Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 2016-17
2015-16 was a bouncy year for Torpedo: they started brightly, faded to seventh in the Conference at the end, upset second-seeded Jokerit in the playoffs, and then had fairly severe financial worries (now apparently solved) in the off-season. So what can they do for an encore? Read on…
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 2015-16: 23 W — 10 OT/SO W — 11 OT/SO L — 16 L
5th in Tarasov Div., 7th in West Conf., 11th in KHL. Lost in Conf. SFs.
Head Coach: Pēteris Skudra
In: G Ivan Kasutin (Lada Tolyatti); D Sam Lofquist (SaiPa [FIN]); D Ivan Vishnevsky (Salavat Yulaev Ufa); F Yevgeny Grachyov (Amur Khabarovsk); F Maxim Kitsyn (Manchester Monarchs [ECHL]); F John Norman (Skellefteå AIK [SWE]); F Fredrik Pettersson (Lugano [SUI]); F Kirill Rasskazov (Avangard Omsk Oblast); F Daniil Zharkov (No Team)
Out: D Vadim Khomitsky (HK Sochi); D Kirill Koltsov (Traktor Chelyabinsk); D Maxim Kondratyev (Amur Khabarovsk); D Yuri Sergiyenko (CSKA Moscow); F Artur Gizdatullin (Amur Khabarovsk); F Karl Klingberg (EV Zug [SUI]); F Roman Konkov (Nefyanik Almetyevsk [VHL]); F Sergei Kostitsyn (Dinamo Minsk); F Alexei Sopin (Dynamo Moscow); F Linus Videll (Unknown)
Torpedo’s goaltending was very average last season, as the departed Biryukov (23 gp, .926 sv%) backed up the returning Ilya Proskuryakov (40 gp, .921 sv%). Kasutin, who will presumably replace Biryukov, went .917 in 25 games last year, which suggests that Torpedo did not really win that particular exchange. On balance, the netminding will not steal many games for the Nizhny Novgorod side, but may not cost them many either.
Koltsov’s is the big name departing the defence corps, but Sergiyenko may actually be the most important. The 21-year-old Kazakh scored 2-7-9 in 33 games, and went +8 (fifth-best on the team) as well — impressive for a rookie on a mid-table club. As for Koltsov, he scored 1-10-11 in 16 games after arriving mid-season from Salavat Yulaev Ufa (that’s very good, if not by his high standards), but he also went -4, second-worst on the team. He will be missed, but his loss is perhaps not vital. While Khomitsky and Kondratyev were useful as veteran depth, newcomers Lofquist and Vishnevsky should be able to replace them, especially as both likely bring a bit more scoring.
And Torpedo have a pair of very promising young up-and-comers on their blueline. Artyom Alyayev, 21 years old, posted an excellent line of 10-13-23, +5 in 48 games, and Maxim Osipov, who is 16 months older, scored 5-7-12 in 40 games while going a team-leading +11. Definitely two to watch in the coming years! There is still veteran guidance to be found, too, in the likes of Alexei Peplyayev and Stanislav Yegorshev. In all, this seems a nice, balanced, defensive unit.
Torpedo’s forwards comprised a balanced, compact, unit in 2015-16; the team used only 16 different players up front, and seven managed half a point per game or better. Five of those seven are back, with Latvia’s Kaspars Daugaviņš, an early-season arrival from Dynamo Moscow, leading the way in goals and points (44 gp, 14-21-25). Swedish veteran Videll (44 gp, 9-21-30) was not far behind, and will be missed, but he and good defensive forward Sopin (44 gp, 9-13-22, +11) are the only two of those seven .500 pts/gm guys who are gone.
There are a couple of familiar names for NHL fans on Torpedo’s books: former L.A. King sniper Alexander Frolov, now 33, has seen much of his offence go away (47 gp, 6-13-19 last season) but has turned into a resolute checking forward (he was +8). And the long-troubled Nikolai Zherdev (23 gp, 4-10-13 after arriving from Sochi) may finally have found a home in Nizhny Novgorod. For the first time since 2012, he will begin a season in the same place he finished the previous one.
As for the new forwards, they are there to add depth, and I mean that in the best possible way. Norman is probably the most intriguing; at 25 year old, he is coming off a break-out season in which he scored 17-25-42 in 47 games for Skellefteå and made Sweden’s World Championship team.
And that brings us to Torpedo’s coach, who cannot be ignored. The 43-year-old Skudra is earning himself a fine reputation as a bench boss, and currently has the longest tenure of any KHL coach on a single team (he was hired at Torpedo in 2013). His lineup is short of star power (pending further exploits by those two young d-men), but well-balanced, and he gets a lot out of it. While Torpedo are not genuine Gagarin Cup contenders, they should spend another season asking difficult questions of the opposition, and also should be good enough for another trip to the post-season.
Next Up: SKA St. Petersburg.