Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk in 2016-17
Off to mammoth country in western Siberia, where lies the KHL’s smallest outpost, Khanty-Mansiysk (population: about 80,000). HK Ugra (or Yugra) made the playoffs in their first two KHL seasons, 2011 and 2012, but have not been there since, and the road back looks a long one. Read on!
Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk in 2015-16: 19 W — 6 OT/SO W — 3 OT/SO L — 32 L
6th in Kharlamov Div., 11th in East Conf., 23rd in KHL. Missed Playoffs.
Head Coach: Pavel Yezovskikh.
In: G Alexander Sharychenkov (Dynamo Moscow); D Kirill Ablayev (Spartak Moscow); D Sergei Gusev (Avangard Omsk Oblast); D Vitaly Kafeyev (Vityaz Moscow Oblast); D Nikita Khlystov (Traktor Chelyabinsk); D Vladimir Malevich (HK Sochi); D Stanislav Romanov (Lada Tolyatti); D Vitaly Shulakov (Amur Khabarovsk); D Pavel Valentenko (Spartak Moscow); F Maxim Bogatin (Kristall Saratov [VHL]); F Arseny Khatsei (Sokol Krasnoyarsk [VHL]); F Anton Kuryanov (Avangard Omsk Oblast [VHL]); F Roman Lyuduchin (HK Sochi); F Konstantin Mayorov (Buran Voronezh [VHL]); F Igor Radulov (Spartak Moscow); F Aslan Raisov (Buran Voronezh [VHL])
Out: G Georgy Gelashvili (Unknown); D Andrei Antonov (Unknown); D Kirill Dyakov (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk); D Stanislav Kalashnikov (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg); D Yevgeny Khvostov (Retired); D Mikhail Mamkin (HK Sochi); D Alexei Vasilchenko (Unknown); F Yevgeni Orlov (Unknown); F Kirill Rasskazov (Avangard Omsk Oblast); F Vitaly Sitnikov (Severstal Cherepovets); F Andrei Taratukhin (Amur Khabarovsk); F Oleg Yashin (Red Star Kunlun Beijing); F Ivan Yatsenko (Spartak Moscow)
Let’s be blunt: Ugra were a bad team last season, especially after young star Nikita Gusev (23 gp, 7-7-14, and the team’s only positive plus-minus at +6) left for SKA St. Petersburg early on. In the end, only Amur Khabarovsk scored fewer goals than Ugra’s 120, while only two clubs (Metallurg Novoskuznetsk and Barys Astana) conceded more than the 174 that Ugra gave up. As you can see, there has been a lot of roster turnover as a result.
Goaltending did not help much last season, as Gelashvili got the majority of the playing-time but struggled to a .906 sv% in 37 games (KHL average: circa .920). Vladislav Fokin was better, with a .921 sv% in 32 games, and is the presumptive 2016-17 starter. The acquisition of Sharychenkov is interesting; although he struggled with Dynamo last season (.897 sv% in 11 games), in 2014-15 he went .937 in 13 games, and a bounce-back season would make him a wonderful addition.
On defense, Ugra held on to the promising Grigory Zheldakov, who at 23 years old led the blueliners in points (13) and plus-minus (-5, tied with the departed Mamkin). The new additions, meanwhile, are mostly in the “capable, but…” category. Gusev played in the NHL, but that was a decade and a half ago, and he is now 40 years old. Shulakov was still at Amur when I wrote their preview; he’s a very solid addition to Ugra, but not a game-changer. Valentenko, too, will help, but the problem is that while these are fine players for a team’s third or perhaps even second pairing, some will be asked to do more than they can.
A similar pictures presents itself as regards the new forwards. Igor Radulov (older brother of Alexander) has had an honourable journeyman career, although he does not score much (29 gp, 5-2-7 in 2015-16). Lyuduchin worked his way onto the Russian national team through good play for Spartak in 2011-12, but has not come close to duplicating that since.
Ugra did manage to retain Igor Bortnikov, who scored 20 goals for them last season. And the signing of Raisov is one of the most interesting stories of the KHL off-season. The 25-year-old from Grozny, the first Chechen player in the KHL, led the VHL last season in scoring (44 gp, 14-25-39), and captured the Anatoly Firsov Award as the league’s best player. The step up for him will be significant, but this is a solid addition. Finally, Ugra have an excellent prospect forward in 21-year-old Vladislav Lomakin; his 32 assists last season for Ugra’s junior team tied him for fourth in the MHL.
Given Ugra’s scarce resources, they have actually done an excellent job this off-season, and this is a better roster than last season’s. Sadly however, unless everything goes absolutely right, it won’t enough to get this likeable little club back to the playoffs.
Next up: Dinamo Riga.