Perhaps, the only bears that don’t hibernate in winter live in Chelyabinsk – hockey Mecca of Russia. Players who were born in the capital of South Ural are in demand in many leagues, including North American leagues. It’s hard to imagine an international tournament without them – Chelyabinsk natives are always on U18, U20 and national Team Russia.
However, with all this talent pool, Belye Medvedi Chelyabinsk haven’t won Kharlamov Cup in Junior Hockey League. Led by head-coach Anvar Gatiyatulin Chelyabinsk major junior team made it to Kharlamov Cup Semifinals twice but both times they were eliminated by army teams – in 2014 they lost to Krasnaya Armiya Moscow and the next year they were defeated by SKA-1946 St. Petersburg.
Local players have a good chance to make it to Traktor through Chelmet – a farm-team that plays in the VHL. When Gatiyatulin got promoted to Traktor, the rejuvenation reform went even smoother. Now local players had a better chance of making it to the big club. An experienced coach, who spent his entire career in Chelyabinsk system, put his money on young players, with whom he won Junior Hockey League bronze medals twice.
Here’s a list of players who made it to Traktor and show good results this season.
In The System
Artyom Borodkin, defenseman (57 games, 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists), plus-13)
This Traktor defenseman was never a ‘limit’ player in the KHL, which certainly worked in his advantage. Borodkin proved he’s worthy of playing for Traktor with his hard work and determination, and through getting experience in the JHL and VHL. Borodkin spent his entire career in Chelyabinsk system. Back in his junior days, he was called up to play for Team MHL Red Stars in North American series, where he faced university and college teams.
It’s impossible to imagine today’s Traktor without this skilled defenseman. Borodkin moves the puck well on a powerplay, makes crisp passes and makes up for his teammates’ mistakes. He is currently one of the top players on Traktor in plus/minus category with plus-13. With this result he’s fourth on the team. He also tops the league in ice-time, averaging 19:52 per game.
Alexander Sharov, forward (57 games, 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists), plus-3)
Traktor center Alexander Sharov began his KHL career under Anvar Gatiyatulin’s command, with whom he worked back in junior hockey. Traktor head-coach called up the forward midway through the season from Chelmet, where Sharov had been rather productive with 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 28 contests.
In junior hockey school Sharov played defense for five years before switching to center. Defensive skills honed in childhood help him now to backcheck. His past also becomes evident in physical battles. With 50 hits in 57 games he tops all forwards on Traktor and he’s third on the team.
Ilya Zinovyev, forward (42 games, 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists), plus-1)
Traktor junior hockey school alumnus, Ilya Zinovyev won silver medals with U17 Team Russia at World Junior A Hockey Challenge. Having had a great tournament, Zinovyev got an offer from Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team – he spent the 2013-14 season with the Shawinigan Cataractes, scoring 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 65 games.
The young forward wasn’t drafted by any NHL team so he decided to go back home to Chelyabinsk and make his way up to the KHL. His experience in North America helped him develop his physical game. Thanks to that he didn’t spend much time in the VHL before getting called up to the big club. Zinovyev is used to physical and fast-paced hockey. This is why his transition to the KHL went smoothly and this season he was once named rookie of the week.
Artyom Penkovsky, forward (48 games, 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists), minus-7)
Artyom Penkovsky is one of the few Traktor junior hockey school alumni who made it straight to the big club, without having to play down in the VHL. Collectively, the forward played 16 games for Chelmet over four years. Penkovsky was invited to U20 Team Russia and even went to camp in Canada but was cut from the team for the 2015 World Juniors. Perhaps, he didn’t impress head-coach Vlaery Bragin much. However, Traktor coaching staff is quite pleased with Penkovsky’s skillset and speed. Penkovsky doesn’t shy away from physical contact, which makes him a great fit for Traktor’s bottom-6.
How Do The Others Do?
Chelyabinsk hockey system gave the KHL a whole scattering of star forwards - selfless, productive and, importantly, those who love to take part in physical battles. Here’s a list of notable forwards who used to play for Belye Medvedi back in a day.
