Sick of not getting a chance with the Boston Bruins, top prospect Alex Khokhlachev took his talents back to his homeland this offseason by way of a contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL.
Khokhlachev, whose agent said ‘the answers are in the Boston front office’ as to why his client was no longer with the Black and Gold, was just one of many to join the SKA St. Petersburg this offseason (other names include Sergei Plotnikov, Viktor Tikhonov, and NHL legend Pavel Datsyuk), but his Tuesday debut in the club’s season-opening loss brought about more of the same on the big stage.
On a third line with Steve Moses and Nikolay Prokhorkin, Khokhlachev was on the ice for Paul Szczechura’s first period goal for Chelyabinsk Traktor, and finished the night with just one shot on goal and a minus-1 rating in just 10:16 of time on ice. That 10:16 night was the lowest figure by any SKA St. Petersburg skater, and his 13 shifts were also the fewest on the team.
Khokhlachev was a dominant talent in his tenure with the Providence Bruins with 61 goals and 171 points in 197 AHL contests, including 23 goals and 68 points in just 60 games with the P-Bruins this past season, but never quite took off in the NHL under B’s head coach Claude Julien.
But Julien tried to find ways to Khokhlachev to contribute, and even stuck the talented Russian with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson during their white-hot run in November, and still, Khokhlachev struggled to make an impression. And with the Bruins in dire need of production and wins to stay afloat in what was a failed effort to return to the playoffs, Khokhlachev found himself back in a spare part role in Julien’s doghouse, including a pointless (in more ways than one) 13-shift, 6:01 Winter Classic game against the Montreal Canadiens before he was returned to Providence for the year.
An obvious final straw for Khokhlachev, and one that ultimately led to his aforementioned decision to head back to Russia, the 22-year-old forward now finds himself in a situation where he’ll compete for premier ice-time against the likes of Datsyuk, former NHL sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, Vadim Shipachev, ex-Panther Evgeny Dadonov, and other known names and veterans that could put ‘Khoko’ in a complementary role, or back to a spare part role, if the production is not there.
The Bruins, who drafted Khokhlachev with the 40th overall pick in 2011, still do own Khokhlachev’s NHL rights, but it’s unlikely that Boston will ever see him return in black and gold so long as it’s this front office regime and this head coach still running the show on Causeway Street.
Or unless Khokhlachev discovers his new head coach, Oleg Znarok, is just Russian for Claude Julien.