The KHL continues to produce good players at a good pace, but nowadays there are more players moving to North America than before, therefore leaving the KHL with a slightly inferior number of drafted prospects than before.
With that being said, the NHL recently showed more interest in signing older players, such as last summer with players like Artemi Panarin or Evgeny Medvedev, or already this season with Nikita Zaitsev. The KHL, however, remains a great league to watch for prospect enthusiasts as the league continues featuring premier talent, especially at the forward positions.
Below are the top forwards with NHL ties that competed in the KHL in the 2015-16 campaign.
Nikita Gusev, RW, SKA St. Petersburg
Drafted 202nd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2012 NHL Draft
After spending two-and-a-half seasons in Khanty-Mansiysk, Nikita Gusev was traded midseason to SKA St. Petersburg, who were seeking a replacement for Artemi Panarin to play on the first line alongside KHL veterans Vadim Shipachyov and Evgeny Dadonov. Gusev lived up to expectations, scoring almost immediately and integrating perfectly into the line, although he is not yet at Panarin’s level as a player. Gusev played very well in the playoffs, too, scoring 14 points in 15 games. In December, he signed a new contract with SKA St. Petersburg through the 2017-18 season, so he is not expected to report to Tampa anytime soon.
After a solid season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Nikolai Prokhorkin has yet to determine where he will play next season as his contract in the KHL ran out on Apr. 30th. Salavat Yulaev Ufa GM Leonid Weisfeld declared many times that the team offered Prokhorkin a new contract and that he would like to have him back next season, but the decision is up to him. Prokhorkin has significantly progressed since playing his first games on North American soil in the 2012-13 season, and gained some much needed experience – also in the playoffs – as he reached the KHL conference finals this season with Ufa. He has declared several times to have little interest in playing in the AHL, but cracking the Los Angeles Kings lineup won’t be that easy for Prokhorkin.
Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Drafted 135th overall by the Minnesota Wild at the 2015 NHL Draft
A veteran of two KHL seasons, Kirill Kaprizov had a solid 2015-16 campaign with Metallurg Novokuznetsk. In April, he was traded to Salavat Yulaev Ufa for a solid paycheck that will help the Novokuznetsk-based franchise, a team with a perennial tight budget, stay afloat for the following season. The move will most likely be a good one for the young winger. In Ufa, Kaprizov will surely have less time on the ice, but he will be playing alongside better players and, most importantly, he should gather some very valuable postseason experience. Kaprizov is under contract in the KHL through the 2017-18 season.
Pavel Kraskovsky, C, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Drafted 164th overall by the Winnipeg Jets at the 2014 NHL Draft
A player on the rise, Pavel Kraskovsky had a good World Junior Championship where, as an alternate captain, he helped Team Russia return home with a silver medal. The center played his first full KHL season in 2015-16, showing significant progress since the previous campaign. Earlier this season, Kraskovsky signed a new contract with Lokomotiv that will run through the 2017-18 season. While he has recently grown some as a player, some further seasoning in the KHL can only be a positive for Kraskovsky, who needs to gather experience before moving to North America. He has good size at 6’4” and 195 pounds, so the Winnipeg Jets will likely be very interested in him once his KHL contract runs out.
Alexander Dergachyov, C/W, SKA St. Petersburg
Drafted 74th overall by the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 NHL Draft
A player with an NHL body and good mobility, Alexander Dergachyov showed at the World Juniors that he has the true mentality of a hard-worker and a competitive attitude. The Langepas, Russia, native could play a bottom-six role in the NHL in the future, even if he still needs to work on his overall game which is still a bit raw. Dergachyov’s offensive skills are a bit underrated, however, because players like him are not common in Russia; he usually plays more the role of a utility forward rather than focusing on offensive production.
Dergachyov’s contract ran out on Apr. 30th, but he opted not to move to North America and instead signed a new 2-year deal with SKA. This will buy him more time to gather some much-needed experience, and it will also be good for him as SKA is a perennial contender for the Gagarin Cup title, which means a chance to compete in the demanding atmosphere of the playoffs.
Artur Gavrus, W, Free agent
Drafted 180th overall by the New Jersey Devils at the 2012 NHL Draft
Even though he was limited to 19 games this year due to injuries, Artur Gavrus had a good season as he scored three goals and 10 points while seeing his ice-time rising up to 16 minutes a night. Once again, he played more as a winger than in the middle, and he represented Team Belarus at the IIHF World Championship for the second straight year. Currently a restricted free agent in the KHL, Gavrus received a qualifying offer from Dinamo Minsk, which will likely be accepted. It is easy to imagine that he will spend a further year in the KHL to cement his role with Dinamo before attempting a move to North America.
Yaroslav Kosov, W, Free agent
Drafted 124th overall by the Florida Panthers at the 2011 NHL Draft
Currently a restricted free agent in the KHL, Yaroslav Kosov already announced that he will attend the Panthers’ summer camp and then decide afterwards where to go in his career. He just won the Gagarin Cup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, contributing to his team’s success with four goals and seven points in the postseason, including the double-overtime, game-winning goal in the last game of the Eastern Conference final against Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Kosov has developed a good nose for the net and can provide a good, physical presence, along with having good hands and good mobility for his size (6’3”, 210 lbs.). It won’t be the first time that Kosov has tried to crack the Panthers’ lineup, and it could go either way at this point.
Alexander Kadeykin, C/W, SKA St. Petersburg
Drafted 201st overall by the Detroit Red Wings at the 2014 NHL Draft
Alexander Kadeykin had an up-and-down season with SKA, managing to give a good impression at times – especially when he played on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk – but failing to find a constant spot in the lineup when the former New Jersey Devils captain was benched during the postseason. Kadeykin has shown some progress, but he needs to gain more game-to-game consistency and improve his overall production to become a more interesting player in light of a possible move overseas. He is under contract in the KHL for another season.
Emil Galimov, W, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Drafted 207th overall by the San Jose Sharks at the 2013 NHL Draft
In spite of posting career-highs for goals and points in the 2015-16 campaign, Emil Galimov did not make the expected progress and played on a similar level to the last couple of seasons. He is still a good player with good hands and a smooth skating stride, but will have to raise his game to a higher level before considering a move overseas. Further, although he isn’t small, Galimov’s physical play is fairly limited, as is his defensive game. Galimov is under contract with Lokomotiv for the 2016-17 season.
Mikhail Vorobyov, C, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Drafted 104th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft
The pick of Mikhail Vorobyov in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft was a bit of a surprise, but after his first year in the KHL, his situation is more clear. He had a decent season and did not look out of place against the pros, scoring his first goals and points, even if he didn’t stick with the team for the postseason. Considering that he is barely 19 years old, the season can be considered a success, so the Flyers may have found a good player with a fourth round pick. With that being said, at this point Vorobyov is still a longshot as he needs to gain further experience at the pro level to further round out his game.
Follow Alessandro Seren Rosso on Twitter via @AlexSerenRosso