The KHL’s leaderboard is peppered with NHL players who felt like staying in shape and earning some dollars instead of sitting on the couch getting fat during the lockout. Because of that, the list of the top-10 scoring leaders includes Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin and Predator-of-yore Alexander Radulov.
None of those fine gents, however, sits first in points. That honour belongs to Sergei Moyzakin.
Moyzakin was drafted in the ninth round (263rd) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, and like most Russian picks Columbus has made, he didn’t pan out for the organization. More specifically, he didn’t suit up for a single game for them.
He’s now 31 years old and past his prime, but it’s worth asking: shouldn’t some offensively deprived team (like Columbus!) offer this guy a wad of money to have him give it a go on this side of the pond? Talent like his isn’t exactly easy to come by.
He’s a smaller player, yes. He’s unproven in the North American game. He’s playing with Evgeni Malkin. I know all these things. But you can’t just plug anyone into his situation and have them do what he’s doing this year. And it’s not like this is out of the blue for the guy. Check out his stats since the lockout (games played, goals, assists, points):
Never once below 20 goals (note that KHL seasons are 52 games), only once below a point-per-game.
From a bio on “Up The Pucks,” here’s a description of him:
His style of play is that of the typical small, but fast forward. He’s 5’10″, and only weighs in at 170 pounds. Mozyakin’s able to get by defenders with his speed and puck control (he’s usually in the control relays at KHL All-Star game skills competitions) , and has a wicked wrist shot. Since leaving CSKA, he’s concentrated on improving his passing skills as well, and is usually over 30 assists every season.
Internationally, Mozyakin has been a mainstay for Russia’s senior squad over the past few years, playing in four World Championships, including back-to-back championships in 2008 and 2009. His scoring prowess hasn’t exactly translated well on the international stage, though he’s posted decent assist numbers.
All I know is that I’m impressed he’s able to hang with the big boys. It’s possible he simply doesn’t want to come to North America, but almost everyone has a price. And for the most part, when there’s elite talent dangling unclaimed out there, NHL teams aren’t afraid to pay it.
(s/t to @ThePredatorial)