Dynamo Minsk and Traktor Chelyabinsk will kick off the 2013-14 Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) season Wednesday and the league should be excited after witnessing a fantastic offseason in which it saw great developments. This article contains everything you need to know for the upcoming KHL season; a look at the major offseason headlines, predictions, player analysis, and things to look forward to.
Ilya Kovalchuk Signs With SKA St. Petersberg
After quitting the NHL at the age of 30, Kovalchuk decided to take his talents to the KHL. He signed a 4-year contract with SKA St. Petersberg less than a week after retiring. The former NHL superstar is now the new face of KHL hockey. Will he be the Sidney Crosby of the NHL? Or will he not like the experience? Time will tell, but either way, KHL fans are happy he’s here.
Two Teams Join the KHL
Admiral Vladivostok and KHL Medvescak Zagreb are the newest teams in the league and will begin play in the KHL this upcoming season. Vladivostok is an expansion team from the Russian Far East and will make it interesting for visiting teams. KHL Medvescak Zagreb is greatest hockey team in Croatia that used to play in the Austrian Hockey League. It will join the KHL this upcoming season.
Influx of NHL Free Agents Sign Oversees
With the NHL salary cap going down this upcoming season, it has been hard for NHL free agents to sign with a team for their preferred price. Many general managers are opting to go with cheap younger players in order to keep under the salary cap. However, these free agents have not run out of options. Many of them have signed with European clubs, especially in the KHL, at good prices. Many big names including Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky, Roman Cervenka, Tomas Kaberle, Leo Komarov, and Michael Leighton will play in the KHL this season.
- SKA St. Petersberg- They won the Continental Cup (regular season champions) last season, and now they got Ilya Kovalchuk. His supporting cast includes the likes of Kevin Dallman, Alex Ponikarovsky, Evgeny Artyukhin, Patrick Thoresen, Viktor Tikhonen, and captain Dmitry Kalinin.
- CSKA Moscow- After a massive offseason that saw the likes of Alexei Morozov, Viktor Kozlov, and Ilari Filppula arrive in Moscow, they will join superstar Alex Radulov to become Gagarin Cup contenders.
- Lev Praha- After performing above standards in 2012-13, the Czech club will look to build on their success with the additions of goalie Atte Engren, M-A Gragnani, Justin Azevedo, and Ryan O’Byrne. Michael Repik and Erik Christensen were solid last season.
- Lokomotiv Yaroslavl- After their historic comeback last season, Yaroslavl will look to build on their momentum. Their solid defence corps include Mark Flood, Staffan Kronwall, and Vitaly Vishnevski.
- Atlant Moscow- After a disappointing season, Atlant will look to storm back to near the top of the standings led by sniper Nikolay Zherdev and Andreas Engqvist.
- Dynamo Moscow- The Gagarin Cup champions did not do too much over the offseason depite the Alex Ovechkin rumours. Nevertheless, they are still contenders with Jakub Petruzalek on board, especially when the playoffs come.
- HC Donbass- They just barely missed the playoffs, but with solid goaltending (Erik Ersberg), defence (Oskars Bartulis, Clay Wilson), and offence (Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Nedorost, Evgeny Dadonov), this team is hard to overlook.
- KHL Medvescak Zagreb- One of the 2 new KHL teams, Zagreb went on an AHL shopping spree to sign many Canadians. Among the notables include Jonathan Cheechoo, Mathieu Carle, Brian Willsie, Mark Popovic, Kurtis Foster, Andrew Murray, and Steve Montador.
- Slovan Bratislava- The young Slovakian club has the likes of Milan Bartovic, Mario Bliznak, Peter Olvecky, Vladimir Mihalik, and Martin Skoula on the roster.
- Spartak Moscow- Defenceman Alex Ryazantsev, and forwards Tom Wandell and Alexander Nikulin lead a rising Spartak Moscow club.
- HC Vityaz- Newly-acquired superstar Maxim Afinogenov will look to lead a team composed of prime players like Alex Korolyuk and Mike Iggulden.
- Dinamo Riga- Acquiring veterans Marcel Hossa and Sandis Ozolinsh should help them get out of the basement.
- Dinamo Minsk- Losing Tim Stapleton hurts, but a strong defence head by Derek Meech and Lukas Krajicek will carry the team.
