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From Russia with Khokhlachev

Spitfires GM says prospect will be a very good NHL draft pick

Saturday, 05.28.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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From Russia with Khokhlachev
Alex Khokhlachev
The NHL draft will be held June 24-25 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. For the second time in franchise history, the Red Wings will have the No. 24 selection.

Each week leading up to the June draft, will feature a top prospect that they believe will likely be available late in the first round.


DETROIT – It was only a year ago that a baby-faced Alexander Khokhlachev had his image plastered throughout downtown Moscow.

A smooth two-way center, Khokhlachev was featured in an advertising campaign to help promote the Kontinental Hockey League’s new junior league.

“We saw the stuff that he was on,” said Warren Rychel, general manager of the Windsor Spitfires. “We saw the bus stops and how he had become the poster boy for the junior league back home.

“But I think he knew that if he was going to chase his dream that he would have to come to Canada and the Ontario league. It was a good pick for us, obviously, after the Memorial Cup championship when we lost a lot of quality centers.”
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Khokhlachev, 17, has filled a void for the Spitfires, finishing third in the OHL rookie scoring race with 34 goals and 42 assists in 67 games. A hard-working center, he made the commitment to North America where he has worked on sharpening his physical skills against bigger bodies than he would have gone up against back home.

“I think the biggest improvement is his awareness, and engaging physically,” said Rychel, who selected the Russian with the 23rd pick in the 2010 CHL import draft. “At first, coming from Europe with the big rinks, he’s not going to get hit a lot. Now, coming to North America and the OHL he got hit a lot more. He got used to it and he was giving out hits in the end, as much as he was taking them.”

Already an offensive-minded forward, the decision to come to the OHL has also helped Khokhlachev improve his defensive responsibilities.

“We really got on him early, around Christmas, to bear down in his own end,” Rychel said. “Obviously, he had no idea how to play in his own end in the North American style, and how to become a good two-way player. We were really hard on him in that matter, and he really took a turn for the better after Christmas.

“He was taking more pride in the face-off circle and making sure that he marked his man in his own end. He was really good for us and really turned into a very good two-way player, and I think someone is going to get a very good pick whether it’s near the end of the first round or in the middle.”

The Hockey News has Khokhlachev ranked as the No. 13 best prospect in the NHL draft, which will take place June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn. The Red Wings have the No. 24 selection in the first round.

At 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds, Khokhlachev will never be mistaken for the reincarnation of Eric Lindros or Mario Lemieux, but Rychel does liken him to a pair of former Red Wings’ greats.

“He was pretty consistent all year long. He scores hard goals,” he said. “He scores goals 10-feet in front of the net; he goes to the hard areas to score goals. He’s equally as good of a goal-scorer as he is a passer. Where you look at (Igor) Larionov as a good passer and (Sergei) Fedorov was more of a scorer. This guy is equally good at being both.”

Before jumping to Canada, Khokhlachev led the Russian Under-17 team with five goals and eight assists in the 2010 World Championships in Timmins, Ontario. He also played two seasons with Spartak Moscow, where he scored 25 goals with 41 assists in 81 games.

While he has assimilated quite quickly into the North American culture, Rychel said that he still needs to fine-tune his skating, which should come with time.

“He was a little bit choppy, but he has lengthened it out,” said Rychel, referring to Khokhlachev’s skating. “He’s only a young kid and he has two more years in junior hockey before he turns pro, so it’s only going to get better.

“Coming over as a younger Russian, he was very schooled in English and he just got along with everyone. He was used to everything right away, and he just wanted to get along with everybody and that led to his quick start. He’s just a boy who enjoys coming to the rink every day. Always in a pretty good mood and comes from a very nice family, and a guy that the kids like to be around.”




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80