Severstal Cherepovets in 2016-17
The 2012-13 season was a special one for Severstal Cherepovets; they rode the scoring of Vadim Shipachyov and the netminding of Vasily Koshechkin to the second round of the playoffs — no mean feat for the little steel company team from the taiga country in the north of European Russia. Since then, however, Shipachyov and Koshechkin have gone on to Gagarin Cup glory elsewhere, while Severstal have yet to reappear in the post-season. Is there hope of breaking that streak? Read on…
Severstal Cherepovets in 2015-16: 12 W — 8 OT/SO W — 6 OT/SO L — 34 L
7th in Tarasov Div., 14th in West Conf., 27th in KHL. Missed Playoffs.
Head Coach: Alexander Gulyavtsev.
In: G Jakub Kovář (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg); D Adam Masuhr (Oulun Kärpät [FIN]); D Clay Wilson (HK Sochi); D Alexander Yevseyenkov (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk); D Alexander Yukseyev (Saryarka Karakanda [VHL]); F Denis Ignashin (THK Tver [VHL]); F Ruslan Karlin (Molot-Prikamie Perm [VHL]); F Igor Magogin (Lada Tolyatti); F Vitaly Sitnikov (Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk); F Maxim Yushkov (Yermak Angarsk [VHL])
Out: G Stepan Goryachevskikh (Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL]); G Sergei Magarilov (Yermak Angarsk [VHL]); D Mattias Karlsson (SWE); D Ondřej Němec (Kometa Brno [CZE]); F Vadim Berdnikov (Spartak Moscow); F Sergei Demagin [Lada Tolyatti]; F Yevgeny Kovyrshin (Dinamo Minsk); F Anatoly Nikontsev (Spartak Moscow); F Denis Vikharev (Metallurg Novokuznetsk)
One of the biggest single blows to Severstal’s 2015-16 campaign was the mid-season departure, first to SKA St. Petersburg and then to the NHL, of budding local star Pavel Buchnevich. The 21-year-old forward led Severstal in points per game (40 gp, 12-18-29 was his total line in Cherepovets).
Buchnevich aside, however, Severstal’s season was undone by poor goaltending. Magarilov and Jakub Štěpánek, who departed mid-season, shared the majority of the games, and neither cracked a .900 save percentage (the KHL average was about .920). However, good news there, as Severstal this spring landed one of the prime available goalies in Kovář. The 28-year-old Czech was a huge part of Avtomobilist’s recent return to respectability, and he immediately makes the Cherepovets team better. A bounce-back season is wanted; Kovář posted only a .914 sv% in 2015-16. But even if he were merely to match that for Severstal, it would still improve matters for them. Roman Smiryagin, who has had excellent numbers on the farm team for the past few seasons, will likely back up Kovář.
There may be good news for the defense, too. Němec and Karlsson provided much of the scoring pop from the blueline in 2015-16, but the arrival of Wilson may fill the gap left by their departure. The veteran from Minnesota has 83 points in 210 career KHL games — not bad for a defenceman — even if he managed only 3-13-16 in 45 games for Sochi last year. Masuhr arrives with a reputation as a scoring blueliner, and captain Andrei Shefer is a reliable two-way defenceman in his own right. Finally, newly-acquired Yukseyev tied for the most points in the VHL by a blueliner.
We have to wonder about the forwards, however. Even with Buchnevich present for two-thirds of the season, Severstal scored the fourth-fewest goals in the KHL, and no replacement for the departed star is at hand. Dmitry Kagarlitsky finished with the most points for Severstal (58 gp, 16-21-37), and he fortunately remains in Cherepovets; we will find out how much of his production came from playing alongside Buchnevich. Apart from that, newcomer Karlin was third in the VHL in goals, with 18 in 49 games, but that’s about the lone bright spot. Even with the defenders chipping in, this team may struggle mightily to score goals.
So the goaltending is improved, the defence perhaps so, and the scoring not at all; it would seem that the road back to the playoffs remains a long one. Kovář alone should make for an improvement in their record, but from here it looks like another season on the outside for Severstal Cherepovets.
Next up: Lada Tolyatti.