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European Report: The Russian season is half over, what can we learn?

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The non-injured players all saw some action this week.

Yegor Korshkov

Lokomotiv toured the East Conference this week and Yegor Korshkov picked up three assists in the three wins. And while that’s good and he’s put his slow start to the season behind him, that’s the equivalent of getting three points for the Leafs as they hit Arizona, Colorado and Vegas.

A deeper look at Korshkov’s points this year over last is a little less encouraging. Last year he played 36 games in total due to his leg injury. This year he’s played 36 games. Let’s compare:

2016-2017

  • Goals: 6
  • Assists: 13
  • Points: 19
  • PIM: 24
  • SOG: 67
  • SH%: 9
  • TOI/GP: 13 minutes
  • Shifts/GP: 17.7
  • Faceoff wins: 6 out of 21

2017-2018

  • Goals: 7
  • Assists: 9
  • Points: 16
  • PIM: 45
  • SOG: 69
  • SH%: 10
  • TOI/GP: 13:30 minutes
  • Shifts/GP: 21.2
  • Faceoff wins: 14 out of 26

So what we have is shorter shifts this year, which is a team structural change — I checked the other two top lines and the pattern is the same. But although, Korshkov is playing more shifts and is nominally higher in the lineup, he’s playing the same minutes per game. His points are similar, his shots are nearly identical and the only significant change is nearly double the penalty minutes this year.

He seems, in both league games and national team competition, to be trying to add an edge to his game. He’s got some former NHLers as teammates, some of them scrappy guys like Max Talbot, and maybe this will help him in the long term. In the short term, he’s sitting in the box a lot.

That blip aside, there is no indication yet that Korshkov has made any improvement at all as a player. Without usage data or shot results, we’re left in the dark a little, but the only real sign of a change is that he is outscoring his linemates. Last year they were a trio as they have been for years, but this year, both Alexander Polunin and Pavel Kraskovsky are shooting about like they always have as well but with severely depressed shooting percentages, accounting for Korshkov’s lower assist totals. The line as a whole has stagnated. They are all 20 and 21 years old, so they shouldn’t be in a rut, but at the moment, they look like they are.

Not every hockey player improves on a nice smooth curve, but sometimes you hit your ceiling long before you want to. It’s not clear yet about any of the Leafs prospects if that is what has happened, but it’s starting to look that way for many.

Jesper Lindgren

Jesper Lindgren played three games this week, two losses and a win, and his team is now drifting down the standings dangerously close to relegation territory. Lindgren has three points in 25 games and the second-worst Corsi percentage on the team. He’s playing now about the same as he was on opening day, just in fewer minutes per game.

HPK gets a trip to Switzerland this Christmas as the Finnish entrant in the Spengler Cup, so they have that to look forward to.

Nikolai Chebykin

Nikolai Chebykin played two games, a win and a loss, for his VHL team. He was third line in one game and fourth in the other and kept off the scoresheet. He has four points still in ten games for Dynamo St. Petersburg and has 13 total games on the season in the VHL.

Vladimir Bobylyov

Vladimir Bobylyov played two games in the VHL, both losses, and he remained pointless. He’s playing around 20 shifts per game, which is not bad, but his minutes aren’t high. He now has eight scoreless games in total on the season.

Carl Grundström

Still on injury recovery.

Pierre Engvall

Still on injury recovery.

Vladislav Kara

The KHL career of Vladislav Kara continued this week with three games for Ak Bars, where they won two, and lost a close one. With the season more than half over, they are cruising to the playoffs, tops in their conference.

Kara dressed for all three games, played one long shift in one, one short shift in another, and never hit the ice in the third.


Persons of Interest

Igor Ozhiganov: He notched another assist this week, bringing his points total to 4.

Vladimir Tkachyov: He was last year’s person of interest, and he chose a two-year deal with Ak Bars over the NHL. But I noticed this week that he’s improved on his results from last year, mostly via some goal scoring. He’s got a nice high shooting percentage providing some of that boost, but he’s also shooting more, and has secured the 1C spot on his team without question. He was voted by the fans to represent Ak Bars at the All-Star game along with Andrei Markov, and he’s likely going to the Olympics. And I just can’t help but wonder if he does all of that and gets to the cup final if he might reconsider that second year on his contract. Maybe it will depend on who wins the cup.