Alexander Soloviev - best MHL goalie so far

Avto's Alexander Soloviev is the hottest goalie in the MHL, despite in the league play some potential stars like Alexander Pechursky or Igor Bobkov. In the nine matches he played he had seven wins, three shut outs and...one goal! Yes, because in a game against Novokuznetskie Medvedi, with the empty net, defenseman Anton Rekhtin touched the puck backwards, but without purpose he fired up a true tragicomic situation with the puck hitting the back of his own net. Not to mention the shock of the crowd when the speaker announced that the goal scorer was the away team's goalie, as the last opponent to touch the puck. "Yeah it was nice to be a 'goal scorer', but getting the third shut out of the season was even better" - he declared hours later to the popular Russian hockey portal allhockey.ru. Soloviev is thus the best goalie of this MHL start, and Avto has to thank especially him for the very good results so far. They are now the second seed on the Eastern Conference with 20 points, the same as Tolpar, which has played two games less. Tolpar Ufa, though, did defeat them in their encounter as today scored three goals to Soloviev in Ekaterinburg, while Avto scored only two. The home team was up 2-0 after the first horn, but a strong third period by the MHL leaders was too much for them and Soloviev didn't stop the shots coming from Hamko and Kutdusov, who got a double. Tolpar played without the league's second top scorer, Maxim Frolov. In the only five matches he played, he scored twelve points, not a bad stats at all. The first overall MHL scorer is Reaktor's Airat Ziazov, with 14 points in 6 matches.


Alexander Avtsin scores a double, Alexander Khokhlachev gets the GWG, young stars are growing up.

Moscow stars Alexander Avtsin and Alexander Khokhlachev started gaining momentum lately and they showed in the last gamedays. In the match between Feniks Voskresensk and MHK Dinamo, won by Dinamo 5-1, Montreal Canadiens' prospect scored a double. Thanks to this strong perfomance now Alexander has three goals in five matches, with an assist too) and he gained a call up for the KHL match between his Dinamo and CSKA Moscow of September 22nd, in which he played his first KHL shifts, only three though. But this is good anyway for him, as he could taste some play against the pros and so on. Plus, he's gaining confidence as he's started producing in the MHL, and getting on the scoresheet is always for a forward, no matter the league he's playing in. His line made up of him, Vitaly Karamnov and Nikita Dvurechensky is one of the hottest in the league and it doesn't look like it's going to change soon as they are gaining chemistry too.

Still in Moscow, but on the Spartak side, another young player started making a name for himself. 16-years old Alexander Khokhlachev scored the GWG in the recent MHK Spartak win against a stacked Atlant Mytischi. Being him heavily underaged, he's 5 years younger than the MHL oldest players, it's hard for him to get quality ice time, but he isn't wasting it. Even if he scored only two points so far (he picked up an assist in his very first match) he's improving and his goal in the match played on September 20th is confirming that. In Moscow many hope that Spartak senior team's head coach Milos Riga will give him a chance with the first team like the last season he did with another blue chip prospect, Kirill Kabanov.


MHL missed stars: Alexander Burmistrov

1992-born Alexander Burmistrov was thought to be a MHL star this season, but he missed the chance to play for Bars as he instead moved to Barrie to play with the Colts in the Ontario Hockey League. In this translated interview originally by Andrei Osadchenko of allhockey.ru Burmistrov talked about Ak Bars' conditions to release him to play for Barrie and shared his first impressions about the OHL.

Moving to a different team isn't an easy deal. Moving overseas is even tougher. But the young forward Alexander Burmistrov, who spent last season playing for Ak Bars' second team in Russian third tier league, seems to be fitting well in Canada and feels that moving to the OHL was the right thing.

You moved to Barrie around a month ago. I guess you managed to see the whole city.

Almost everything, yes. It's a beautiful city. Right in the middle there is a big lake. I've liked everything so far.

Would it be correct to call it a hockey city?

Yes. You can say that everyone is a hockey fan.

People recognize you while on streets?

