5 KHL Prospects Poised for Breakout Season

Lately, every season the KHL sends a good number of players to the NHL. Some become stars, like Artemi Panarin or Alexander Radulov, others are less successful, like Sergei Plotnikov. But it’s not just about free agents, although the Toronto Maple Leafs recently announced the signing of Finnish forward Miro Aaltonen from Vityaz Chekhov. Draft picks from Russia are turning into NHL players like Pavel Buchnevich or Nikita Tryamkin. This season is no exception, and there are several KHL young players with all the tools to have a successful career in the NHL.

Kirill Kaprizov

There isn’t much to say here. The kid’s got game, had a tremendous season (42 points in 49 games and three goals in the playoffs), and will most likely represent Team Russia at the upcoming IIHF World Championship in France and Germany. Kaprizov never hid the fact that he wants to honor his KHL contract, that will run out after the 2017-18 season, and recently it was heavily rumored that he will leave Salavat Yulaev to join CSKA Moscow for his last year of his KHL deal. Whether these rumors will be true or not, the Minnesota Wild may have hit a home run with the 2015 fifth-round pick they used on the Russian forward.

Related read: Talking with Kirill Kaprizov’s First Coach.

Pavel Kraskovsky

The young center has shown great signs of improvement after a very good 2015-16 season. Kraskovsky scored 18 points in the regular season this year, plus four in the playoffs, and was even called to Team Russia for a Euro Hockey Tour phase. It has been a great season for Kraskovsky, whose contract will run out after the 2017-18 campaign. At this point, it’s unlikely that he will ask to be released to move overseas and thus Winnipeg Jets fans may expect him to cross the pond in Summer 2018.

Kraskovsky is among the Russian players who should adapt faster to the North American game. His combination of skills and size may get him playing in both scoring and checking lines, and this kind of versatility can be very useful to him, especially at the start of his new venture.

Maxim Mamin

Never considered a top prospect, Mamin had an excellent season with CSKA Moscow, where he posted a career-high of 25 points and was a plus-17. Yes, the Florida Panthers prospect played for one of the top teams in the KHL but these numbers are worthy of much respect for a player his age. Many players from Russia at Mamin’s stage of development struggle with their physical and defensive game but he seems to be better than the average in both aspects.

Mamin’s contract will run out on April 30, 2018, and for now, there have been no rumors about his future.

Vladislav Gavrikov

Another player who has greatly improved over the latest season, Gavrikov had an excellent 2016-17 campaign with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and his contract also expires on April 30, 2018. According to different sources, the Columbus Blue Jackets have offered the defenseman an entry-level contract.

Gavrikov is a defense-first defenseman who can score the occasional goal as he showed this year in Russia. He was also the captain of the 2015 WJC Russian team and became more and more important for a quality team like Lokomotiv Yaroslavl despite being only 21-years-old. The Blue Jackets may have found a gem during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft’s sixth round.

Igor Shestyorkin

A promising goalie with a great poise, Shestyorkin is playing for SKA St. Petersburg not worse than their starting goalie Mikko Koskinen, who represented Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The New York Rangers‘ fourth-round draft pick in 2014 has recently made a good number of highlight-reel saves in the KHL playoffs, where he will face Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Gagarin Cup finals.

Chances are good that with his game, Shestyorkin earned himself the starting goalie position, and this is not an easy fit at his age and in a stacked team like SKA. From a North American perspective, Shestyorkin’s deal in the KHL will run out after the 2019-20 campaign, so the Rangers will most likely have to wait a bit to see the goalie in their uniform. But on the other hand, he will have much more experience and that can be critical in making the transition to the NHL.