as bad as Jukurit so far, although they score a few more goals.

Pontus Holmberg

W/C - 21 years old - shoots left - third SHL season

Pontus Holmberg, scoring machine, keeps on rolling:

The best part of this scoring glut is that Holmberg used to be a Corsi darling on the bottom six, ably handling a lot of defensive usage. Now he’s way, way down the team list in Corsi with a mere 53%, but his line actually gets goals now. The top line on Växjö have Corsi over 60. Ah, to be the scoring winger, etc. etc.

In 12 games played, he has: 5G, 2A and 7Pts. And yes, a shooting percentage of 31%. This is totally sustainable.

Vladislav Kara

Winger/C - 22 years old - shoots left - fourth pro season, first full KHL season

Slava Kara scored a goal on Sunday!

But wait, there’s more. It was against Jokerit in a 5-2 David over Goliath win that, well, wait until you get to the Mikko Lehtonen section for the whole story.

Kara has 1G, 2A in 16 games played with an average TOI of 13:13. He seems to have solidified his place on Severstal as a fourth liner.

Yegor Korshkov

RW/LW - 24 years old - shoots left - sixth year in pro hockey KHL/AHL

After a rough start due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Lokomotiv is having a good season with some forward lines that click.

In 20 games played, Korshkov has: 6G, 8A, 14Pts and averages 15:49 per game. He is shooting at a rate of 2.4 SOG/game, higher than he ever has in the KHL before. He’s only two away from his career season high in goals scored as well on a high-ish but not absurd shooting percentage of 12.5. Everything is going well for him. I have never been able to say that about him in a Euro Report.

Signed to NHL Contract and Loaned to European Team

Filip Král

D - 20 years old - shoots left - first pro season after three in WHL, loaned to Prerov, Czech2

Král is sitting at the same seven games played as last time. The senior level Czech men’s league is on pause due to Coronavirus outbreaks, so I assume the second level league is as well.

Mikko Lehtonen

D - 26 years old - shoots left - second year in KHL

Jokerit went on a road trip to Russia in late October and came back with 12 team members positive for COVID-19. Under Finnish rules, they have to quarantine and can’t play, so the home games were postponed, and the KHL magnanimously agreed to postpone one of their scheduled road games, but as soon as they could cobble together a roster, back to it they went. The only other choice is to forfeit games.

They sent a roster of 10 forwards, 7 defenders and two goalies to play Severstal on Sunday and Mikko Lehtonen was not one of them. They got spanked 5-2, by a team that had a full roster, and is doing fairly well in this very odd KHL season.

Jokerit have only played 17 games so far, seven behind the teams that haven’t missed any, and that is going to be very difficult to make up, particularly with 12 infected players back home in Finland waiting to recover.

It’s extremely hard not to see this KHL season as a massive mistake, and to laud the Czechs for just pulling the plug temporarily or the Germans for never starting.

Denis Malgin

F - 23 years old - 5 years in NHL, loaned to Lausanne of NL

The Swiss league has been undergoing rapid chaotic changes leading up to the recent announcement by the national government that gatherings over 50 would be prohibited through November. The leagues had been playing with limited capacity crowds that were allowing for enough ticket revenue to keep things going.

The league has said they will carry on until December 1, with some of that time dark anyway for the November break, but will then have to decide if they can afford to keep going. With several European countries ordering lockdowns for the month of November, that situation could rapidly change.

Several NL teams have missed games due to outbreaks on their own team or the opponent’s, so the schedule is already in flux.

Malgin has now played seven games, and has 4G, 1A.

Kristians Rubins

D - 22 years old - shoots left - 2 years in AHL, loaned to Frederikshavn, Denmark

One more time, I will brave the Metal Ligaen’s website. He has 2G, 1A, 3 Pts in 9GP at 17 min per game.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev

C - 20 years old - shoots right - first pro year after 4 in OHL, loaned to Torpedo, KHL

Loaned to Torpedo last week, Der-Arguchintsev didn’t quite take Semyon Kizimov’s job, but, okay, he more or less did. Kizimov had already been loaned to Lada, but the arrival of a better Semyon was the end of his KHL career with Torpedo.

Der-Arguchintsev played the fourth line for less than 8 minutes in his first game, and scored this goal:

In his next game he played 13 minutes and had two SOG. He’s a fighter, and he will fight his way up that lineup as far as he can make it.

Mac Hollowell

D - 22 years old - shoots right - first experience in Europe after one pro year in the AHL/ECHL

Loaned to a Mestis team in Finland, he hasn’t played yet.

Joe Thornton

Like Dennis Malgin, Thornton’s playing time is at the whim of fate, game postponements and Swiss government decisions. At least one of his games has been postponed because of an outbreak on the other team.

In three games, he has: 1G, 3A, 4Pts.


Barring anything really exciting happening, that’s the last Euro report until late November when everyone has more games in, and the December break will be loomin.