By Kirk Luedeke
It has been a solid run for Boston Bruins prospects in the OHL during the 2011-12 season.
For the third consecutive month, a player out of Ontario major junior in the CHL has captured New England Hockey Journal Prospect of the Month honors. December’s top prospect for the B’s is Windsor Spitfires center Alexander Khokhlachev.
Before leaving the OHL for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship in Alberta late last month, the player known affectionately as “KoKo” racked up 17 goals and 47 points in 35 games.
In eight December OHL contests, Khokhlachev scored five goals and 11 points for the Spitfires, including four multi-point games.
As one of the youngest players on Team Russia’s Under-20 squad (and WJHC defending champions), KoKo scored the first goal of the tourney for his club against Switzerland after stealing an errant Sven Bartschi pass, streaking up the right wing side and then burying a quick wrist shot. He finished the preliminary round with three goals in four games for the Russians.
Khokhlachev and his mates will face Sweden Thursday in Calgary for a chance to repeat as gold medal winners. The 18-year-old came up big for his squad in the semi-final game against Canada this week, tallying a goal and assist in the second frame of a 6-5 victory.
The 40th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft just made the Sep. 15 cutoff date by six days with a Sep. 9, 1993 birthdate. The B’s used the pick acquired from the Minnesota Wild for Chuck Kobasew to grab the skilled Muscovite, who lacks blazing speed to go with his undersized (5-foot-10) frame, but has superb hands and offensive instincts.
After scoring 34 goals and 76 points as a 17-year-old rookie in his first North American season a year ago, Khokhlachev is on pace to exceed his points totals with Windsor even with the two-week interruption due to the World Jr. tourney. He currently sits ninth in the OHL scoring race and his 30 assists are good for sixth place in the league.
Spitfires Owner/GM Warren Rychel called Khokhlachev a “godsend” at the NHL draft in Minnesota last summer and over the first half of the new season, the alternate captain has been every bit the cog in a young squad’s machine (4th place in the OHL’s West Division with a 19-19-3-1 record).
“KoKo has been so important to our success in each of the past two seasons,” said Spitfires assistant coach Bob Jones recently. Jones was Windsor’s head coach a year ago when current bench boss Bob Boughner was with the Columbus Blue Jackets as one of Scott Arniel’s assistants. “He thinks the game at such a high level and plays with a lot of passion and energy. We’re lucky to have him.”
Khokhlachev has shown impressive chemistry skating with Nail Yakupov and Yevgeni Kuznetsov (as well as Ivan Telegin) at the WJHC (four goals, five points in six games). With Sweden expected to pay close attention to top scorer Kuznetsov in the gold medal game, KoKo and company could find themselves integral to their team’s championship hopes.