- Severstal Cherepovets- With a relatively thin offence, Teemu Laakso will look to lead an average defence.
- Ak Bars Kazan- The additions of Tim Stapleton and Tomas Vincour coupled with the return of Alex Burmistrov will make the best team in the Easstern Conference even better.
- Barys Astana- The Kazakhstani club had a huge offseason by acquiring star goaltender Ari Ahonen, forward Nik Antropov and defenceman Mike Lundin.
- Metallurg Magnitogorsk- Sniper Sergei Mozyakin leads a strong offence that includes Justin Hodgman and Cal O’Reilly.
- Traktor Chelyabinsk- With Andrei Kostitsyn and Stanislav Chistov leading the way, Traktor needs to build on last season’s success. If Evgeny Kuznetsov stays, it will be great for the young team.
- Salavaet Ufa- The goal-scoring Nikita Filatov, Teemu Hartikainen, and Brent Sopel lead a rising Ufa team.
- Avangard Omsk- They may lose both Karri Ramo and Anton Belov to the NHL, but Omsk still has a lot of depth to make up for them.
- Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod- Torpedo witnessed a huge offseason that saw the likes of Wojtek Wolski, Tim Brent, and Jarkko Immonen join. They should definitely improve from last season.
- Sibir Novosibirsk- Led by Finnish superstar Jori Lehtera, Novosibirsk is in it to win it.
- Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk- Captain Martin Cibak and Branko Radivojevic lead a team that is currently in its prime.
- Amur Khabarovsk- After a disappointing campaign, Amur hopes the improvements made during the summer will help the team long-term.
- Admiral Vladivostok- The expansion club drafted the likes of Niclas Bergfors, Enver Lisin, and Felix Schutz in the expansion draft.
- HC Yugra- The team may lack star power, the they work as a team and were 3 points shy of the playoffs.
- Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg- Eric Belanger will look to lead the team out of the bottom of the standings.
- Metallurg Novokuznetsk- The team is in rebuilding mode, so going for young players and not taking risks may be the best option.
Top 50 Players in the League
- Ilya Kovalchuk, LW (SKA)
- Alexander Radulov, RW (CSKA)
- Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW (TRK)
- Sergei Mozyakin, LW/RW (MMG)
- Kevin Dallman, D (SKA)
- Patrick Thoresen, C/LW (SKA)
- Aleksey Morozov, RW (AKB)
- Ilya Nikulin, D (AKB)
- Alexander Frolov, LW (AVG)
- Tony Martensson, C (SKA)
- Nikolay Zherdev, RW (LEV)
- Jori Lehtera, C (SIB)
- Brandon Bochenski, RW (BAR)
- Renat Mamashev, D (NKH)
- Viktor Tikhonov, RW (SKA)
- Alexander Ryazantsev, D (SPR)
- Nikita Filatov, LW (CSKA)
- Nikolai Antropov, C (BAR)
- Andres Engqvist, C (ATL)
- Sergei Kostitsyn, LW (AVG)
- Deron Quint, D (TRK)
- Tim Stapleton, C (AKB)
- Alex Burmistrov, C (AKB)
- Konstantin Barulin, G (AKB)
- Sergei Shirokov, LW (CSKA
- Alexander Korolyuk, LW (VIT)
- Staffan Kronwall, D (LOK)
- Vadim Shipachev, C (SEV)
- Tomas Kaberle, D (DMN)
- Kurtis Foster, D (ZAG)
- Randy Robitaille, C (DON)
- Evgeny Dadonov, RW (DON)
- Wojtek Wolski, LW (NKH)
- Alex Perezhogin, RW (AVG)
- Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (SKA)
- Andrei Kostitsyn, RW (TRK)
- M-A Gragnani, D (LEV)
- Mike Lundin, D (BAR)
- Jarkko Immonen, C (NKH)
- Dmitri Kalinin, D (SKA)
- Michael Leighton, G (DON)
- Steve Montador, D (ZAG)
- Jakub Petruzalek, RW (DYN)
- Vladimir Mihalik, D (SLV)
- Cal O’Reilly, C/LW (MMG)
- Teemu Laakso, D (SEV)
- Justin Hodgman, C (MMG)
- Mathieu Carle, D (ZAG)
- Maxim Afinogenov, RW (VIT)
- Jonathan Cheechoo, RW (ZAG)