There really just hasn’t been an impact Russian player coming out of the draft since, really, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004. Though players like Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nikita Filatov and New York Islanders’ Kirill Kabanov were expected to be high-impact NHLers, the former has yet to make a splash in the big league and the latter has yet to make an NHL debut, after being drafted in June 2010.
But through the recent Canadian League import draft, Russian center Alexander Khokhlachev may be that next impact prospect from that famous hockey country.
Selected 23rd overall in the 2010 CHL Import Draft by the two-time defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, Khokhlachev has already made an impact on a team whose stars have left for professional hockey. In just five games this season, the 5-foot-10, 172-pound center has posted three goals and three assists in five games for the Spitfires. He also has a plus-2 rating in his Ontario League rookie season. After just two games, Khokhlachev ranked second among all players with points. He currently ranks second in the OHL among rookie skaters in scoring and looks to be a dominant player (once he gets used to the North American game, that is).
In the KHL’s new Russian Junior League, Khokhlachev posted 26 points in 30 games, and just barely missed the cut for the U18 World Junior Championship team that played in Belarus in April. In addition to his talents in the faceoff circle, Khokhlachev (eligible for the NHL Draft in 2011) has impressed numerous scouts with his powerful, yet beautiful skating strides, his incredible stickhandling, his intelligence on the ice and his ability to find the back of the net, no matter the scenario.
“A lot of things had to come together to make this happen and the Spitfires are very thankful to all those who were involved,” said Spitfires Vice President and GM Warren Rychel upon being informed that the IIHF approved Khokhlachev’s transfer to the CHL. “We are excited to have Alexander join us in Windsor and are ecstatic that he is now part of our organization. He has three years of eligibility to play with our club and his offensive talent will be noticed right away. Alexander is a pure goal scorer who was one of the most renowned players in Russia when he played for Moscow Spartak and will be an impact player in our league.”
Khokhlachev has made it clear to scouts and general managers across the NHL that his goal is to be drafted as high as possible when the entry draft comes around next June.
“Yeah, it's like that,” Khokhlachev said. “In the league I'm going to play the games are always attended by a number of NHL scouts. If you play well, score and help your team then there will be bigger chances to go high during the selections.”
After being compared to Kirill Kabanov (who played on the same Russian team before jumping to the CHL), Kabanov explained that he “doesn’t want to talk about Kirill Kabaov. I’ve got my own life.” He also concluded by reminding the media, “Everybody has his destiny."
As of right now, Khokhlachev’s destiny seems to be being drafted into the NHL and possibly becoming an impact player that could be terrorizing goaltenders for the next two decades. And don’t worry about the possibility of him being lured back to the KHL for big money – Khokhlachev is in North America to stay.
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.