The KHL regular season ended on Saturday with almost the entire league in action, and their playoffs begin on Tuesday.
If you find things confusing, all the leagues and acronyms and unusual concepts, check out the Glossary.
LW - 19 years old - shoots left - second pro year primarily in the KHL
Salavat Yulaev played Lokomotiv in their last game, both fourth in their conference going in, and while this was lovely:
Rodion Amirov is still scoring! The Leafs first round pick gets it in the net to put his Salavat team up 1-0 against Lokomotiv. pic.twitter.com/XHwIrvsGzX— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) February 27, 2021
Lokomotiv took the game 4-1, neatly illustrating the power gap in the West vs East. Because division leaders get the one and two spot in each conference, both teams ended up finishing fourth anyway.
Amirov’s team faces the fifth place East team, Traktor in the first round of the playoffs, a matchup that should go to Salavat Yulaev.
Amirov finishes his first almost full KHL season with nine goals and four assists in 39 games played. He averaged nearly 14 minutes per game, but saw that ice time fade a little as the team pushed down the stretch drive for a better playoff position. Usually on the second or third line, Amirov had to give way to the top line, one of the best in the KHL.
I’m stealing this in answer to a question about how those points stack up.
Bear in mind that a teenager is unlikely to play top PP unit unless he's a superstar. And Amirov plays 3rd line minutes. Points come from usage as much as from the player.— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) February 27, 2021
Playoffs await, and he will likely be a regular roster player, but may stay as a bottom-six player for this year. But to emphasize here, this was a very successful season for him, that showed growth but also exposed the areas of his game that need work.
Amirov is about to turn 20 this year in October, and he’s got a contract decision to make, and there is also the possibility he’ll get some national team attention again. He’s got playoffs to focus on, but then the decisions have to be made. KHL contracts expire on May 1, so until then, he’s 100% focused on his team.
C - 19 years old - shoots left - second pro year in Liiga
Hirvonen just turned 19 last month, and has just under 20 more games to play in the Liiga regular season. He’s had a decently productive month since we last looked in on him, and has six goals and 10 assists in 37 games played.
He plays as the second-line centre most of the time, and is sixth on his team in points, but he still has some of the worst on-ice Corsi of any regular roster player. There’s a lot of development yet to come for him to have a complete game.
Ässät is a fairly low-scoring team, struggling to hold a playoff spot with very poor goals against. Their top Corsi players all went to the NHL in December and they lost a lot of scoring as well. The team now is not what it was with Nick Merkley and Jesperi Kotkaniemi on the top lines. That’s an opportunity for Hirvonen to get more ice time, but the going is a lot tougher.
D - 18 years old - shoots right - second year primarily in the Liiga
Niemelä was hurt in a game in mid-February and is expected to be out for 6-8 weeks, which would wipe out the rest of his season if the 8 weeks holds true. Because of a more minor injury after the WJC, he’s played only 15 Liiga games this year, good for four assists. And he also started with six U20 games while Kärpät sorted out their stuffed defensive corps. He has great Corsi, has played a significant role when he’s on the team, and the hope has to be that he makes it back for the playoffs.
D - 20 years old - shoots left - fourth year pro, third in Liiga
Kokkonen, who turned 20 recently, has seven assists in 35 games for Jukurit (he had seven in 39 last season with three goals) so he is just rolling along, playing the PK like he was born to it and holding down that top-pairing job.
Jukurit are a very poor team, and are unlikely to make the playoffs. His Liiga contract is ending this offseason, and he and the Leafs have decisions to make.
W/C - 20 years old - shoots left - fourth pro year, third in SHL
Hållander has had a good February and was recognized by Sweden with his first ever appearance on the men’s national team at the Euro Hockey Tour in the middle of the month. He scored one goal there in the three games.
In 44 SHL games, he now has 11 goals and 10 assists, after spending a lot of the early part of the season snakebit in the offensive zone. His line has amazing Corsi for Luleå, so amazing, you need to figure they don’t get a lot of defensive deployment as the top line. He’s moved up to eighth on his team in points, and we can get a much more realistic view of what he’s capable of now that his shooting % is just meh, and not horribly bad.
He has seven more games to play which takes him to March 25, and then playoffs will begin. Luleå are currently in fourth place and will have a hard time getting much higher. Although three points for a win helps that along.
Already under NHL contract (signed by the Penguins), there is every reason to expect Hållander to feature in training camp this fall, and/or on the Marlies this spring, if timing/quarantine allow.
G - 19 years old - catches left - first pro year in KHL/VHL, will play some MHL
Akhtyamov also went to the Euro Hockey Tour in February, where he repeated his WJC performance of sitting and watching someone else take all the starts. He’s getting good at this.
In his other life, he’s played some MHL lately with one KHL start in January. His MHL statline is a lovely .935 save% and his VHL numbers, where he has played the most, are also good with a .927 in 14 games.
