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North Americans in the KHL Must Decide Whether to Come Home

October 1, 2022, 12:55 PM ET [6 Comments]
Kevin Allen
Blogger •HHOF Writer's column on the NHL • RSSArchiveCONTACT
More than 50 North American players in the Kontinental Hockey League were told by their home countries that it is risky behavior to continue playing over there.

The U.S. and Canadian governments are urging their citizens to return home while travel is still possible rather than risk problems if the war in Ukraine escalates. The governmental warnings came after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered more soldiers to be called up for the war.

For players who fall short of making the NHL, the KHL has been an option for several years. Top players can make more money in the KHL than they can earn in other European Leagues.

These players have impact in the KHL. Canadian players Curtis Valk, Erik O'Dell and Taylor Beck all rank in the top 10 in scoring. Windsor, Ontario native Trevor Murphy, who played eight games with the Arizona Coyotes, is currently the league's highest scoring defenseman.

Former NHL goalie Andrew Hammond is also playing for Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Several Americans are make a good living in the KHL, including former Los Angeles Kings draft pick Nick Ebert who is averaging a point per game as a defenseman on Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg
Hall of Famer Chris Chelios' son Jake is playing his fourth season on defense for Kunlun Red Star.
Forward Reid Boucher has played 133 NHL games and he's playing for Avangard Omsk.

It's not like these players didn't weigh the risks when they signed with the KHL. But this is an official government warning. The implication seems to be that their government may not be able to help them if commercial flights cease.

The U.S. warning came from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and it was for all Americans who are working in Russia. It is recommended they return home.

The rest of this week's Notebook:

2. Netminder Charlie Lindgren projects to be Washington Capitals' backup goalie this season. Last season, he became the first goalie to use the new Bauer Konekt laceless skates. They are like ski boots.

3. Montreal general manager Kent Hughes has called No. 1 overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovsky's performance "underwhelming" thus far in the preseason. It's early. He's young. Nothing to see here.

4.It seems likely that Detroit's 6-foot-8 Swedish forward Elmer Soderblom will start the season in the American Hockey League, but coach Derek Lalonde is giving him a true shot. He played his third consecutive preseason game Friday. He has one goal, one assist, six shots on goal and nine hits.

5. Word out of Washington is that Dylan Strome is taking command of the team's No. 2 center role.

6. TSN is reporting contract negotiations between the Boston Bruins and David Pastrnak are heating up. With Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in the latter stages of their careers, the Bruins must be aggressive to get Pastrnak locked down. At 26, he's the present and future of the Bruins' offense.

7. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe says he might use Mitch Marner sometimes on defense. Given Marner's offensive ability this is reminiscent of Scotty Bowman using Sergei Fedorov on defense on those powerhouse Detroit Red Wings teams many years ago.

8. Former NHLer Valtteri Filppula, 38, is off to a good start in the Swiss National League this season with seven points in seven game. He's ninth in the league scoring race. Filppula also leads the league in plus-minus (+11). This is his second season in the Swiss League. Filppula played 1,056 games in the NHL.

9. As much as I like the New York Rangers' playoff chances, they need to score more goals this season. Alexis Lafreniere's continued development will bump it up. But the Rangers were a mediocre scoring team last season at 3.05 goals per game. That's why it makes plenty of sense for the Rangers to lead the charge to acquire Patrick Kane as a rental.

10. The Pacific Division will be even more competitive than it was last season. The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks should be improved this season, and the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks might be better than we think they are. The Vegas Golden Knights will be a playoff team if their goaltending is solid. At the very least, those bottom Pacific teams are going to be more competitive.

11. Eighty-nine years ago yesterday, on Sept. 30, 1933, the NHL decided to go from one referee to two referees. At the time, the league also only used one linesman. That two-referee configuration was used for five seasons before the league opted to go back to one referee.

12. Who has the better goaltending as we stand today -- the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs? Asking for millions of Maple Leafs and Oilers fans. That is going to be an interesting sidebar this season.

13. Mark Spector of Sportsnet reports that the Edmonton Oilers are not among the teams chasing a Jakob Chychrun trade. The Oilers are unwilling to part with their better prospects Dylan Holloway or Philip Broberg. The Coyotes aren't going to move Chychrun for Jesse Puljujarvi and a first-round pick.

14. The Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and owner Jeff Vinik family foundation are each donating $1 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

15. Happy Birthday, Scott Young. He turns 55 today. You can make a case that Young is one of the more underrated players in NHL history. But not to the players who played with him. He played with seven different NHL teams, piling up 1,181 games played, 342 goals and 757 points. Young could skate and score. He netted 40 goals for the St. Louis Blues in 2000-01 and 30 for the Quebec Nordiques in 1992-93. He won Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche. Proven playoff performer.
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