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What will the B's do with Khokhlachev?

October 3, 2015, 3:35 PM ET [28 Comments]
Ty Anderson
Boston Bruins Blogger •Bruins Feature Columnist • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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Boston Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev was not a happy training camper when he found microphones in front of his face for the first time this season. Khokhlachev, drafted by the Bruins with the 40th overall pick in 2011, was openly sick toiling in the minors with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League and wanted a legitimate chance to stick with the Big B’s.

A potent scorer at the AHL level and the P-Bruins’ leading scorer the past two seasons, with 36 goals and 100 points in his last 126 games in Providence, Khokhlachev was brutally honest when assessing his ‘chance’ with the Bruins last season. He even made not-so-subtle mentions to his baffling five-shift, 2:53 night in his third and final game with Boston’s NHL grouping last season.

“I don’€™t think that’€™s really a chance,” Khokhlachev said. “I played fourth line. It doesn’€™t really matter what line I play, but I don’€™t think it’€™s really a chance to be played two games.”

In spite of the bark, Khokhlachev came up short yet again in his bid to play his way onto the B’s big roster, and was part of the group sent to Providence following a Thursday night round of cuts.

“All players are entitled to their opinion,” B’s general manager Don Sweeney said on Thursday when asked of Khokhlachev’s comments. “I feel that Alexander has a tremendous upside skill-wise.”

In four preseason contests, Khokhlachev tallied two assists and put five shots on net. Still, not enough.

“He still has a lot to learn away from the puck. He needs to go through these experience. He’s only 22 years old, so I look at the big picture for all of our young players. They’ll determine when they’re ready to play and when they can help us at the NHL level,” Sweeney noted. “I do believe he’s a player that can step in and whether he can play up and down the lineup sort of remains to be seen, but we want him to continue to work hard to fill in those gaps, be it face-offs — there are small details of the game that show up on the score sheet each night and you can look at the analytics side of things — those things can add up and the amount of time you play in your own end is the result of losing draws at times, it’s taxing on other players. There’s little areas of the game that every young player needs to go through and experience and come out the other side of it better. He wants to advocate for himself, I don’t blame him for that, so that’s what I didn’t feel we needed to comment publicly on it.”

But now comes the part where Khokhlachev could sour on the B’s demotion.

Although the 5-foot-11 center wouldn’t straight-up say it, in fact he said ‘I’m not going to comment on that’, there’s a belief that Khokhlachev could want out of the organization in order to find a job at the NHL level. If that’s the case, and I have no inside information one way or the other when it comes to that, you have to wonder if the Black and Gold would try to package the highly skilled Russian out of town in an attempt to shore up their defensive corps with a veteran presence, which has currently taken a big hit with the loss of Dennis Seidenberg and uncertainty of Zdeno Chara.

At the same time, it’d be unlike the ‘new’ Bruins to ship a young forward out of town for another veteran piece one-for-one, and might ultimately not be what the B’s want to do right now given the in-camp strides forward by defenders Joe Morrow and even Colin Miller. (Worth noting, too, that the B’s were going to begin the year with eight defensemen on their NHL roster regardless of the injuries to Chara and Seidenberg that shortly followed that breakthrough.)

“I think that we used this training camp experience without those two players to our advantage to spread the wealth around, to spread some minutes around. You’ve got several players that acquitted themselves well. We played all our younger players up and down, we haven’t just been relying on our returnees,” Sweeney said. “That’s part of the transition that Claude spoke about. We’re moving forward with some of these guys that we believe will step up. Guys that gain experience throughout the league night in a night out and it’s a growing process and we’re committed to allowing these guys to find their way within the framework. We haven’t changed the identity, as to how we’re going to defend.

“I think we’ve done a good job throughout training camp up and down our lineup. That’s a testament to the coaches and the way they’re going to approach the game and our players as the buy in.”

… But back to Khokhlachev…

Is there an NHL market for Khokhlachev right now? Maybe. You’ve seen teams take chances on guys that could never quite breakthrough with their organization’s NHL club -- I think Linden Vey’s transition from the Los Angeles Kings to the Vancouver Canucks is a great example of this -- but I’m not quite sure if he’s there yet. Sweeney’s right when he talks about Khokhlachev’s need to grow at some of the finer elements of the game, such as faceoffs, and his work in the defensive zone. It’d be great if he could do that in Boston, but let’s be honest, five games into Khokhlachev centering the fourth line, Julien would have a fit at the inconsistencies with his game in that role and banish him to the press box.

You saw some of that with Ryan Spooner, who struggled out of the gate, was sent to the AHL, and came back an entirely different player in all three zones. That ultimately earned him the trust of Julien, and proved to be enough to get No. 51 a full-time role (at least for now), with the Bruins.

That would not had happened had David Krejci not gotten hurt in a blowout loss in St. Louis, and likely would have seen Spooner dealt out of the Hub at the trade deadline, giving him a chance elsewhere.

It’s clear that Khokhlachev wants his chance. And if the cards fall into place, he’ll get it. It’s just a matter of where and when that’s up in the air. Luckily for ‘Koko’, that’s something he can control.

More so than he thinks, anyways.

Ty Anderson has been covering the Boston Bruins for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, is a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com
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