Top Former-NHL Players in the KHL Through the First Month of the Season

Jameson Sempey@jsempeyCorrespondent IIIOctober 3, 2013

Top Former-NHL Players in the KHL Through the First Month of the Season

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    This offseason, more than 30 former NHL players flocked to Eastern Europe and Russia to join the KHL, a league that many former NHLers have already called home.

    Through the first month of the season, players who once played in the NHL have been responsible for some of the best performances. Whether it be a seasoned blueliner who won the Stanley Cup as far back as 1996, or a new arrival who left behind a $77 million contract, there's been no shortage of the NHL's mark on the continental league. 

    Here are the best former NHLers through Oct. 2 in the KHL.

Kyle Wilson, Dinamo Riga

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    Kyle Wilson has helped lead Latvian-based Dinamo Riga to a good start, with seven total wins.

    He has six goals and six assists in 12 games that includes a three-goal night from earlier in the year against Donbass.

    Following the hat trick, Wilson spoke with a reporter from Riga's website (h/t The Moscow News):

    You don’t score three goals in every game, so I'm enjoying this moment. I think we played a good game and took our chances well. The team has an excellent atmosphere and difficult victories like this one, where you have to struggle, they unite us even more.

    Wilson was a perennial 20-goal scorer in the AHL, but his scoring touch never really translated to the NHL.

    He had 13 points in 39 career games in the NHL before signing with Riga this offseason.

Alex Radulov, CSKA Moscow

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    Alexander Radulov's NHL career seemed to have come to a screeching halt once and for all after the 2011-12 season ended, but his KHL performance hasn't suffered despite losing the team captaincy this offseason.

    He has only scored two goals in nine games this season, but his eight assists have made a big impact and helped lead CSKA to seven wins in their first 12 games.

    In 48 games last season, Radulov finished with almost an assist per game (46) and 68 points. He'll likely come close to those numbers again this season, and from there, CSKA will look to get past the semifinals this time around.


Michael Leighton, Donbass Donetsk

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    It seems like just yesterday Michael Leighton was doing all that he could to help the Flyers top the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. 

    Following that year, Leighton not only lost his job as a starter, but he failed to find any NHL work.

    His performance for Donbass has been stellar. He's posted six wins in nine starts with a .934 save percentage and 1.78 GAA. 

    They're currently three points out of second place in the West.

Sandis Ozolinsh, Dinamo Riga

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    In Sandis Ozolinsh's NHL career, he scored 167 goals and 397 assists in 875 games. His name will be forever engraved in the Stanley Cup.

    He retired from the league in 2008, and rejoined Dinamo Riga this offseason after a one-year stint in Moscow with Oblast Atlant.

    The last two seasons have only amounted to 20 points in 50 and 42 games respectively, but through 12 games this year, the 41-year-old has already scored two goals and seven assists. He's led Riga to a solid start, as they currently sit in fourth place in the West, six points behind behind SKA St. Petersburg.

Alexander Burmistrov and Tim Stapleton, Ak Bars Kazan

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    Alex Burmistrov and Tim Stapleton were teammates in Winnipeg in 2011-12, and now that they're reunited and playing together often, the two have been at the forefront of Ak Bars Kazan's strong start that's put the team only one point behind Barys Astana in the East.

    Burmistrov, who was rumored to have a feud with Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel last season, has been strong for Ak Bars, scoring four goals and six assists in 12 games. He's also won more than 60 percent of his faceoffs.

    Stapleton's stats aren't as impressive, but as reported on, the two forwards and defenseman Shaun Heshka have carried Ak Bars this season. Through 12 games, Stapleton has three goals and five assists.

Leo Komarov, Dynamo Moscow

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    Leo Komarov has brought his fire and passion back to the KHL after he and Toronto were unable to come to terms this offseason.

    Komarov made it clear that he was not shutting the door on a return to the NHL in the future, and his performance thus far this season is sure to have teams calling when his contract is up.

    Dynamo Moscow currently sits in second in the West, and Komarov has been their best forward. He has five goals and eight assists through 12 games.

Shaun Heshka, Ak Bars Kazan

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    Shaun Heshka plays top minutes for one of the East's best teams, Ak Bars Kazan.

    He's scored four goals and five assists in 12 games, which puts him on pace to hit a double-digit goal total, something he hasn't done in any league since his days in the WHL. He's also first among KHL defensemen in scoring.

    Heshka's NHL experience was brief—eight games with the Phoenix Coyotes—but the 30-year-old seems to have finally found a home with Ak Bars.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Thoresen and Roman Cervenka, SKA St. Petersburg

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    Ilya Kovalchuk has settled into his role as arguably the best player in the KHL, and he's done so with a lot of help from former Calgary Flame Roman Cervenka and Norwegian product Patrick Thoresen.

    While Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd have led Barys Astana to the top of the standings in the East, Cervenka and Kovalchuk have done the same for SKA.

    Of course, credit is due to the rest of the team, especially former NHL prospect Alexander Salak, but Kovalchuk and his new linemates are leading the charge offensively. Kovalchuk has seven goals and three assists in 9 games played, while Cervenka is tied for the league lead in points with 15 in 12 games (five goals, 10 assists). Thoresen has added five goals and seven assists.

Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd, Barys Astana

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    Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd never played together in the NHL, but they've grown to become excellent linemates for Barys Astana in the KHL.

    Dawes got off to a blazing start, scoring three goals and four assists in his first three games. He's cooled off a little bit, but is still tied for fourth in the league in points in 11 games played.

    He's connected with on a lot of those points with Boyd, who has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) himself.

    The duo have helped lead Barys Astana to the top of the East.