Players of Interest Update: Oct. 27th, 2016
It is Thursday, and that means we are checking in with the six players this blog is following particularly closely in 2016-17. And there were some interesting developments this week. Among the questions to ponder: which players from our six were called up their national teams (and which players answered in the affirmative)? Read on…
- G Igor Shestyorkin (SKA St. Petersburg)
- Season to date (KHL): 18 gp, .943 sv%, 1.46 GAA, 6 SO.
- This week (KHL): 2 gp, 1.000 sv%, 0.00 GAA, 1 SO.
“Youth!” was the cry at FHR headquarters during the national team selection process for the upcoming Karjala Cup games in Finland (the first leg of the 2016-17 Euro Hockey Tour), and so the Ilya Kovalchuks, Pavel Datsyuks, and Sergei Mozyakins will be left at home, while the likes of Rushan Rafikov, Valery Nichushkin, and indeed our man Shestyorkin got the call. Shestyorkin has been with the senior national team before, but has yet to actually play for it, so it will be a nice thing if he gets some ice-time when the Karjala begins on November 3rd (the other two goalies summoned, incidentally, are Ilya Sorokin of CSKA and Traktor’s Vasily Demchenko).
As for Shestyorkin’s work this week, he got into two games (one start plus an eight-minute mop-up job in relief), and gave up no goals on 21 shots. The brief relief appearance represented his first action in four matches, as SKA had been getting Mikko Koskinen back up to speed after the World Cup. Shestyorkin’s .943 sv% now ranks third in the entire KHL, so there can be no complaints about his call-up to Team Russia.
- D Kirill Koltsov (Traktor Chelyabinsk)
- Season to date (KHL): 24 gp, 8-3-11, +4, 4 PiM, 62 SoG, 18:56 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 3 gp, 1-1-2, +3, 0 PiM, 9 SoG, 16:44 ToI/Gm.
Yes, it was only three games, but the two points therein got Koltsov a little closer to the scoring pace we are used to seeing from him. Of interest: in Traktor’s first two games of the week, Koltsov saw his ice-time cut by about five shifts per contest, and it was on those two occasions that he recorded his points. A less-is-more move by the coaching staff? Possibly (Koltsov is 33 years old), and if so it looks like an astute one so far. In the third game of the week, however, our man was back to his usual 19+ minutes, so perhaps there was something else going on too.
In any case, after a bad early-October slump, Traktor won three in a row this week, all in regulation. That success ran the team from Chelyabinsk all back up to sixth in the East Conference standings. So, a good week for player and team!
- D Adam Polášek (Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast)
- Season to date (KHL): 25 gp, 2-14-16, +4, 18 PiM, 41 SoG, 20:54 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 2 gp, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PiM, 1 SoG, 20:22 ToI/Gm.
A week that both Polášek and Sibir will wish to forget, I’m afraid. Severstal and Traktor are hardly the mightiest of opposition, but they were able to take six points from the Novosibirskians (Sibir have some fairly significant injury worries at the moment, and will be glad to see the upcoming KHL schedule break). On the bright side, and as we noted last week, Polášek will be with the Czech Republic team at the Karjala Cup, and his KHL scoring numbers over the course of the season remain more than acceptable.
- F Anatoly Golyshev (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg)
- Season to date (KHL): 23 gp, 3-6-9, Even, 6 PiM, 67 SoG, 17:31 ToI/Gm.
- Season to date (VHL): 4 gp, 1-0-1, Even, 0 PiM, 10 SoG, 17:05 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 3 gp, 0-0-0, Even, 0 PiM, 15 SoG, 16:13 ToI/Gm.
Golyshev’s numbers, on the other hand, are rapidly slipping from “disappointing by his standards” into simply “disappointing,” and this week also saw him once again stripped of the assistant captaincy that he had only just regained. After a spectacular 25-goal campaign in 2015-16, he’s on course for a mere seven, maybe eight, markers this time around. However, there is a reason to maintain some optimism, even as the season approaches its halfway point, and that reason’s name is “shooting percentage.” Golyshev is taking shots at a very decent rate, and this is a player who has consistently seen them go in at a rate above 10% over the course of his career. This season, his shooting percentage is only 4.5%, which hints very strongly that there is some bad luck at play here. We should — should — see some improvement in his scoring numbers simply thanks to good ol’ regression to the mean.
Other good news: Although Avtomobilist lost to Lada Tolyatti today, they had won the previous three to arrest a nasty slump. They are not back in the playoff picture yet, but getting closer. And, despite his scoring struggles, the 21-year-old Golyshev will join Shestyorkin on Team Russia for the Karjala Cup, so it is clear that the country’s hockey decision-makers have not lost faith in him.
- F Linus Omark (Salavat Yulaev Ufa)
- Season to date (KHL): 25 gp, 4-20-24, -5, 14 PiM, 69 SoG, 18:26 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 2 gp, 0-0-0, -3, 0 PiM, 3 SoG, 17:56 ToI/Gm.
I think he is playing in an injury, and the numbers Omark put up this week (or rather did not put up) do little to convince me otherwise. Salavat Yulaev did manage a split of the two games, although their win, versus Admiral Vladivostok, came in the dreaded shootout (our man did not take part). Omark’s “mini-slump” has dropped him to seventh in the KHL in points, although he remains third in assists, and this is still a very fine season for him (like Golyshev, he has issues with shooting percentage, so but for luck his numbers would be even better).
Omark was also invited to Team Sweden for the Karjala Cup, but has turned it down this time around. That decision might lend credence to the injury hypothesis, but it apparently has more to do with a reasonable desire to spend some time with his wife and three-month-old daughter in Sweden. In the same article (which Google Translate unfortunately refuses to deal with), Omark revealed that he will look for a Swedish League team when his current KHL contract is up in 2018.
- F Sakari Salminen (Jokerit Helsinki)
- Season to date (KHL): 23 gp, 3-13-16, +4, 10 PiM, 42 SoG, 17:09 ToI/Gm.
- This week (KHL): 2 gp, 0-1-1, +1, 0 PiM, 2 SoG, 13:48 ToI/Gm.
Salminen has seen his ice-time hacked by about three minutes per game over Jokerit’s last three contests, but he is still managing to find a point here and there. And it certainly has not hurt Jokerit, now winners of four in six, and losers only via overtime in the other two games in that span. Salminen’s lone assist this week was a big one, too; it got Jokerit on the board against Vityaz Moscow Oblast, with whom the Finnish team is battling for the West Conference’s last playoff spot (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type, for a variety of reasons…). Jokerit would go on to take a vital regulation win by 2-1.
And, as we have already mentioned the Karjala Cup several times in this post, it is only fitting that we close off with it as well. In a move that is neither surprising nor undeserved, Salminen’s strong play this season has earned him a call-up to Team Finland for the tournament, which will be held in Jokerit’s home Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.