Top KHL Players for the 2019 UFA Market

By Caser · Mar 18, 2019 · Updated Mar 19, 2019
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  1. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    As I promised in the RFA/prospect write-up, UFA players from the KHL are also getting a write-up from me, so here it is. Although I must say that with UFAs it is much harder to make predictions, as it's almost impossible to guess the final destination, so a lot of stuff written here is just my personal view on things, take it with a good grain of salt.

    Let's start with some simple number: 12 UFA players moved from the KHL to the NHL in the last off-season. Some are doing fine, some have totally failed — results may vary, as a lot depends here on translating the skillset and adjusting to the new hockey and life environment and, comparing to usual prospects, UFA guys have to make all that really quick. Still, there is no sign of this number potentially declining, as the current NHL hockey style and also recent and future expansions makes NHL scouts actively searching for talented skilled players outside the North America. Pretty obvious search destination is the KHL, as it has got quite some skilled players and also considering that there is still that unusually large amount of UFA talent, which is a result of many players being undeservingly undrafted back in the "Russian factor" years.

    Similar to the previous RFA/prospect list, the write-up is made in form of a Top20 ranking with players ranked by a combination of the current ability/talent and probability of moving to the NHL, although this time I tried to stay away from using rather meaningless probability numbers and just divided players into three probability groups:

    High — a lot of talks are ongoing about potentially signing in the NHL for players in this group (so all eyes on them).
    Medium — there were some reports about possible interest from the NHL teams, but nothing too specific.
    Low — mostly my speculation based on the abilities player has shown this season.

    As usual, Eliteprospects links are added in case any of these names don't sound too familiar to you.


    1. D Alexander Yelesin Upd.: signed with CGY.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 2 years ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): 3rd pairing RD with potential to move up (NHL)

    Yelesin is a shutdown right-handed D that hits everything that moves despite not having the greatest size + has a powerful 102 mph slapper as a nice bonus. Not surprisingly there is enough interest from the NHL teams and, obviously, everyone is looking at the Leafs, as the signings of free agent RHDs from the KHL is their signature move.


    2. RW Ilya Mikheyev Upd.: signed with TOR.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Middle-six RW (NHL)

    Versatility is the key word in Mikheyev's case, as he is the player, who can contribute in every situation: defense, attack, PP, PK — you name it. He has started to gather interest from NHL teams almost a year ago and didn't stop doing that, as he became Bob Hartley's best player this season and specifically it had been reported that the Habs might be interested.


    3. C Sergei Andronov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): 4th line/PK center (NHL)

    Andronov is a powerful defensive center, who can win face-offs and be useful in front of the net and provide that game in and game out. You might say that a player with that kind of role is nothing special to be ranked that high, but in case of Andronov being that valuable is basically because of a "what u c is what u get" thing: there is a low probability that something won't translate to the NHL, as he is a developed player and has been around in the NA hockey previously, so he knows the territory. Toronto and Minnesota were mentioned previously as being interested, yet I think this kind of a warrior would be useful to any serious contender team.


    4. LW Vladimir Tkachyov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 2 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 2 years ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top 9 LW (NHL)

    Little Tkachyov is a purely offensive-minded LW and is probably the most skilled and electrifying player in this list, as he can really create something out of nothing. With that being said with him there is a certain amount of risk, as he has a bad habit to disappear too frequently when things don't go his way. Among possible candidates Rangers, Blackhawks, and (suddenly) Oilers have been mentioned.


    5. C Vladimir Tkachyov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 2 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Bottom-six center (NHL)

    Because there can never be enough of Vladimir Tkachyovs. Ok, this one is a bit different, as this Tkachyov is a two-way center. He also didn't have a great season (which definitely is a concern), but he has generated enough demand in the previous years, as at some point there has been reported interest of 17 NHL teams in him including Oilers, Devils, Jets, Leafs and, most recently, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, and Vegas.