No, not yet. (smiles)

Do you have at home something from your club?

I've hanged the jersey they gifted me on draft day. And also one of those little jerseys, with my surname as well.

Won't you talk about the pluses and minuses of this city?

(pauses) Well I still don't know that. I like a lot the arena. Here it's still warm and it's good. (smiles)

Aren't you worried by the winters? They say that the winters are cold in Canada...

No. I don't know, I think winters are colder in Russia. (smiles)

How do you spend your free time?

I go to the downtown, or to the movies, I surf the web...nothing special.

Which movie you watches as last?

The third part of “Final Destination”, on 3D format. I've liked it. I've watched the whole series.

Was it the first time you watched a movie in English?

Yes, but it was alright. I've understood everything. (smiles)

Do you live in a family?

Yes. I live with a nice family in a big house. By the way, this family is fairly rich. My mom arrived just now and she'll be here until September 19th.

How many other guys live in this family?

The goalkeeper of my team also lives here.

Do they stably feed you?

Yes, as soon as we want to eat, we just have to tell them and they'll cook. They eat a little bit of everything, but I'm always asking for meat.

You've already spent some trainings with your new team. What can you tell us about it?

Here I like everything. Good team, good players. We understand each other. I mix up with everyone, and everyone treats me well. In a match I've been roughed up and because of that a brawl started.

If it's not a secret, under which conditions Ak Bars let you go? Kirill Kabanov found some troubles in a similar situation...

I should play here one season, improve...and then I should get back and play for Ak Bars.

In the very first match you played with the Colts, you scored against Guelph. You couldn't have any better or you could have done more?

It's good that I've scored in my very first match, but still I could have scored more. The score was 9-4 and I think it represented what was happening on the ice. We were better than them. Then we lost again 7-2 at Sudbury, and then we won against Owen Sound Attack 5-3. This team was rather good.

In Guelph this year will play two other Russians: Evgeny Molotilov and Vadim Guskov. Did you manage to meet them?

I knew Molotilov, I've talked to him before and after the match, while I don't know the other guy. By the way, here in Barrie arrived yet another Russian – Denis Gladkov from CSKA. But they said him, that he'll play for them only starting from the next season. Not in this one.

Many talk about the differences between the methods in Russian and Canadian training. What can you tel us about that?

In the first place, here the trainings are run at higher speed. Secondly, in Russia you have two or even three sessions a day, here only one, but you're going to be tired at the end. You get out from the trainings without forces, get home and go sleeping.

Having spent some time in the OHL, how can you compare the level of the league with the Russian first division (the third tier league in which he used to play, now substituted by the MHL - ASR)?

I think that the First league was better than today's MHL, because there you had to play against men, not only juniors. If we compare these leagues with the OHL, then the OHL is better. Once again, there is a lot of speed in here.

You moved to Canada right after the Russian junior national team tour in the USA. Can you compare these two countries?

I don't know. But the city in which we played, Lake Placid, yes, I didn't like it at all. And it looked like there wasn't too much other than the arena. More like a resort city. Barrie is definitely better.

If we talk about the mini series against team USA, Russian junior national team didn't get great results. What was the main reason of this debacle in your opinion?

The refs didn't let us play. In the last play they pretty much condemned us to lose. The referees were good only in the third match, which we won. And even in there they were biased against us.

The refereeing was the same as in the finals of the last U18 WJC?

Yes. Maybe it was even worse.

The Americans were too good or it was all referees' fault?

No, it wasn't all refs' fault. We are guilty too since we lost. Team USA is very good, but we aren't any worse.

What did national junior team head coach Vladimir Plyuschev think about your leave? Will he keep on counting on you for the national team?

I've talked with him, all is good and we will be in contact. He trusts me and I want to help the team winning the WJC.

In next November, the national junior team will play one game in your new team's arena. Do you think you'll play as guest in front of your home fans?

I think I'll play. After all the coach has to watch me before the WJC. It's the only time they can do that. And only two matches: in Barrie and in Windsor.