The VHL has already begun their playoffs, and Bars Kazan, his team there, finished in the middle of the standings. They’re playing Dynamo Saint Petersburg in the first round and are getting beat 3-1 in games so far, and Akhtyamov has not been the solution for a team being outplayed.
F - 18 years old - shoots L - MHL, with some KHL appearances
Ovchinnikov spent the month of February getting some experience in the KHL. He played a few minutes in most games, and finished the season with one assist in 16 contests playing an average of six minutes a game.
I think that’s good for his development, but it sure was fun watching him pour on the goals in the MHL. He can go back there, and his team has three more games, but unfortunately, for all the goals their top three players scored, they’re really bad, and won’t make the playoffs.
It seems like Ovchinnikov is about to see the end of this strange hockey season. He is currently 12th in MHL points with 19 fewer games played than the leader, so when his season is fully over, I’ll have a look at his points per 60 minutes like I did once before.
So far he has 20 goals and 30 assists in 37 games, which is just amazing, no matter what the context. He’s clearly ready for a tougher challenge next year.
D - 20 years old - shoots R - second year pro in Liiga
Rindell hasn’t played since February 6 in the Liiga, but did join Finland for the Euro Hockey Tour and played two games there. I can’t find anything on an injury, but he hasn’t played since, although Finland may require a quarantine for returning players. He has six goals and 16 assists in 33 games playing the power play and first or second pair.
Like his teammate Kokkonen, his season is over when the regular Liiga season ends. He’s also re-signed with Jukurit recently as well, but that would not prevent him from being given a tour of the Marlies, but quarantine and the timing involved make that a little less productive an enterprise than in a normal year.
W/C - 21 years old - shoots left - third SHL season
Holmberg has 17 points, only seven of them goals in 38 SHL games. That’s his identical boxcars to last year, only the games played was 52, so needless to say, he’s been more valuable offensively this season.
He played for Sweden in the February Euro Hockey Tour, notching a goal and two assists in the three games. He’s played once in the SHL since then, so a nagging injury is likely keeping him out. His team is well situated to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and they should go deep.
RW - 21 years old - shoots left - third year in VHL
Now 21, and a full time VHL player, that’s likely where Kizimov will top out. He could still move up to a KHL team, but if it’s not working for him now, a few years from now is likely going to see him on a fourth line at best. He has 14 points in 35 games for Lada who did not make the playoffs, so he’s done for the year.
D - 19 years old - shoots right - in Finnish U20 after one OHL season
Loponen has played the entire year in junior, with 32 points (11 goals) in 33 games. He’s too good for junior, but that’s where he is, and there’s nothing to learn about him until he plays in a harder league.
D - 21 years old - shoots right - first year in Liiga after two in KHL
With 23 games played for HPK, Räsänen has zero points in 12 minutes per game. Whatever he had in the OHL, it’s all gone now.
Winger/C - 22 years old - shoots left - fourth pro season, first full KHL season
Kara was traded to Spartak Moscow, got in five games there and has returned to the VHL for Khimik. He’s pointless in two playoff games and has a total of three goals and five assists over 41 games played on four teams. Not a great season for him.
Signed to NHL Contract and Loaned to European Team
RW/LW - 24 years old - shoots left - sixth year in pro hockey KHL/AHL
Drafted in 2016, instead of Debrincat, though, Yegor Korshkov is heading to the KHL playoffs after his best hockey season of his life. He has 17 goals and 17 assists in 59 games, most of them spent as a Leafs prospect. But no more.
Traded to Carolina in the deal that brought Alex Galchenyuk to Maple Leafs practices, he’s gone to a team where the fans don’t seem to follow the prospects. The trade rated one line on the Canes Country site, and most of the line was spent talking about David Warsofsky.
Goodbye Yegor, and good luck on the Canes next training camp. Maybe they’ll suddenly notice you when they’re shocked such a tall guy can play hockey.
D - 21 years old - shoots left - first pro season after three in WHL, loaned to Kometa Brno, Czech
Král is up to 18 points in 44 games in the Czech league. A big success for his first pro year.
F - 24 years old - 5 years in NHL, loaned to Lausanne of NL
Malgin has 27 points, 12 of them goals in 29 games in the Swiss league. He’s 15th in points per game for players with over 15 games played, which makes him Mark Arcobello/Daniel Winnik/Charles Hudon class. He fits in totally with NHL/AHL tweeners. I think he’s got enough offensive talent he could find another NHL job. Hard to imagine that’s on the Leafs, where like Nic Petan, he can’t ever climb above 13th forward when three guys are hurt.
C - 20 years old - shoots right - first pro year after 4 in OHL, loaned to Torpedo, KHL
SDA has six points in 16 games for Torpedo. He has lately been their second-line centre. They just squeaked into the playoffs and are likely going to get trounced by Ak Bars, although you never know. If that does happen, we should expect him to return to the Marlies after a quarantine period.
No one, including Torpedo, given the way they started him off, expected him to play that big a role in the KHL. It will be very interesting to see him back in Toronto, to start to get a feel for where he fits in.