checked in a couple of weeks ago with Avtomobilist, noting that last season's KHL doormats have improved significantly this season and exploring the reasons for that resurgence. In fact, since that article was written, they have done even better, and are back ranked among the playoff teams, although they have played more games than the surrounding teams. Unsurprisingly, there was a great deal of movement in the Avtomobilist roster over the off-season, and the team seems to be enjoying the results of those changes.
2012-13 Record: 7W - 1OTW - 12OTL - 32L for 35 points -- 26th in the KHL -- 12th in the East Conf. -- 6th in the Kharlamov Div. -- Missed Playoffs (lost to Amur Khabarovsk in Nadezhda Cup Semi-Finals).
INCOMING: D Andrei Antonov (Neman Grodno [BLR]) | F Ilya Arkalov (Metallurg Novokuznetsk) | F Artёm Chernov (Torpedo) | F Sergei Demagin (Neftekhimik) | F André Deveaux (San Antonio Rampage [AHL]) | F Yevgeny Fёdorov (Sibir) | D Sergei Gusev (Avangard) | G Jakub Kovář (HC České Budějovice (Czech ExtraL) | F Ilya Krikuov (Atlant) | F Anton Lazarev (Metallurg Novokuznetsk) | F Sami Lepistö (Lev) | F Eduard Lewandowski (Spartak) | D Dmitry Megalinsky (Spartak) | D Viktor Postnikov (Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk [MHL]) | F Anthony Stewart (Manchester Monarchs [AHL]) | D Tobias Viklund (AIK Stockholm [SEL]) | F Alexei Yefimov (Admiral) | D Nikolai Zhilin (VMF-Kareliya St. Petersburg [VHL]) | D Yegor Zhuravlёv (Sputnik Nizhny Tagil [VHL])
OUTGOING: F Sergei Chistyakov (Kazzinc-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL]) | F Artёm Kryukov (Amur) | D Yevgeny Kurbatov (CSKA) | F Yevgeny Lapenkov (Metallurg Novokuznetsk) | F Konstantin Makarov (Saryarka Karaganda [VHL]) | F Alexei Makeyev (Vityaz) | D Branislav Mezei (Vityaz) | F Sergei Nemolodyshev (Unknown) | F Filipp Savchenko (Titan Klin [VHL]) | D Alexander Sazonov (Rubin Tyumen [VHL]) | D Denis Sokolov (Yugra) | F Rastislav Špirko (Spartak) | D Sergei Stupin (Saryarka Karaganda [VHL]) | F Mikahil Ustyantsev (Sputnik Nizhny Tagil [VHL]) | F Igor Velichkin (Metallurg Novokuznetsk) | F Pavel Vorobёv (HK Ryazan [VHL]) | D Alexander Yukseyev (Kazzinc-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk [VHL]) | F Alexander Zakirov (Sputnik Nizhny Tagil [VHL])
Coach: Anatoly Yemelin (since Summer, 2013)
As you can see, I was not joking when I said there had been a lot of turnover at Avtomobilist over the off-season and into 2013-14. And a quick glance at the two lists shows a lot of players departing for the VHL and being replaced with guys from KHL teams. This can only be a good sign for Avtomobilist.
Despite the turnover, Avtomobilist's most impressive forward this term has been a returning player, in 23-year-old Fёdor Malykhin, who has a team-leading 13 goals and 28 points in 36 games so far (he had 23 points in 45 games last year). Right there with him in points per game is Lazarev, with 25 points in 35 games. Last season's top scorer, Alexei Simakov, has seen his production fall of a little bit, but I believe that is more a reflection of the deeper forward corps than failing on his part -- Simakov's ice time has fallen by two minutes per game, and that will add up. Špirko was a useful part of the forward group last season, and will be missed somewhat, but the arrows up front are pointing very much in the right direction for the men from Yekaterinburg.
Avtomobilist's defense group shows a similar pattern, with a number of new players making major contributions, while a young returning prospect also impresses. Lepistö and Viklund have provided some scoring from the blue line, posting 16 and 14 points respectively, while potting 11 of the Avtomobilist defense's 15 goals so far. The massive Dmitry Megalinsky (6'3", 245 lbs), acquired from Spartak about a month ago, has only played 10 games for Avtomobilist so far, but is +4 over those games, tied for best among the d-men (the team is -5 overall at this point). However, Avtomobilist's most intriguing blueliner so far has been 19-year-old Nikita Tryamkin, who has played every game this season, scoring 7 points and posting a +4 as well. It has not all been wine and roses on the blueline, as Gusev and Antonov have been somewhat disappointing, but the contributions of the others have more than made up for that.
Avtomobilist's goaltending has not been spectacular this season, although it has not been awful either. Chris Holt and Yevgeny Lobanov split the duties almost equally last year, and neither one excelled. Holt departed late in the season for Donbass (where he was excellent in limited time), and Jakub Kovář was brought in to replace him. While Kovář's save percentage is much better than Holt's was (.923 versus .912), that number is up across the league this season, and the effect has been that once again, Avtomobilist have a starting goalie ranked in the low to mid-20s among his colleagues. Lobanov is back in a supporting role this time, and has seen action in only 7 games so far.
Setting the bar: It has already been a successful season. Going in, I would have said that continued financial stability, and participation in the playoff chase, were what was required to call the season a good one, and we can put big check marks by both of those. If Avtomobilist can keep it up, it will have been a very fine campaign indeed, and one that bodes very well for the future.
Next up: All done!