I had an interview at OHL Prospects

Today I've had an interview with the popular OHL blog "OHL Prospects". The blog is run by Brock Otten, one of the most acknoweledged OHL bloggers out there. In the interview me and Brock talked about the 2010 Russian players in the Ontario Hockey League (who will be Alexander Burmistrov, Stefan Stepanov, Roman Berdnikov, Ramis Sadikov, Ivan Telegin, Valeri Knyazev, maybe Anton Klementyev, Vadim Guskov and Viktor Perezhogin).

The whole interview can be read here. Thanks again to Brock for the chance!


Prospects breakdown - MHL who's who (Part 1)

Following the request of our reader Jake in my latest entry, I've decided to write down some breakdown about the players to watch. Known and less known.

Let's start from the most known one, Alexander Avtsin, who plays for MHK Dinamo Moscow. The Montreal Canadiens draftee is one of the league's start, despite ending scoreless in the first MHL match he played, against Red Army. He didn't participate to the second match as he was a call-up for Dinamo's main team in a preseasonal match, confirming that he's one of the first junior players considered for a callup in a very stacked KHL team. The quick power forward, who has been often compared to Alexander Ovechkin, might play a key role in his team, but he needs to start producing after his not good first game. But well, it was only one game.

In his same team some other interesting players get good ice time. Nikita Dvurechensky is among them. Described as "a skilled winger with an excellent touch around the net and interesting finishing abilities" in an April Hockey's Future article I wrote myself, Dvurechensky already showed his stuff in the MHL start as he scored two goals and one assist in the first game, staying off the score-sheet in the second. Ranked highly enough for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, #12 among Russians in the Russian Prospects' rankings, he ended up undrafted, most likely because of the notorious problems in movements from Russia to America.

Another interesting player from MHK Dinamo is the former OHL player Vitaly Karamnov. The center, who has been in Edmonton's radar in 2007, is a playmaking center gifted with good technique and skating, who has been misteriously not drafted. Pavel Zotov, 1991-born center, is more solid and probably strongest on the faceoff dots, but is still raw and despite being a regular in Russia-91 he has been overlooked during the rankings time and consequently for the draft.

Let's remain in Moscow. CSKA-Krasnaya Armiya showcases in its lineup one of the "MHL faces", offensive defenseman Alexei Marchenko. A typical Russian defenseman, Marchenko (the stress in his surname is in the first syllab) is an average sized defenseman who might have to work on his body, but that is able to do exciting rushes end-to-end with the puck on the blade. And he can finish them too as he did in the second game of the season against MHK Dinamo, where he scored a double. He likes to play with some edge and is fairly aggressive without exaggerating, like sometimes junior players do when they want to show some aggressivity. He has definitely KHL potential, but I think that he might be considered for the 2010 NHL draft as he can develop into a NHL level powerplay quarterback.

League's topscorer, right winger Nikita Gusev is so far Krasnaya-Armiya's best player. He still has to demonstrate that he can do it throughout the whole season, but his speed, play without the puck and nose for the net are interesting features that might give him a spot in the U18 national team. CSKA's goalie Pavel Suchkov, 2011 eligible as he's a late 1992-born, is having a good start, looking better than his colleague Anton Todykov. But well, there is a reason if Suchkov is a national team player and Todykov not. Good things are expected also from small winger Sergei Barbashev, whose skill level is surely noticeable, but it had a bit of hard time in the MHL start, indicating that he needs to bulk up and mature as a player. Curiously enough, 1993-born Nikita Kucherov had an excellent start with three goals in the first two matches, way better than many of the highly touted players we talked about.

Our trip around Moscow isn't over yet as in Spartak Moscow other players worthy a mention keep on growing up in the prolific talent factory. The dynamic duo formed by 18-year old Artem Voronin and 17-years old Alexander Gogolev might be yet another offensive weapon that can cause havoc in any opposition, while the future star Alexander Khokhlachev, 1993 born, has started growing and already scored his first MHL point with an assist in MHK Spartak's win against Chaika Nizhny Novgorod. Among the three players is of course Khokhlachev the most promising one, he has everything that a forward needs, being able to count on an excellent shot, a very good technique, great skating and even a good size considering his age.

