Top KHL Players for the 2019 UFA Market

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

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