The Kontinental League’s Gagarin Cup championship came to a conclusion a couple weeks ago, with coach Mike Keenan’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk winning the coveted trophy as the league’s top team.
That win came with the help of a former NHLer you might not know is still playing in Russia: former Toronto Maple Leaf and Carolina Hurricane checker Tim Brent. Brent couldn’t find a home the NHL after his Hurricanes contract expired, but now he’s a KHL champ.
In fact, there are a number of familiar names who have extended their careers by going overseas to play in the KHL.
Here are five former NHLers who earned top-five honours in one the KHL’s statistical categories this year.
5. Evgeny Artyukhin, Moscow Oblast Atlant
Evgeny Artyukhin didn’t play in the NHL for very long, but it was tough to miss him while he was there. Artyukhin played with an edge and frequently got into penalty (and suspension) trouble as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Atlanta Thrashers. In 199 NHL games, Artyukhin had 313 penalty minutes. And he’s kept that going since bolting for the KHL in 2010. With 176 penalty minutes in 46 games for Moscow Oblast Atlant, Artyukhin led the league in that category and averaged almost four PIMs a game this season. The player with the next-highest penalty minutes was a full 52 behind Artyukhin.
4. Deron Quint, Spartak Moscow
Deron Quint has been around the block. The 38-year-old was a second-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets version 1.0 way back in 1994, and since then, he’s played in just about every league you can imagine. American League, Italy, Swiss National League, Deutsche Eishockey League, NHL – and now KHL. Quint was never a big offensive defenceman in the NHL, but in the KHL his 13 goals 28 points were good for fifth in blueliner scoring and tops among D-men goal scoring. He had nine seasons in the NHL and was a member of the Jets/Coyotes franchise for its last year in Winnipeg and first four years in Phoenix. Quint also played for Columbus, New Jersey, Chicago and the New York Islanders. Needless to say, this guy’s got quite a few team jerseys at home.
3. Michael Leighton, Donbass Donetsk
Once, he led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup final. Now, the 32-year-old is the starting goaltender for Donbass Donetsk in the KHL. Leighton had a .933 save percentage and 1.74 goals-against average with Donetsk in his first season overseas this year, and his six shutouts tied him for third in the league.
2. Nigel Dawes, Barys Astana
The 29-year-old Dawes was fifth in the KHL scoring race this year and third in goals scored as a member of Barys Astana. At 26 goals and 49 points through 54 games, he’s easily outshone his 14-goal best from his NHL days. Dawes spent most of his NHL career bouncing between the New York Rangers and their minor-league affiliate in Hartford, but also had stopovers in Phoenix, Atlanta, Calgary and Montreal. Dawes was a fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2003.
1. Brandon Bochenski, Barys Astana
A seventh-round selection by the Ottawa Senators way back in 2001, Brandon Bochenski spent more time in the American League than he did in the NHL through his five years of North American pro. He wasn’t a big deal in the NHL, but he’s become a big-time player in the KHL. Bochenski was second in goals scored (28), fifth in assists (30) and fourth in total points through 54 games this season. He had the most game-winning goals, too. The 32-year-old Bochenski played for the Sens, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning during his NHL career, with his longest NHL stint being a 31-game run with the Bruins in 2006-07. He joined Barys Astana for the 2010-11 season.