    6. C Stephane Da Costa Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 1 more year.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): Middle-six center (NHL)

    Da Costa has been planning his return to the NHL for quite some time, but previously injuries got in the way. Now he is healthy, shows some quality hockey (I actually think he might be the best center in the KHL now) and it totally looks like he would be a good fit on a second line in the NHL.


    7. RW Anton Burdasov
    Probability of signing in the NHL: High
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): Bottom-six RW (NHL)

    Burdasov is a goalscoring power winger, his shot is one of the best in the KHL and he is enthusiastic about testing goalies with it from any position. Not useless on the defensive end, but the limiting issue here might be his speed, not sure if it is good enough for the top lines in the NHL. Upd.: Reportedly Flyers and Rangers are among teams that are after him.


    8. RW Ivan Telegin Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): 4th line/PK RW (NHL)

    Technically Telegin isn't an UFA yet (as his rights belong to the Jets), but he will be on the 1st of July. Similarly to Andronov, Telegin already has experience in NA hockey and is a role player: a high-octane gritty battling winger and PK specialist, who is willing to terrorize the opposition by being relentless on the forecheck and in any kind of battles: for the puck, for the position, for the fun. No need to say that this kind of players are always in demand for the playoffs.


    9. GK Vasiliy Demchenko Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 1 more year.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): AHL starter/NHL back-up

    Already after the Coyotes development camp two years ago people started seriously talking about Demchenko having NHL potential and now it might be the right time to check that, as Demchenko had a great season almost singlehandedly carrying the Traktor team to the KHL play-offs.


    10. C Andrei Loktionov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 1 more year.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): Bottom-six center (NHL)

    Loktionov finally started to show some good hockey this season and, while he was reluctant to comment about the possible return to the NHL, appearance of those kind of questions show that there might be some smoke and, possibly, not without a fire.


    11. D Artyom Blazhiyevskiy Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top pairing shutdown D in the AHL

    When talking about Blazhiyevskiy we're talking about physical strength and reliability, you can really feel safe about your defensive end when this guy is on the ice. Although big question here is if that is really enough to crack the NHL lineup.


    12. RW Andrei Chibisov Upd.: Signed with WPG.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top6 RW in the AHL/middle-six RW in the NHL

    Chibisov is a total wildcard: at his best he can show quite a combination of skating, size and skills, the issue is that there are way too many up-and-downs in his game, which makes it harder to predict what he potentially could do on the NHL level.


    13. LW Vladimir Bryukvin Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 2 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Medium
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 RW in the AHL with a chance of a call-up

    Bryukvin is a two-way power winger, who had been attending the Habs dev camp last summer and there were reports that he had left an impression good enough to make them wanting to see Bryukvin one more time without an active KHL contract. Bryukvin isn't new to Quebec, as he had spent a year in Rimouski back in his junior days, so that should make things easier for him.


    14. GK Dominik Furch Upd.: signed in the SHL for 1 season.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): AHL starter/NHL back-up

    Furch has been a known value in the KHL for the last four seasons and even despite that his current season's stats don't look that fancy (which is because he was playing on a not too strong Severstal team), he didn't leave much doubts about him being a high-class goalie. In my opinion he really got the size and consistency to play in the NHL, at least, if Koskinen could do it, I don't see a reason why Furch wouldn't be able to (ok, except maybe having previous NA experience).


    15. LW Dmitriy Kagarlitskiy Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 LW (NHL)

    Kagarlitskiy is almost 30 and last summer he told that there was no real interest in him from the NHL teams, yet I'm including him, as I actually think that his high-speed skating and skill combo is something that fits just perfect in the nowadays NHL.


    16. RW Maxim Karpov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): Bottom-six RW (NHL)

    Karpov hasn't extended his contract with SKA team yet, which creates field for some speculation. Similarly to Mikheyev, Karpov is quite a versatile forward, although I'd say the potential upside is lower here.


