The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! The opening of the NHL free agency period saw for the first time in years, Russian players choosing to leave the motherland instead of running home. We try our best to give all the incoming comrades an evulation and how they will mix into their new teams.
Artemi Panarin (CHI)-The 23 year-old winger agreed to a contract with the defending champion Blackhawks before they even lifted the cup. He leaves the reigning KHL champion locker room to their NHL counterpart.
In training camp Panarin skated on the second line with fellow countryman Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. Panarin is known for his quick hands and his overall speed which makes him to be the standout of newbies from the KHL exodus. Having only featured in one preseason game he notched two assists and managed at point to stick handle past the entire stars back check. Had this year not been for Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, Panarin could easily be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy. Chicago fans and the like should be very excited.
Victor Tikhonov (CHI)– Also landing in the Windy City is Panarin’s SKA teammate and the grandson of the late legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov Sr. Having grown up in the U.S. and played with the Coyotes back in 2009, Tikhonov unlike his new teammate has NHL experience under his belt.
In the four seasons since leaving for Russia, Tikhonov has netted 55 goals along with 115 points in 189 games with SKA. His game has evolved enough to be recognized by the national team based off play and not namesake. He has represented the team his grandfather helped build twice at the Worlds and the forgettable 2014 Olympics. It’s unclear where he fits into Chicago’s plans however despite making the opening night roster.
With the arrival of both Panarin, Tikhonov and the aforementioned Anisimov, this is the first time since the 2007-2008 season that Blackhawks have had more than two Russians in their line-up.
Alexander Burmistrov (WPG)– Staying with returning NHL players theme, the Winnipeg Jets welcomed back a familiar face who left them at the end of the 2012-13 season as a restricted free agent voicing displeasure with being sent down to the AHL. While in Russia, the 23-year-old winger scored 20 goals with 64 points in 107 games. Supposedly a more mature Burmistrov has returned looking to build on his NHL resume in which he’s already notched 58 points in 194 games. He’s spent time on the third line and could possibly get top 6 minutes. A more seasoned Burmistrov could only benefit a Jets team that looks to return to the post season and hopefully this year is long overdue breakout season.
Evgeny Medvedev (PHI)- The Flyers blue-line got a big boost this off-season with the acquisition of 33-year-old Evgeny Medvedev. Having spent his entire career in Russia the veteran is a needed presence with tremendous upside. In his pro career, he’s racked up 141 points in 332 games proving his ability to play both sides of the puck. His big shot and big frame make him stand out amongst his new teammates as he becomes just the 5th Russian to man the blue-line in Flyers orange. Medvedev has represented his country in every Worlds since 2012 and made 3 KHL All-star appearances.
Sergei Plotnikov (Pit)– Brought in to play alongside Evgeni Malkin, the 25-year-old winger has the ability to find the back of the net. Eclipsing the 10 goal/20 point mark every KHL season he’s played in gives Pittsburgh depth on the flanks. It is believed the Pens were making a play for Tikhonov/Panarin but the duo ended up in Chicago. Nevertheless, Plotnikov has the ability to earn minutes and feed off Malkin’s talent to increase his goal and point total in his debut season.
Sergei Kalinin (NJ)- Kalinin is another Russian to make an impression with an NHL club earning an entry level contract. After suffering a horrific head injury, the 24-year-old has made the Devils opening night roster and slots into the third line. A low risk move by New Jersey has the potential to blossom into a mid-level forward as the teams rebuild allows him to stand out more since there’s not much going otherwise. He recorded 69 points in 213 games in the KHL.
Anton Slepyshev (EDM)– One of the surprises during the preseason, the 21-year-old winger has mightily impressed the Oilers to earn a spot on the second line in the absence of JordanEberle. Having scored two goals with two points in 7 games the youngster adds more scoring to a team stacked with top picks from years past. He has the potential to remain with the club once Eberle returns and has more than a month to prove he belongs. He has the potential to be a feel good story for Edmonton after they come down from their Connor McDavid high.