The Chicago Blackhawks are looking to the Kontinental Hockey League for more forward depth once again
The Chicago Blackhawks are once again looking to Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League for forward depth. One of Stan Bowman’s favorite pasttimes is finding reliable, cost-controlled young players, in overseas leagues or elsewhere.
While Bowman loves to get players for the SweHL, he will dip into the KHL as well. Reports have surfaced from Scott Powers at The Athletic that Maxim Shalunov of the KHL could be interested in signing with the Blackhawks. Shalunov was a fourth-round draft pick of the Blackhawks in 2011.
Shalunov is an interesting case of development. Shalunov was a draft pick of the Blackhawks in 2011 but never signed. He spent time with the Chelyabinsk Traktor for 6 games in the KHL before coming to the AHL.
Shalunov played 20 games for the Rockford IceHogs before being sent to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. In 43 games with Toledo, he recorded 18 goals and 16 assists. After failing in North American hockey, he returned home.
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Shalunov has since broken out with Novosibirsk Sibir. With Novosibirsk Sibir, he has 17 goals and 15 assists in 37 games this season. Last year he had 30 points in 59 games with Novosibirsk Sibir.
The Blackhawks currently Shalunov’s rights because an NHL franchise retains a player’s rights for up to five years after drafting him.
Past KHL successes: Artemi Panarin and Michal Kempny
The Blackhawks are hoping to find another diamond in the KHL like they did with Artemi Panarin. Panarin was signed as an unrestricted free agent out of the KHL in 2015 and already has a Calder Trophy to his name in the NHL.
During his Blackhawks tenure, he has 47 goals and 71 assists in 1 1/2 seasons. That was a great find for the Blackhawks, who have since signed him to a two-year extension worth $6 million per year.
The Blackhawks also have found some defensive depth in Michal Kempny from the KHL. Kempny appears to be gaining favor with the Blackhawks coaching staff and playing more minutes. He is, however, still stapled to the bench in the last few minutes of the game. Kempny averages 15:19 per night in ice time.
Past failure: Viktor Tikhonov
Shalunov cannot be any worse coming from the KHL than former Blackhawks forward Viktor Tikhonov.
Tikhonov played 11 games in the HL before the ’Hawks waived him. The best part of his tenure with the Blackhawks was his appearance at the team convention. He was great interview in my opinion.
Tikhonov was picked up by Arizona and spent the rest of the season with the Coyotes. He did not get an NHL offer for the 2016-17 season and returned to the KHL. He is currently with St. Petersberg SKA. He has 2 goals and 4 assists in 31 games.
Shalunov’s play in the NHL will determine how we rank him alongside the aforementioned former KHLers. At the worst, the Blackhawks are trying to add some forward depth. At best, they can find another Panarin-like player.