Though essentially unaffected by the recently concluded NHL lockout, Boston Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev is making like the established pros and leaving the KHL in favor of his North American club from last year.
Jim Parker of the Windsor Star noted Monday afternoon that Khokhlachev plans to rejoin the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires, where he had spent the previous two seasons.
The Bruins’ second-round pick at No. 40 overall in 2011, Khokhlachev charged up a 59-86-145 scoring log in 123 games over the 2010-11 and 2011-12 regular seasons. He spent the first half of 2012-13 in his home country’s top league, tallying seven points in 26 games with Spartak Moskva.
Bridging his KHL stint with his OHL return, he made his second-straight appearance with Team Russia at the World Junior Championships, stamping five points in seven games, just as he did in the 2011-12 tournament.
Khokhlachev’s return to major junior will offer a fascinating measuring pole as to how his game developed over his time in a KHL enhanced by the presence of dozens of locked-out NHL players.
Partially due to a modicum of high-end scoring―only Kerby Rychel and Brady Vail have double-digit goals―Windsor has lost each of its last seven games in regulation and is presently out of the playoff picture by five points with 29 games left.
The Spitfires are lodged in last place in the West Division and second-to-last in the Western Conference, but can hope that Khokhlachev’s insertion will catalyze a homestretch turnaround.
Bruins buffs can take the latest KHL-OHL transaction for a win-win. They can savor the prospect of the pivot either going pro this spring if Windsor does not launch for a lengthy playoff flight or logging more postseason stripes if the Spitfires last through multiple rounds.
The latter scenario cannot hurt much, but the former would mean additional baptismal exposure to a more mature age group not unlike the autumn KHL rendezvous.
With his 20th birthday coming this September, Khokhlachev will be eligible for a full-time roster spot in Providence for the 2013-14 season. But if the Spitfires miss the OHL playoffs or are eliminated in the first round, the door will open to a possible late-season call-up and early feet-wetting session in the North American professional ranks.
Although it never amounted to regular Boston employment, fellow forward Zach Hamill had the same basic introduction to the organization in 2008.
His Everett Silvertips were zapped from the first round of Western League postseason that spring. In turn, roughly six months before he turned 20, Hamill joined the P-Bruins for the last seven games of the regular season and nine playoff contests, accumulating nine points in that span.
More recently, Ryan Spooner had the same luxury when his Sarnia Sting team was eliminated on March 31 of last year. He signed with Providence four days later and tallied four points in the last five games of the regular season.
So far in his professional rookie year, Spooner has put up a performance that should garner him some consideration for a promotion to start Boston’s belated campaign. He is third on the P-Bruins with seven goals and 20 points and has been one of the few consistent skaters through three months.
For Khokhlachev, the OHL’s 2012-13 regular season ends on March 17, and the opening round of the playoffs should barely spill into April. His output and what his mates do to complement it could influence whether or not Windsor is still playing beyond that point.
If they do foster an extended playoff run, it will mean more big-game honing for the prospect to conclude his amateur career, not unlike what Jared Knight had with London last spring.
The AHL, meanwhile, will continue its regular season through April 21. That means an early spring cleaning for the Spits could give Khokhlachev anywhere from nine to 14 chances to delve into the black-and-gold brethren by dressing with the P-Bruins.
While time in the form of two-plus months will tell if that early look is to be, it is instantly a relevant topic now that Khokhlachev is coming back to this side of the Pacific.
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