Russia Stock Watch: Everything's looking up Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod
The hockey season started off early in Russia, with the puck dropping on their most prominent leagues in September with plenty of drama to boot.
The Matvei Michkov saga continued to confound the hockey world and upset Philadelphia Flyers fans, with many questioning if he was ever going to play a game this year. All the while, some 17-year-olds in the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod system have taken on almost unprecedented roles with their KHL team.
It’s been a hectic start to the season, and we're here to make sense of it all with a look at who’s found their footing early into this season and some players whose futures are starting to look pretty cloudy. Apologies in advance, Carolina Hurricanes fans.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod Prospects
Head coach Igor Larionov’s willingness to play prospects and develop young talent has made them the talk of the prospect world to start the 2023-24 KHL season. Especially their willingness to give these players long leashes and a chance to grow into their roles.
2024 NHL Draft Eligibles Anton Silayev and Nikita Artamonov are leading the charge, with the two combining to capture three of the four Rookie of the Week awards in September, with the former even going on to win Rookie of the Month honours.
Silayev drew immediate praise with his 6-foot-7 frame and sublime skating ability. Artamonov, meanwhile, is still flying a little under the radar despite being a key player on Torpedo's first line.
Some of the prospects a little further along in their development are getting in on the action, too. Colorado Avalanche draft pick Nikolai Kovalenko and Montréal Canadiens prospect Bogdan Konyushkov have been on fire to start the year.
Kovalenko returned to Torpedo on a loan after signing his entry-level contract and notched 13 points through his first 11 games; Konyushkov was selected as a double overager by Montréal and has quickly earned Larionov's trust as Torpedo's No. 1 defenceman, leading the KHL in time on ice per game and picking up seven points in 12 games.
Matvei Michkov, RW, HK Sochi (Philadelphia Flyers)
Matvei Michkov's situation continues to puzzle everyone involved. He started off the 2023-24 campaign with an electric preseason, but that was only enough to get him into… one game with SKA, playing six minutes before eventually going back to HK Sochi on loan.
Since then, he’s done what he does best – dominate. Even mixing in some quieter appearances, Michkov managed eight points through his first seven games with Sochi. That number would make him the second-best scorer on SKA had he stayed, even with three fewer appearances than their top scorer, Vladimir Alistrov. There may be no player on a hotter streak right now and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.
Alexander Rykov, LW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (Carolina Hurricanes)
Alexander Rykov ended his draft year shrouded in mystery, due largely to the fact that he missed most of the second half of his season due to injury. Surprise, surprise, the Hurricanes swooped in and made him their first (though certainly not their last…) Russian pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Since then, Rykov has been absolutely buzzing. He was left off of Traktor’s roster for their four-game road trip to start the season, returning instead to the VHL for his first eight games, grabbing eight points along the way. His performances saw him called up to the main squad to end the month and he found himself scoring his first and second career KHL goals in the meantime.
18-year-old Alexander Rykov gets his first KHL career goal! pic.twitter.com/y3ODbcopnP— KHL (@khl_eng) September 23, 2023
What keeps him in the ‘Stock Steady’ category, though, is the on-ice performances at the KHL level. The lack of high-end puck skills limits his creativity and his ability to make plays. He looks mostly like a checking line player out there, which is fine but not necessarily aligned with his production.
When healthy, there’s a very well-rounded forward here, but figuring out the upside is going to be a challenge.
Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Krylya (Carolina Hurricanes)
Gleb Trikozov was the seventh-ranked player in the Carolina Hurricanes’ system ahead of this season, with high expectations for the former second-round pick, many of which centred on his ability to finally become an everyday player for Avangard Omsk.
His preseason was solid, moving up and down the KHL team’s lineup and picking up four points in four games in the meantime.
He returned to the VHL team for his final preseason game and hasn’t stepped on KHL ice since. Even worse for his development, he’s not found consistent ice time. He’s proven to be a quality professional hockey player, a dangerous dual-threat talent with a ton of NHL upside. Playing bottom-six minutes in the VHL and being sent down to junior with no sign of a KHL career ahead of him should have fans worried though.
Alexander Pelevin, D, Zauralie Kurgan (Carolina Hurricanes)
Ending this list is Alexander Pelevin, a player who never quite made it into the Torpedo system. He looked like he was going to break into the KHL in draft year preseason, but two years later, he found himself traded to Zauralie Kurgan in the VHL with just one KHL game under his belt.
Pelevin ended his MHL tenure with a strong year, helping Chaika Nizhny Novgorod to win the Kharlamov Cup. Now, the seventh-round pick has no clear path to playing in the KHL any time soon and is struggling to even find ice time with Kurgan, playing barely over 10 minutes a night.