Players of Interest Update: Sept. 23rd, 2016
A day late due to yesterday’s World Cup of Hockey excitement, but here we are. It was a somewhat eventful week for at least one of our six players of particular interest, and not in a good way. For others, things went better (see image above) — read on!
- G Igor Shestyorkin (SKA St. Petersburg)
- Season to date (KHL): 8 gp, .905 sv%, 2.49 GAA, 1 SO.
- This week (KHL): 4 gp, .901 sv%, 2.70 GAA, 0 SO.
After a good week, a not-quite-so-impressive one for the young New York Rangers prospect. Those numbers aren’t terrible (and SKA took 10 of 12 points this week, so no harm was done in any case), but nor do they cry out that Shestyorkin is ready to hold on to the first-choice goaltending position at SKA now that Mikko Koskinen is finished at the World Cup, if that was even a possibility in the minds of the coaching staff. So what next? Well, I can see two possibilities. Shestyorkin may well simply slip back into the back-up role behind the veteran Finn, picking up a start here and there along the way. However, SKA also have enough depth in goal to send the youngster to SKA-Neva St. Petersburg of the VHL if they feel that more playing time is what is called for here. The 20-year-old played very well at that level last season, posting a league-best .954 save percentage in 31 VHL regular season games. We shall see.
- D Kirill Koltsov (Traktor Chelyabinsk)
- Season to date (KHL): 11 gp, 5-1-6, +5, 2 PiM, 26 SoG, 18:54 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 2 gp, 1-0-1, +3, 0 PiM, 3 SoG, 17:37 ToI/Gm.
A short week but a nice one for Koltsov, who maintains his lead atop the Goals by Defencemen chart. Traktor, furthermore, are now on a three-game winning streak. A possible fly in the ointment is that Koltsov is enjoying some very good shooting luck this season; his 19.2 sh% far eclipses his career best of 14.3 in 2014-15. And oddly enough for a player who has built his career on setting up his team-mates for goals, he still has just the one assist so far in 2016-17. If his shooting percentage regresses to the mean, we may see his scoring numbers start to drop precipitously. However, we can cross that bridge when we come to it; for now, all is well.
- D Adam Polášek (Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast)
- Season to date (KHL): 12 gp, 1-10-11, +8, 8 PiM, 23 SoG, 20:24 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 4 gp, 1-5-6, +3, 4 PiM, 11 SoG, 21:03 ToI/Gm.
Whoah! A very good week indeed for Polášek, who was especially impressive against Dinamo Minsk on Wednesday: he scored 1-2-3, including his first KHL goal, and had a season-high seven shots. Sadly, Sibir wasted a 3-0 first-period lead and lost the game 5-4 in overtime, but their Czech defenseman can hardly carry the blame for that one. The upshot of Polášek’s big week is that he is tied for third in the KHL in points by a defenseman, and tied for second among all players in assists. And while Sibir have now lost two in a row (the set-back in Minsk was followed by today’s 3-2 overtime defeat by Vityaz Moscow Oblast), the Siberians have taken at least a point from seven straight and are currently third in the East Conference.
- F Anatoly Golyshev (Sputnik Nizhny Tagil [VHL])
- Season to date (KHL): 12 gp, 1-4-5, -1, 4 PiM, 29 SoG, 16:30 ToI/Gm.
- Season to date (VHL): 1 gp, 0-0-0.
- This week (KHL): 3 gp, 0-0-0, Even, 4 PiM, 4 SoG, 16:45 ToI/Gm.
- This week (VHL): 1 gp, 0-0-0.
Oh dear. Last week, Golyshev wasn’t scoring but was at least shooting the puck a lot for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL. This week, even the shots started to dry up, and last year’s break-out scoring star has now been sent 140 kilometres north up R352 to Avtomobilist’s farm team in Nizhny Tagil. “It is necessary for the guy to rethink a little bit for what purpose he is in the team, [and] why he is in the team,” said Avtomobilist head coach Andrei Razin. And indeed, something had clearly gone wrong; coming off a 25-goal KHL campaign, Golyshev was on course for only five this season before his sending-down. However, for a young player (Golyshev is 21), demotion to the minors is not the worst possible fate; one of our “players of interest” last season, Ziyat Paigin, found himself in the VHL early on, and then found a few months later found himself at the KHL All-Star Game and on the Russian national team. So there is hope.
Golyshev’s VHL debut, understandably, involved some adapting on the fly, and he was held scoreless for Sputnik today against Bars Kazan. He also missed his attempt in the shoot-out (Sputnik did win it eventually) to bring a miserable week to an end. Given the talent he displayed in the big league last season, he should score in bunches once he finds the range in the VHL, and hopefully we will see him once again with Avtomobilist fairly soon.
- F Linus Omark (Salavat Yulaev Ufa)
- Season to date (KHL): 12 gp, 3-9-12, -2, 2 PiM, 38 SoG, 18:39 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 3 gp, 2-3-5, -1, 2 PiM, 10 SoG, 21:13 ToI/Gm.
How quickly things can turn around. Salavat Yulaev had but one win out of seven games coming into yesterday’s battle with Slovan Bratislava, and Omark had contributed only four points to the cause during that stretch. Well, he contributed another four — two goals and two assists — against the Slovak team, in driving Salavat Yulaev to a much-needed 6-3 victory. The 29-year-old Swede also saw a boost in his ice-time this week, which may have helped his confidence somewhat. Of course, we cannot yet declare that Salavat Yulaev have overcome their poor start (for one thing, they remain outside the playoff picture in the East at the moment), but Thursday’s win, and Omark’s four points, were both good signs.
- F Sakari Salminen (Jokerit Helsinki)
- Season to date (KHL): 10 gp, 1-5-6, +4, 8 PiM, 18 SoG, 17:15 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 4 gp, 1-1-2, +2, 2 PiM, 11 SoG, 17:53 ToI/Gm.
I have been muttering at Salminen since the season began that he needs to shoot the puck more, and this week he did so. He got rewarded, too, with his first goal of the season. However, his biggest contribution to Jokerit’s fortunes does not show up in his regular scoring line; the 28-year-old Finn scored the winning shootout goal for Jokerit today as they upset mighty CSKA Moscow and spoiled Valery Nichushkin’s return to the KHL. As for Salminen’s season so far: there is nothing spectacular here, just solid, very helpful, play from a player whose career pretty been that. And hopefully he can keep his shot-rate at its new elevated level!