Metallurg Novokuznetsk in 2016-17
Time to look at what each KHL team has been up to this off-season! We begin at the bottom of the 2015-16 table, where we find Metallurg Novokuznetsk, a club with a history of developing good young players (Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Slepyshev, Ilya Sorokin, et al.) only to see them head for richer pastures. Are there hopes for a turnaround in 2016-17? Read on.
Metallurg Novokuznetsk in 2015-16: 13 W — 1 OT/SO W — 14 OT/SO L — 32 L
7th in Chernyshev Div., 14th in East Conf., 28th in KHL. Missed Playoffs.
Head Coach: Nikolai Solovyov.
In: G Mikhail Biryukov (Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod); D Bogdan Gaidash (Yuzhny Ural Orsk), D Viktor Postnikov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk); D Yevgeny Rybnitsky (Buran Voronezh [VHL]); D Roman Tatalin (Spartak Moscow); D Yevgeny Viksna (THK Tver [VHL]); F Vladislav Barulin (Khimik Voskresensk [VHL]); F Roman Blagoy (Saryarka Karaganda [VHL]); F Fyodor Kozlovsky (Debreceni HK [HUN]); F Yevgeny Solovyov (Yuzhny Ural Orsk); F Denis Vikharev (Severstal Cherepovets); F Sergei Yemelin (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg)
Out: D Cade Fairchild (Rögle BK [DEN]); D Roman Manukhov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl); D Ilya Nekolenko (Sibir Novosibirsk); F Alexei Dostoinov (Vityaz Moscow Oblast); F Kirill Kaprizov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa); F Robert Kousal (HC Davos [SUI]); F Vadim Mitryakov (Rubin Tyumen [VHL]); F Alexander Romanov (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg)
It is a sad reality that, for financial reasons, good players do not hang around long on the banks of the Tom River in Siberia, and so the team affectionately known as “Kuznya” will be without its top six scorers from last season when the new campaign opens (two left at the trading deadline, and four this spring). None will be missed more than Kaprizov, the 19-year-old local product and Minnesota Wild prospect who scored 11-16-27 in 53 games last season and has all the markings of a future star. Kousal, who tied Kaprizov for the team lead in points last season, is another key departure. Manukhov (58 gp, 4-19-21 in 2015-16) and Fairchild (56 gp, 4-18-22), meanwhile, were the only defencemen to record more than seven points, and they are both gone. Forward Alexander Komaristy (50 gp, 8-9-17) is the highest-scoring player from last year’s squad to remain.
To replace the departed, Kuznya have brought in mostly KHL bit-part players and journeyman minor-leaguers. However, they may have a genuine find in Roman Blagoy; the 28-year-old Ukrainian led all VHL goal-scorers this past season, with 25 in 44 games. He will certainly be leaned upon heavily in Novokuznetsk in 2016-17, with hopes that his 2015-16 performance was not a one-off. Vikharev, too, is worth watching, as he led Russia’s second league in playoff points in 2014-15 (21 in 20 games).
The other big Metallurg Novokuznetsk signing to note is that of Biryukov, the journeyman goalie who will wear his sixth different KHL sweater in 2016-17. Kuznya’s goalies last season both posted poor save percentages — Andrei Kareyev went .908 in 36 games, Vladislav Podyapolsky .913 in 35, with the KHL average at about .920 — but both are also only 21 years old. The presence of 30-year-old Biryukov, who put up a .926 sv% in 23 games for Torpedo last year, should give the two kids a chance to develop with less ferocious pressure upoon them. It is just possible that the next noteworthy product of Novokuznetsk’s prodigious development system will be one of those two young netminders.
Kuznya were a poor team last season, but also very unlucky, as illustrated by a 1-14 record in overtime and shootout games. A few more standings points from extra time could see them move out of the bottom two or three teams in the league. However, barring significant (and improbable) additions, that is likely as good as it is going to get. Metallurg remain miles from a first playoff appearance since the Russian Superleague era, and the only comfort is that the sons of Novokuznetsk will continue to find hockey fame and fortune, albeit for other teams.
Next Up: Severstal Cherepovets.