By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the Bruins thriving under a new system that encourages speed and skill across the board (and in a league featuring more of that by the day), the B’s and Alexander Khokhlachev could have a reunion of sorts in the works somewhere down the line.
This is something that’s quietly floated around in the background for some time now, and only intensified over the past year or so (Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman first brought this back to light this past November), and with the Bruins reportedly meeting with ‘Koko’ in Moscow last winter in an attempt to talk things over.
But this latest confirmation of this possibility came with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney outright admitting that there’s been positive communication between Khokhlachev and the Black and Gold front office in the past year.
“Khokhlachev indicated to us originally during the year that he was interested [in returning to Boston],” Sweeney said. “He did re-sign back in Russia, so I don’t know if necessarily – we had some preliminary talks and where he’d fit.”
Khokhlachev’s interest in a Boston return likely comes back to the fact that Bruce Cassidy is now running the bench in Boston.
The 5-foot-10 forward had a ‘great relationship’ with Cassidy during his time with the P-Bruins, recording 61 goals and and totaling 171 points in 197 AHL contests. Khokhlachev undoubtedly played his best North American hockey under Cassidy in his final season with the B’s organization, too, with 23 goals and 68 points in 60 AHL games in 2015-16.
It was night and day compared to Khokhlachev’s relationship with then-Bruins coach Claude Julien, who relegated Khokhlachev to a bottom-six role and/or limited ice time in his nine NHL appearances, which prompted Khokhlachev to criticize his development during the opening days of Boston training camp in 2015.
“This is my last year of [the] contract,” a blunt Khokhlachev said back then. “I’m 22 already. If they don’t give me the chance to play, why am I here? I will not play in Providence all my life. They told me to wait for my chance and I’m still waiting for that. I played in two games and the third game I played two minutes. I don’t think that’s really a chance. 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.”
He (obviously) departed for the KHL after that 2015-16 season, which saw him skate in another five big league contests and actually ask for a trade from the B’s organization prior to the 2016 trade deadline in search of an NHL chance, where he has since played for SKA St. Petersburg and HC Spartak Moscow in his two seasons back in Russia.
This past year was Khokhlachev’s best overseas, too, with a team-leading 19 goals, 31 assists, and 50 points in 52 games with HC Spartak Moscow.
But don’t expect Khokhlachev to burst back into frame this upcoming season, as he re-upped with Moscow for another season back in April, and with the Bruins expected to let the 24-year-old play another year out before they reassess a possible return.
“Koko has a contract that he has to honor,” Sweeney noted.
Considered a ‘defected player,’ Khokhlachev, drafted with the 40th overall pick in 2011, will remain on the Bruins’ reserve list, meaning that they retain his rights for the foreseeable future if and when he does indeed return to the NHL.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.