In the process, the prospect is giving the organization’s followers a host of scenarios to consider. By putting stronger statistical stamps on his development, Khokhlachev is casting light on copious possibilities for the rest of this season and/or next autumn.
The first-year professional ensured his longest production streak to date with the Providence Bruins in last weekend’s action. With two assists Friday and an ice-breaking tally on Sunday, he has now posted three goals and eight points over his last six outings.
In terms of overall production, Khokhlachev has not had much of a consistency issue in 2013-14. His longest droughts have been a pair of three-game scoreless skids spanning Oct. 19-27 and Jan. 18-24.
The true eye-opener since then is the way he has diversified and balanced his output dating back to the end of that second skid. Beginning on Jan. 25, Khokhlachev has buried five biscuits in the last 10 contests, helping to ensure a smooth point-per-game pace.
That is a far cry from his goalless eight-game October and the stretch of six straight November games with no firsthand tallies.
Translation: Khokhlachev is starting to live up to every aspect of his most authoritative scouting reports deep into the second half of his first full AHL campaign. The Hockey News leads off its assessment of the 20-year-old forward by terming him “a tremendous playmaker” and ends it with: “Also knows how to put the puck in the net.”
In between, THN makes another observation that points to an NHL debut and/or permanent assimilation sooner rather than later. The latter clause of the first sentence reads, “…the versatility to play both center and wing.”
Khokhlachev, one of seven AHL rookie forwards to have played for the P-Bruins this year, has emerged as Boston’s best untapped source of reinforcement. Fellow strikers Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Nick Johnson and Ryan Spooner, all second- or third-year pros, have dressed for the parent club in 2013-14.
Meanwhile, Khokhlachev sits second only to Spooner among centers in Boston’s pipeline in the eyes of Hockey’s Future. With that regarded skill level and flexible skill set, he merely needs to sustain and build on a combination of conditioning and confidence.
Assuming he averts any setbacks, his worst-case scenario ought to be a blend of AHL and NHL action in the 2014-15 regular season. Depending on assistance from organizational circumstances, a cameo for this season might not be quite out of the question, either, even if it amounts to a 24-hour, single-game stint.
The fact that Khokhlachev’s production pace is reaching a new height amidst the NHL’s Olympic hiatus is worth noting. The Bruins will be reassembling their top roster early next week after an inactive interval of at least 15 days. If any call-ups are necessary while they are reestablishing their rhythm, any qualified fresh face will be all the more primed to incorporate.
Furthermore, Mark Divver of the Providence Journal reported Sunday that the aforementioned Spooner is nursing a wrist injury while Fraser and Johnson are dealing with lower- and upper-body ailments, respectively.
Spooner has seen more NHL action than any other forward in the Bruins pipeline with 22 games and has demonstrated the same winger-center flexibility as Khokhlachev. Should he not be ready the next time an internal transaction is necessary, Boston could have a newly refined option now.
But another upcoming event, the trade deadline, could also see Khokhlachev involved in an external transaction before he can even don a spoked-B. In a Feb. 9 write-up, right when the Olympic break started, Boston Globe reporter Fluto Shinzawa mentioned Khokhlachev among four possible exports to help acquire an NHL-caliber defenseman.
That sort of speculation is nothing new. Less than 11 months ago, virtually every source made note of Khokhlachev and Matt Bartkowski as the would-be compensation in the failed bid to land Jarome Iginla.
In light of that history, Shinzawa’s report and now the ongoing hot streak, it would be no surprise if general manager Peter Chiarelli dangles Khokhlachev once more.
If he were to become a different franchise’s prospect by March 5, his odds of donning NHL game attire this season would increase. A club that concedes it is going nowhere in 2013-14 might as well take an early, authentic look at any new, untested assets it acquires.
If the Bruins sacrifice other forwards, then another Providence mainstay is all but certainly looking at a permanent move to the Boston depth chart.
In that event, a sheer lack of prior involvement figures to keep Khokhlachev out of consideration. If it involves suiting up at game time, only an in-and-out emergency call-up looks feasible for him in March or April.
Then there is the chance that Khokhlachev remains a Bruin and simply continues to co-pilot Providence in its uncertain playoff push. Entering Wednesday night’s action, the Baby B's sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with 63 points. However, the ninth-seeded Albany Devils have 60 points and all teams chasing Providence have games in hand.
Having a hot hand like Khokhlachev will be critical for Providence, winners of four straight and 6-1-1 in its last eight games, to retain the upper hand in this derby. That will be especially true if the circumstances conspire for Boston to recall the likes of Spooner, forcing others on the farm to step up their game.
Regardless, should the parent club outlast the P-Bruins in their respective postseason runs, Khokhlachev is emboldening his case to serve as a Boston Black Ace this spring. Even if he does not garner a glimpse of extramural engagement at the NHL level between now and then, that arrangement should serve him favorably in advance of 2014-15.
It is not often that a young prospect devotes one season to nothing but AHL action before breaking into The Show out of the next training camp and never looking back. But if one’s arrival in the NHL is defined by a single appearance or a series of stints in a season, then Khokhlachev is laying down more slabs on his bridge to Boston, good for this calendar year.
Look for him to enjoy nothing less than postseason practice sessions in the short run. Depending on other organizational developments, next season projects to render him the go-to call-up on offense, whether that is for the Bruins or another team.
Full-time NHL membership by the latter half of 2014-15 or the start of 2015-16 is a reasonable ambition.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via theahl.com.
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