The Moscow territory counts other four teams: Atlant (Mytischi), Sherif (Balashikha), Feniks (Voskresensk), Russkie Vityazi (Chekhov) and MHK Krylya Sovetov. Atlant might have the most complete and experienced first line, if their head coach Vladimir Kucherenko will decide to ice together Pavel Chernov, Anton Lazarev and Oleg Yashin. All the three players have KHL and national junior team experience, and being the three all different kind of hockey player they might fit very well together. Pavel Chernov is a very good playmaking center with a good physical play despite a relative small size. Anton Lazarev is a quick forward with smooth skating and above average finishing abilities, Oleg Yashin is a talented winger who can put it in the back of the net if he gets the right pass. Sherif Balashikha and Feniks Voskresensk have less interesting teams, who will most likely struggle throughout the whole season, while MHK Krylya Sovetov and Russkie Vityazi has much more interesting players, especially the latter. Krylya Sovetov's 1992-born forward Ignat Zemchenko is one of the players to watch, together with his team mates Artur Ganzvind and Dmitri Gromov. Russkie Vityazi instead can count on a very good trio made up of Artemy Panarin, Petr Kopytsov and Georgi Belousov. Their team started very well the season and after three matches they top the Western Conference with six points.

For this issue it's all. The second part will follow soon with the rest of the top MHL talent.


MHL starts: MHK Dinamo skates past Red Army

In the first-ever MHL match, played on September 4th in Moscow, MHK Dinamo downed CSKA-Krasnaya Armiya with a 6-2 score. Everyone was probably waiting for Alexander Avtsin to get the goals for Dinamo, but instead Nikita Dvurechensky, highly ranked player for the 2009 drafted, has been the game's top player scoring two goals, one assist and having many other chances throughout the game. In the first ten minutes of the match Dinamo had almost no chance to get past the central red line, but after a couple of powerplays for the Red Army the white and blues exploited a couple of good chances on counterattacks, in both cases putting the puck high glove side, first with Roman Vasiliev, then with Nikita Dvurechensky. "It was pleasant to score the first-ever MHL hockey, of course. I trained such kind of shoots with Afanasenkov" - declared Vasiliev to the popular Russian hockey network www.allhockey.ru

After allowing the second goal, CSKA coach Andrei Parfenov replaced Anton Todykov with the U18 national team goalie Pavel Suchkov, who looked more confortable, at least at the start. In the second period the music changed as Dinamo's quick counterattacks have been better contained by the Red Army, who managed first to cut down opponents' lead after a beautiful two-on-one play inspired by Nikita Gusev finalized by Nikita Kucherov, then with Gusev, tapping in a rebound left by Dinamo goalie Sharychenkov after a shot by Kucherov again.

But in the third period the more experienced Dinamo players taken the game away scoring four goals. The eventual game winner has been scored by Nikita Dvurechensky, who crashed the net puck on the blade to put the puck past Suchkov from close range. A bunch of minutes later Dinamo scored other two goals in a 25-second range with Kombachev and Biryukov, the second on an assist by former WHL player Vitaly Karamnov. At the 57'30" Dinamo player Kuzmin made it 6-2 with a shorthanded goal.

"It was a good game. We had good nerves and we won thanks to a good display by our forwards" - declared MHK Dinamo's coach Anatoli Antipov.

Scouting notes

Dinamo players

Alexander Avtsin: served as first line left wing with Zotov and Kuzmin...despite having some chances, was rather quite...probably he felt the pressure...good when his team has the puck, has to learn what to do when the other team has the possession...got two penalties, one of them for revenge...can crash the net, but has to work on his finishing...not a bad performance, but either not the best one...

Vitaly Zotov: a solid center good in the face-off dots...can work on his play but is pretty all-around thanks to his good fundamentals...may be a tad more creative...