    17. D Adam Polasek Upd.: Signed in the Czech League for 1 season.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): 3rd pairing D (NHL)

    One of the rare bright spots on the rather bleak Neftekhimik team, Polasek can move the puck and got a good size and skating combination. Finally had a pretty good season, so maybe he is ready to step back onto NA ice again.


    18. LW Nail Yakupov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 3 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: -
    Projected role next season (if signs): Top9 LW (NHL)

    Yakupov went to the KHL for a career restart and in some way he succeeded, as he scored 23 goals there. Yakupov's contract is heading to an end, his friend Zadorov thinks that he will be back and the Oilers are gathering back the old guard, so... Upd.: reportedly the Coyotes and 2 other NHL teams got interested in him.


    19. D Zakhar Arzamastsev Upd: re-signed in the KHL for 1 more year.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): 3rd pairing D (NHL)

    Quite some time has passed since Arzamastsev was considered one of the top Russian talents, but only recently he finally started to make a good use of that talent. He is a powerful shutdown guy with good mobility and shot, I think he could play in the NHL if he is really motivated to do that.


    20. GK Ivan Bocharov Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 2 more years.
    Probability of signing in the NHL: Low
    NHL contract restrictions: eligible for a 1 year ELC
    Projected role next season (if signs): 1A/1B GK in the AHL

    Bocharov always mentioned that his dream is to play in the NHL and pretty possible that now might be a good point to try to reach that dream, as he had a really solid season in the KHL. With that being said, in his case it totally doesn't look like the path to the dream will be an easy one.


    HM. C Pavel Datsyuk Upd.: re-signed in the KHL for 1 more year.
    Probably have to include Datsyuk to avoid additional questions about him, but I think the only way he is signing in the NHL is a 1-day deal to retire as a RedWing. Time is a cruel thing and it doesn't spare anyone, even Datsyuk, so he won't be able to survive the NHL schedule now. Although I'd expect him not to retire from hockey yet, but to sign with his home team Avtomobilist for a year or two. P.S. With necessary adjustments you can relate this part to Andrei Markov too.

    Other Players
    GK Artyom Zagidulin - Signed with Calgary Flames
    LW Danil Yurtaikin - Signed with San Jose Sharks
    C Nick Shore - Signed with Toronto Maple Leafs
    C Andy Miele - Signed with Arizona Coyotes
    W Beau Bennett - Signed with Arizona Coyotes
    LD Nikolai Knyzhov - Signed with San Jose Sharks
    LD Philip Holm - Signed with Chicago Blackhawks
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  2. Pavel Buchnevich

    Pavel Buchnevich AV AND GORTON OUT

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    Among the realistic options (not including guys like Datsyuk, Kagarlitskiy, Yakupov who can play in the NHL, but probably won't sign in the NHL after the season), I think Yelesin, winger Tkachyov and Demchenko are the most likely to be able to hold a consistent NHL role at some point.
     
  3. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Don't know about Tkachyov, as 'consistent' is definitely not the word I woud use to describe him. Agree about Yelesin though, maybe about Demchenko too. If we look from that kind of point of view, I'd definitely add Mikheyev, as at least he has got the talent. Also Da Costa and Furch - they are experienced enough to make it. And I think Andronov and Telegin shouldn't have any problems as the role players on the NHL level too.
     
  4. Pavel Buchnevich

    Pavel Buchnevich AV AND GORTON OUT

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    I’m not saying that Tkachyov showed good consistency this season, but I think if he was to sign with an NHL team after this season, he has one of the better chances among players in the KHL to be a full time NHL player over the course of his career. Some other players you named might have more experience or had better seasons, but do they have the talent to play in an NHL top 12 and not bounce around from team to team and from the top 12 to the press box?

    Tkachyov also might not be NHL ready, but talent won’t be the question. He has NHL level talent.
     
  5. Sens

    Sens Registered User

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    Mikhail Grigorenko?
     
  6. Pavel Buchnevich

    Pavel Buchnevich AV AND GORTON OUT

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    Doesn’t Colorado have his rights?
     
