it’s not official quite yet, but it’s a subtle thread that weaves through bigger and bigger contract negotiations and deals – a prospect from the Minnesota Wild Center who was here and embraced by heaps of hype made his expected trip to North America and joined the organization. As reported by Michael Russo, Alex Khovanov is expected to join the Wild after clarifying some passport and visa requirements for him to move from Russia to the state of hockey.

I’m sure that’s what blocks it when it comes to crossing the border, but luckily the Wild have already locked it down to their entry-level deal, signing the three-year deal in 2019. One an was able to slide thanks to him. was playing for the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, but once he was loaned overseas to the Russian leagues and turned 20, it burned a year’s contract. So it makes sense to be able to take a closer look at the player as he soaks up those years of contract, and hopefully he will be there in time for training camp.

Khovanov sort of got lost in the reshuffle, having people like Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi surpassing the fan base’s excitement since he was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft, but he was once considered a very important hope when we all had a cabinet here full of lost picks and an aging NHL roster.

Before going too far, what kind of player is Khovanov?

Who is he?

At 5-foot-11, Khovanov is certainly not an undersized center or a towering striker, just a perfectly average height, but he’s also not the type to provoke more physics than any particular game. does not require it. His main focus is his ability to play, always looking for teammates in the open areas of the ice and more dangerous scoring chances than if he were trying to take the shot open to him.

I’m sure everyone read a screening report on Khovanov the minute it was written by the Wild, but he’s honestly someone who has been kind of lost during pandemic season. Having cut short his final year in the QMJHL – where only Alexis Lafrenière, first overall pick in 2019, scored more points than him in the entire league – he returned to his native Russia in the Ak Bars Kazan system. He was able to start at the top level, making seven appearances, gaining more and more ice time with each game (he had only three minutes of YOU in his first game and had over 16 in his sixth) . The only problem was he didn’t get any points, but given he was moving up the roster it’s hard to see why he was dropped for the rest of the year, but he was. .

While in the VHL (mostly Russian AHL), Khovanov put in a full performance, scoring eight goals and 24 points in 30 games, earning the second most points per game among U21 players. last season.

Even at the other end of the ice, Khovanov was able to progress decently. Instead of becoming a one-way magnet like he would have been in juniors, there are now different aspects and dynamics to his game.

There’s no cemented player mold that Khovanov can be at the top level – or you can read Kyle’s blog about the player in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings to get a feel for his future – but he certainly has. skills that can take him through the professional level here. His ability to dribble the puck through opponents in small areas on the ice and have the vision to rack up a few passes and get solid scoring opportunities for his teammates is something that can help him.

But where he applies his craft next season also matters.

Where will he play?

Khovanov will certainly get a preview of major training camp later this month, but I have to imagine that if he hasn’t really been able to play a full season at KHL level and Ak Bars coaches don’t just didn’t really like where he was. in the lineup, which he will debut in Iowa this coming season. Damn, crazier things have happened though. Khovanov certainly does not enter the camp without experience and if he is able to really impress, then he can certainly earn a spot over Kyle Rau or Joseph Cramarossa to start.

Even with Kaprizov signed, I would say there are two places to gain in the attacking roster. And while Boldy and Rossi will have the highest profile at camp, preparing to take those spots with all they have, Khovanov can be a dark horse candidate if they want to watch out for either of these two. and their development path. But then again, if they try to pay attention to the outlook, then Rau and Cramarossa and the contestants will start the season with these spots and eventually make their way to Iowa when the young dudes are ready. An almost palliative to satisfy everyone and take no risk.

The overwhelming likelihood of Khovanov starting in Iowa is certainly not bad at all. Even if he’s without Boldy or Rossi to begin with, he’ll have Mason Shaw, Connor Dewar and Adam Beckman sharing the spotlight in the AHL to keep this team interesting and keep us engaged with what’s going on there.

So what should we expect?

It’s hard to project seasons or really want to set very high expectations for a player who was only in the Russian minor leagues, but Khovanov should at least have ample opportunity to strut around Iowa (s’ he is there). It could hurt that without the taxi team weakening the roster, that the age group right above him – like Dominic Turgeon, Will Bitten and Brandon Duhaime, for example – will get a bigger role because they have I was here before. But he certainly has the capacity to lead a group like he did in the QMJHL and the VHL, he will only have to relearn certain aspects of the North American game and stay in the favor of the coaches.

Just hope they share the richness of the ice and keep Khovanov active enough to really get a feel for his developmental trajectory. Whether or not he is fighting to improve himself and become that center destined for the mid-six that the Wild desperately need a youngster, or just to be another preteen they have in the system.

I wouldn’t be shocked if he spends the entire season in Iowa, even if he kills absolutely everything in sight. Maybe if he does that and gets this production that we love to see, he’ll get an appearance after the deadline to make his NHL debut, but it’s still so far in the future and so much can happen. by then.

It’s certainly not fun to temper expectations, but maybe with Khovanov we have that extra patience because of Rossi and Boldy losing their jaws. Now we can see the second wave of hopes to be injected into the Wild’s forward lineup and the 21-year-old Saratov is certainly at the top of that group.

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