Nikita Dvurechensky: the game's MVP...scored two goals and assisted on another...good use of the size both along the boards and open ice...very good stickhandling and nose for the net...looks like a mature player, deserves a chance with Dinamo's main team...

CSKA-Krasnaya Armiya

Alexei Marchenko: a very interesting offensive defenseman with good playmaking abilities who can serve as powerplay quarterback...good hand-eye coordination...very good puck handling, especially while going end to end with the puck on the blade...plays confidently, with some edge in the corners...has to bulk up...

Marat Urakcheev: iced as first line right winger has played surprisingly well even if not consistently...displayed a very good stickhandling...despite being not a top player managed to hold his spot on the team's first unit...

Sergei Barbashev: played not up to the expectations...has been quite uneffective throughout the whole game...served as second line left winger with Roman Lyubimov and center Artem Maslov...


CSKA – Krasnaya Armiya – MHK Dinamo 2:6 (0:2, 2:0, 0:4)
0:1 Vasiliev (Kombachev) 11:11 0:2 Dvurechensky (Khamidulin) 14:48 1:2 Kucherov (Gusev) 34:28 2:2 Gusev (Kucherov, Noskov) 39:58 PP 2:3 Dvurechensky 41:40 2:4 Biryukov (Karamnov, Kuzmin) 47:06 2:5 Kombachev (Dvurechensky) 47:06 2:6 Kuzmin (Burets) 57:30 SH


MHL Stars: Alexei Marchenko

17-years old defenseman, Red Army hot prospect talks about what’s important for youngsters and about what’s needed to do in order to have them remain in Russia and not bolting for the NHL. Translated interview from www.championat.ru

I’m a bit tired as there was movement, tension. But it was pleasant to work that way. It was the first time and everything is new – said Alexei Marchenko. It was pleasant to be shown in the league’s photo-session. But it brings responsibilities…

Which ones?

Well, once you are selected as “league’s face” you have to show that you deserve it. There will be many things around you. And you have to work harder on you to become successful.

Did you ever had such an attention on you from the press? You had more interviews today than in your whole life…

(laughs) You said that! But I think that it’s possible to get used to it. I really want that journalists will write and talk more about us. And that they will show us more. That would be interesting, otherwise it looks that you’re playing for yourself only.

Do you expect a lot of changes from the creation of the MHL?

Of course. There will be more attention on young players on the press, television, internet. That’s the most important thing, I guess, as people will know more about us and our style. Earlier only the experts know about youngster tournaments, or not? Well, also our parents. And that’s pretty much all. Almost no one knew us a part ourselves. But now the MHL will help the usual hockey fans to know more about us, about the generation of players that will soon represent Russia on the international stage. I guess that this will be interesting for the people. And it’s a big plus. And the league will interact well with the KHL as all the players will be seen more.

And the attention is for you young players the most important thing, isn’t it?

Yes! I really want to play and exhibit in front of many spectators. Usually in the junior leagues there are like 300 persons. Wow, what is that?!?! Who knows who won the junior leagues last year? I think not much people knows that. But everyone will know who’ll win the Kharlamov Cup. I think that any player wants to be recognized by the fans. We do play for the fans, and not for ourselves.

Do you like the Cup’s denomination? Kharlamov Cup?

It’s a very good denomination. And it’s correct. I’m glad about it. Kharlamov will be appreciated in 50 years, in 100 years, even in 150. His name will never die. He will be remembered. He was a great player, known in all over the world. The cup will be named after him and that’s right. To be the first conqueror of the cup would be honourable.

Do you expect that the junior hockey organization would raise after the creation of the MHL?

Yes, it should. But don’t know how. At CSKA it was all good even earlier. I can’t say anything bad about the organization. And if it will be even better, then it would be great.

Which aims did you set up for the upcoming season?

To win the first MHL title. The first Kharlamov Cup. And only that! I also would like to play a couple of games for the main team. It would be good to play some matches.

