Khokhlachev And His Bruins Comeback

( Photo Credit: Richard Wolowicz )

By: Michael Robert Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackngold

Heeeellloooooooo everybody. A little nod to the Spittin’ Chiclets crew to start my first article with Black N Gold Hockey. Let’s not waste any time before we dig into a bit of a hot topic, even though it’s been thrown into the shadows for years now. Along with it, lies the question that’s plagued the Bruins since the days of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton stinging like bees, but not necessarily floating like butterflies while flanking Krejci on the wings.
The question: Who can play in that second line right wing spot and be a steady winger with Krejci and Debrusk?
The answer: Enter the Julien era Russian cast away, Alexander Khokhlachev.
With that, let’s take a look at a bit about him and his consistent point producing at every level he has ever played at. First, his days in the OHL of putting up points. Secondly, his journey heading into the Bruins system with Providence. Third, his journey back to his motherland. And lastly, why the Bruins need him back more than ever.
Khokhlachev was taken with the 40th pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Touted as a good skating offensive juggernaut, with creative playmaking and even better finishing, he came into the Bruins with high hopes for himself, from the Bruins brass, and from the fan base as well. This is all with good reason when we dig into the numbers.

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His first real entrance onto the scene came at the 2009-10 U17 tournament. He posted a stat line of 5-8-13 in six games to lead his team in scoring. Granted, an early tournament for projections, but a pretty good one for seeing raw talent, especially when it stands out. His 13 points there put him in the mix with players such as Toews, MacKinnon, Keller, Tavares, and Caufield. This piqued some interest, and once his OHL career started, this kid took off. Playing his major junior career with the Windsor Spitfires, in 2010-11 as a rookie, he posted 34-42-76 in 67 games.
He continued on with 25-44-69 in 56 games the following season. He also appeared at the World Juniors that year for Russia posting a respectable 4-1-5 in seven games. In 2012-13, he split time with KHL Moskva, OHL Spitfires, and AHL Bruins. In his 29 games with Windsor, he cranked it up, posting a scorching 22-26-48. His first glimpse in the AHL saw him with three points in 11 games. At that point, it’s fine. A big step up from juniors, and to this point in his hockey journey, he has been everything the Bruins knew him to be when they picked him.
Now, as he starts into the Bruins system, there are two pieces we will pay attention to the most, neither of them a secret. Cassidy running the bench with Providence and his knack for developing good working relationships with young players. Also, how he was ok with letting them go out and do what they do, while still playing in the very two-way offensive and defensive systems in Providence. The other side of the organization is with the big boys club in Boston. It’s no secret at all that Julien steered heavily to defense first play. He was also no slouch when it came to giving the ice time to veterans while the young guns got stashed away in the corner and subdued. Add to it, a distaste for players across the pond.

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Onto this part of the adventures of Koko. In 2013-14 he barely got a sniff, playing one game with Boston basically riding the pine. He heads to Providence where he does his thing, 21-36-57 in 65 games. That gets him some attention again from the big club. In 2014-15, he got a three-game look if you can call it that. His total ice time way under 10 minutes through all the games, and playing on the fourth line. Again, back to Providence where he goes 15-28-43 in 61 games. The 2015-16 season starts with another leftovers offering of 5 games and limited minutes in Boston again. Back to Providence where he gets pinned an assistant captain and has something to prove now, putting up a blistering 23-45-68 in 60 games. Under Cassidy, he was let off the leash and absolutely dominated. Julien didn’t give him the time of day. A younger player with offensive instincts. Julien’s nemesis.
His frustrations peaked publicly many times, where he stated the obvious. He was producing and not getting a chance at the NHL level. And when he does get his crumb tossed to him, he is thrown on the fourth line, and his skates barely touch the ice. This has him pack his bags and head back to the motherland. His first season back in the KHL with Petersburg isn’t his norm. 5-5-10 in 25 games. His 2017-18 season, he lands with Moskva and piles up 50 points in 52 games. The next season again with Moskva, 37 points in 52 games.
With all these numbers and history, we can establish that he can not only play at the best levels in his age groups, but he can produce points and be an offensive threat anytime he is on the ice. In the Bruins organization, he flourished under Cassidy, and a good relationship was built there. He utilized Koko in the right way, and it turned him into the leading scorer in Providence for two seasons.

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Of course, it is another big step up to the NHL, but his talent and skill don’t vanish. With some more time under his belt playing with men, and more prospects out of the way in Boston, the time is now to bring him back. He can play center and wing, a multi-positional player, a Boston plus. Boston desperately needs a steady wingmate with Krejci and some more scoring threats in their lineup. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blues were able to contain the top line, and that was their demise. The league fits his style now more than ever, and with Cassidy behind the bench, the Bruins are more about speed and skill than ever before. The second line of DeBrusk – Krejci – Khokhlachev would round out a very impressive top-six forward group. Adding him to the second power-play unit would also put a real scoring threat there too.
It has floated around the rumor mill that there is still contact between him and the Bruins, and Cassidy is in that mix, and that’s a huge help. His rights are there until he turns 27, so long as qualifying offers are made to him each year. The Bruins need him back. The revolving door of nothing working on that second line wing spot is over. The time is now. Get him there for a real look and turn him loose. Shout it from your social media mountains folks. It’s time, and I’ll start it… #bringkokoback

Some Koko highlights to enjoy.

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