WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins havent given up hope that Alex Khokhlachev is off to the Mother Russia and the KHL next season, even after the forwards Windsor Spitfires GM said last week it was basically a fait accompli.
The 19-year-old Russian prospect and 2011 second-round pick will attend Bruins training camp in September, and could stay in North America should he make the NHL club. Thats not completely out of the realm of possibility given Kokos talent and his ability to stand out last season among the best Bs players in regular training camp.
Koko dominated the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires over the last two years, and hes looking for a bigger challenge next season whether its the KHL or the NHL level.
We expect Koko to develop whether its playing in the KHL or playing over here, said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. If he makes our team out of training camp then hell be playing here in Boston. So I dont think its set in stone.
Weve charted out a path of where hell be. Hes intrigued by playing at higher levels. I think we saw in World Juniors that when hes playing with better players that it elevates his game. We saw that in training camp last year and he just got better and better as we went from rookie camp to exhibition games.
Sweeney didnt confirm that Koko would be headed to the KHL if he doesnt make the Bruins, and deferred to GM Peter Chiarelli as the final authority on the Koko subject.
But the likelihood remains that hell be playing for his fathers Spartak team in the KHL next season. That would be Khokhlachevs plan if he doesnt make the Bruins out of camp. At 19 years old, he's too young to play in the AHL for the Providence Bruins next season.
That would leave the Bruins only until June 1, 2013 to sign Khokhlachev before they would surrender his draft rights, and thats something GM Peter Chiarelli and his front office would like to avoid given Khokhlachev's considerable upside.
He has that skill level to be able to do elevate to the highest levels of hockey, said Sweeney. Its the same things as with Ryan Spooner, its about acquiring the strength and the habits between now and training camp. Whether he can do that remains to be seen.
If theres a work stoppage that wipes out Bs regular training camp, then the Bruins brass might never see Koko this fall. But thats a story for another day. For now, the chances are slim that he can bypass the KHL by cracking the Bruins squad.