When you estimate to be permanently called to the first team?

I don’t know. When it will turn out. I’ll work and try hard. All depend on I’ll play in the MHL. Of course I want to be there as soon as possible. I think that it’s getting more real now. It’s possible to get to the first team only if you play well in the junior league and if you prove to be one of the best players of your age group. And then if the coach sees you, you’ll get in. You only have to work.

In your opinion, there will be many changes in CSKA with Vyacheslav Bykov leaving and Sergei Nemchinov coming? How this will influence the future of the CSKA young players and yours in particular?

The team is really young, and as I’ve understood, they will trust youngsters a lot. I’ve never worked under Nemchinov, but he was the national junior team’s coach and he grabbed the third place at the WJC. That’s a good result. They almost won against Canada. The results say that he’s a good coach with youngsters. And if in CSKA there will be more youngsters that will be a plus for me and for the other guys. It’s our chance.

Any youngster dreams about the NHL. You too?

I’m still under contract with CSKA and I see my future only with this team. I still have a lot to work and to play to grow to a higher level. I’ll think about that only if I’ll reach that level. In the meantime I want to play for CSKA, I’ll try hard to get to the first team. But of course thinking about the NHL doesn’t hurt. (smiles)

How do you think, is it really possible that Russian young players will stop dreaming about the NHL and understand that there is a great opportunity for them to play in Russia?

All depends on the KHL. The NHL, thanks to his enormous history and such, it’s a lot popular. There are a lot of spectators and the media reports about everything. If in the KHL it will be the same, then what’s the point of going there? It’s a matter of organization.

And what can you say after KHL’s inaugural season?

You could have seen the improvements from the old Superliga straight away, it became considerably better. Even the matches became more interesting. Some NHL players arrived. Jaromir Jagr. Now Sergei Fedorov. Anyone would play with such players. Of course nothing can immediately change. But I really want to play in the KHL after this season. We'll see how it will be in a few years. To speak the truth, why go to the NHL, if it's possible to play in the KHL at the same level? You know, many guys just want to play where the stands are filled and that's the reason they look to America. Because here they wouldn't need anything special. But that's the past. Now there is the MHL, the KHL. Players want to come here from the NHL. Let them not be the younger ones. But it's not the end of the game. And Jiri Hudler arrived to Dinamo, he's 25. It's remarkable, that a player on his peak opted not for the NHL, but for the KHL.


- Alexei Marchenko was born in Moscow in January 2nd, 1992
- He's 6'0”, 163 lbs
- A graduate of the Spartak junior system, he moved to CSKA when the team folded three years ago.
- He's a regular of Russia-92 national team and he just participated to the last Ivan Hlinka Memorial, where he posted one goal and three points in four games.
- A right stick offensive defenseman, can play on both sides and is very versatile.
- He was featured in the first MHL photo-session and in the Moscow ads.

MHL releases the list of the 16 years old players cleared to play

MHL just released the list of the 16 years old players who have been cleared to play in the following season. As said earlier, the league is open to any player from 17 to 21, with the possibility for the 16 years old only after the permission of the parents and the success of a very accurate medical test. The list is the following:

Nikita Kucherov (Krasnaya-Armiya), Alexander Serdyukov (Russkie Vityazi), Roman Konkov, Stepan Vyrin (both - Chaika), Oleg Misyul (Loko), Alexander Khokhlachev (MHK Spartak), Andrei Makarov, Andrey Sigarev, Danil Metlyuk and Andrei Tarasov (all - Ladia).


New logos and uniform released

Logos and uniforms keep on being released while we are getting close to the MHL start, scheduled for September 4th. The first team to present something new in the recent weeks has been Tolpar, Salavat Yulaev's junior team. 

Around a week ago they unveiled their logo, a good effort if you're going to ask me:

After Tolpar, Sibir Novosibirsk's affiliate Sibirskie Snaypery unveiled something interesting: their jersey

And today the last display: Feniks Voskresensk's logo and jerseys. Good effort once again!