As the NHL season approaches the halfway mark, the December break period in the Russian Super League (RSL) has just ended. The RSL is increasingly getting more attention due to the plethora of former NHL players in the league. For example, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has 4 players who played in the NHL in 2006-07 on its roster. That being said, many hockey fans in North America have difficulty following the RSL because of the distance and time difference in Russia. Here are a few standout players (and PuckAgency clients) that are worth noting:
Ak Bars Kazan’s Alexei Morozov, who last played in the NHL in 2003-04 in Pittsburgh, is leading the RSL in scoring for the third consecutive season with 19 goals and 23 assists in 36 games. In 2006-07, Alexei set a RSL scoring record with 83 points. Even in a notoriously low-scoring league, Alexei has put up gaudy statistics the past four seasons while leading Kazan to a Championship in 2005-06. Also, over the weekend, Morozov played for Russia in the Channel One Cup, posting 2 goals in 3 games and leading Russia to a tournament victory. Russia won all three games of the tournament, defeating the Czech Republic 5-1 on Sunday, December 16 to clinch the crown. Morozov’s 1st period goal on Sunday was the game-winner.
Vityaz’s Oleg Kvasha, who last played in the NHL in 2005-06 with Phoenix (after being traded by the New York Islanders) is playing at nearly a point-a-game clip, notching 14 goals and 16 assists in 33 games; he is in the top 10 in scoring in the RSL. NHL GM’s could be paying attention to Oleg’s stellar play as Kvasha looks to return to the NHL, where he is a 7-year veteran. Kvasha’s best NHL season came in 2003-04 when he posted 51 points (15 G, 36 A) in 81 games with the New York Islanders.
Lastly, Avangard Omsk’s 6’5″ blueliner Anton Babchuk (Chicago’s 1st round pick in 2002) is also putting up impressive numbers. Babchuk’s 19 points (8 G, 11 A in 36 games) are good for 2nd on the team among defensemen. Anton played 52 games for Carolina in 2006-07, posting 2 goals and adding 12 assists. Omsk’s roster also features New York Rangers 2007 1st Round pick Alexei Cherepanov and former Columbus Blue Jacket Alexander Svitov among others.
It has been an exciting season in the RSL to date and Salavat Yulaev Ufa (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) is in first place and is 14 points ahead of SKA St. Petersburg. Ufa features a roster of former 1st round pick Stanislav Chistov (who played for Boston and Anaheim in 2006-07), Igor Grigorenko, who played briefly for Detroit this year and Oleg Tverdovsky, a former NHL All-Star and two-time Stanley Cup Winner.