Valery Nichushkin, forward, CSKA Moscow (31 games, 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists), plus-19)
This young man burst into professional hockey easily. When he was just 18 years old he played alongside grown men on Traktor before joining the Dallas Stars in the NHL and playing for Team Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Before making his way across the pond, Nichushkin had had an excellent season on Traktor, where he looked especially great in the playoffs. He received Alexei Cherepanov Trophy as the league’s rookie of the season.
A mighty power forward with great offensive skills Nichuskin looked great on Dallas Stars at first and even played on their top line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Unfortunately, he had to miss the 2014-15 season almost entirely due to an injury. He was dressed for just 13 games that season, including five AHL games. Nichushkin had a mediocre last season on his entry-level contract. This past summer Nichushkin went back to Russia. He currently plays for CSKA Moscow, where he gradually regains his confidence.
Vyacheslav Osnovin, forward, CSKA Moscow (41 games, 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists), plus-14)
CSKA had another great signing past off-season in center Vyacheslav Osnovin. In his last season for Traktor Osnovin scored 18 points (12 goals, 6 assists) in 60 games – it’s not a great result for a forward but his other qualities so far allow him to make a living in the KHL.
Hockey-audacious and assertive Osnovin uses his size, punishes opponents in the forecheck and looks decent at face-offs.. On CSKA he shifts between third and fourth lines, but if Osnovin would improve his shot and skate more often to shooting positions, it’s not going to take him long to get a spot on top lines.
Anton Burdasov, forward, Avangard (30 games, 21 points (15 goals, 6 assists), plus-11.
This Chelyabinsk forward plays for Avangard Omsk. It’s his third team in the KHL. Burdasov played just under 100 games for Traktor but his production numbers were low. Then he joined SKA St. Petersburg and in his third season with the team he won the Gagarin Cup. However, his personal statistics remained nothing to brag about. After Artemi Panarin went to North America, SKA coaching staff expected Burdasov to fill in the game on Schipachyov’s line.
And that’s when Burdasov, who was considered a hard-working bottom-6 forward, surprisingly morphed into a productive player, scoring goals and notching assists in every possible fashion. Although, it’s only fair to point out that Burdasov has always had a tremendous shot but he wasn’t getting any luck hitting the target.
These days Burdasov tries to play consistently well for Avangard but injuries often prevent him from that – he missed a number of games this season. Burdasov is currently second on Avangard with 15 goals and he tops the team with 3,2 shots per game on average.
Sergei Shumakov, forward, Sibir (49 games, 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists), plus-4)
Shumakov was born in Chelyabinsk and among other facts in his biography, he can be proud he played on the same line with Evgeny Kuznetsov in Traktor junior hockey school. Sergei is well-known as a quick, skilled and productive player. He currently tops Sibir in goals, assists and points. Top teams of the league will try to ink him him this off-season. “A master”, as Sergei Gimayev would call him.
Shumakov’s first professional season in hockey turned out to be his last season in Chelyabinsk. He scored eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in 58 games for Belye Medvedi, which was a good result for a player who was looking to go far. Then he spent a season in Orenburg and joined Sibir Novosibirsk – that’s where he began his KHL career in 2012. He began getting regular ice-time under head-coach Dmitry Kvartalnov.
Ever since then Shumakov has been on Sibir, which the fans truly appreciate. But the like the forward not just for his loyalty but also for his hockey IQ, which recently opened the doors to national Team Russia for him.
Maxim Shalunov, forward, Sibir (44 games, 35 points (19 games, 16 assists), plus-9)
Traktor junior hockey school alumnus, Shalunov went overseas to play for the Chicago Blackhawks farm-team before joining Sibir. His first season in Novosibirsk was mediocre as the forward was getting used to KHL hockey again. Before crossing the pond, Shalunov had played seven games for Traktor.
The following season Sibir spent under the star of dynamic duo Shumakov-Shalunov. Being great at backchecking allowed Shalunov to become a center and his excellent wrist-shot propelled him to the top on his team in goal-scoring. Shalunov and Shumakov to