  7. Sens

    Sens Registered User

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    Did not get QO when he went to the KHL
    So he’d be a UFA and his numbers have exploded this season
     
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  8. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Grigorenko has one more year on his KHL contract.
     
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  9. jfhabs

    jfhabs Registered User

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    Does anyone know what Darren Dietz contract status is?
    25 yo with 53 pts in 62 games
     
  10. cheesymc

    cheesymc Registered User

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    Thanks for the report, and well organized! I hope there will be similar reports in other leagues soon.
     
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  11. greasysnapper

    greasysnapper Registered User

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    Great report as always, the writeups are great, not sure about the probabilities of signing though, I'd be surprised if more than 3 signed from this crop, especially considering how Kiselevich couldn't consistently crack an NHL roster, and he was a very good KHL dman (Olympic team even), and better than Yelesin who was number 1 on this list.
     
  12. EXTRAS

    EXTRAS Registered User

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    No chance barabanov comes over?
     
  13. Brodeur

    Brodeur Registered User

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    Signed for one more season as I understand it. So maybe a possibility this time next year. Although for various reasons, it might benefit him to wait another year after that (potential NHL lockout, and he'd have to sign an ELC at age 26, but at age 27 he wouldn't have any restrictions).
     
  14. 1OApick

    1OApick Registered User

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    What do you think about Marko Anttila? Maybe best pk-player in the league. Also with his size he could thrive in NHL.
     
  15. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Btw, some small update: I've just read in the Russian medias that 3 NHL teams interested in yakupov, including Coyotes.

    He has 1 more season remaining on the contract.

    Thanks! Well, as I've written in the intro, 12 UFA players moved to the NHL last offseason and there weren't so many rumours comparing to how it is currently, so I will be quite surprised if that number drops so drastically.

    He is good, yes, but he will be already 34 in May, you need to be really exceptional to move to the NHL at that age.
     
  16. teddygmr

    teddygmr Registered User

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    I recall such high expectations for Da Costa in the NHL based on his very high production in every other League as he developed. He had an elite season with Radulov in 2015 and Dallas is a team that really could use a 2nd line center so that could be an ideal fit! The NHL has changed a LOT since 2014 when Da Costa moved to KHL and I think he would be far more successful now.
     
  17. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    And I see that rumors are quite actively coming in, as Burdasov has been linked to Flyers and Rangers and also Jiri Sekac has been mentioned to possibly try his luck one more time in the NHL (and I thought he had enough of that).
     
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  18. King Weber

    King Weber Registered User

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    I feel like your description of Telegin is pretty spot on. Always been impressed by him when I've seen him in the KHL and international competition.
     
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  19. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Rumor appeared about main candidates for Yelesin being Coyotes, Stars and Isles, not sure about the credibility here though.
     
  20. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Suddenly Danil Yurtaikin started to appear in rumors. He is a great skater, but totally doesn't look like he would be close to NHL level.
     
  21. A91

    A91 Oilers + Real Madrid

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    Why are the little Tkachyovs numbers down this season? Useage?
     
  22. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Well, he is quite inconsistent, as I've already written, he has a bad habit to disappear too frequently when things don't go his way. I mean, different kind of difficulties happen to everyone with different frequencies, but some players overcome those and some disappear until those difficulties go away. Talking about this season he had more difficulties than usual due to a new coach and new requirements.
     
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  23. A91

    A91 Oilers + Real Madrid

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    Thanks for the write up. The Oilers did try to sign him way back when and I'd be interested in giving him another PTO if he goes unsigned. We need skilled forwards really badly.
     
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  24. Caser

    Caser @RUSProspects

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    Apparently Vegas might be viewing Yelesin as a replacement for Colin Miller in case they will get rid of him.
     
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  25. Kshahdoo

    Kshahdoo Registered User

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    Could be a wise move to bring him along with Gusev. Two Russians (or even three, considering Zykov) is better than one (or two).
     

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