Khokhlachev, Boston's second-round pick in 2011, is from Moscow, but has spent the past two seasons in North America, playing his junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires. He isn't expected to remain on this side of the Atlantic this season though. The Windsor Star recently reported that he would return home to play for Spartak Moscow in the KHL this upcoming season.
Both Khokhlachev and Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney, who has run the development camp since its inception in 2007, stated that nothing was official yet in terms of Khokhlachev's return to Russia, but both sides are prepared for that scenario.
"Nothing is official yet," Khokhlachev said. "We'll see. It's coming soon. I think I'll find out this week, maybe next week."
Whether he goes to the KHL or not, Khokhlachev's long-term goal remains to play in the NHL with the Bruins.
"For sure," Khokhlachev said. "It will be just one year [in the KHL]. We'll see."
It's possible that won't even be necessary. Sweeney stated that Khokhlachev will attend the Bruins' main training camp in September regardless of where he signs to play, and held out the possibility of Khokhlachev cracking the Bruins roster this fall. Khokhlachev doesn't turn 19 until Sept. 9, which makes him too young to play in the American Hockey League. Unless he signs in the KHL, he would have to return to Windsor for a third season in the OHL if he did not make the big club in Boston.
"I think [Bruins GM] Peter [Chiarelli] will address that," Sweeney said of Khokhlachev's potential return to Russia. "We expect him to develop, if it is back in the KHL or playing over here. If he makes our team coming out of training camp then he'll be playing here, so I think those things aren't set in stone. I think we've sort of chartered out a path for where he will be. I think he's intrigued with playing at higher levels. I think you saw in the World Juniors that when he plays with better players, I think his game is elevated."
Playing against stronger competition is Khokhlachev's main motivation for considering the KHL, which is one of the top professional leagues in the world and features many former NHLers.
"For sure it will help a lot," Khokhlachev said. "It's the second-best league in the world. So if I do go there it would be better to play with men and not come back to junior."
Playing better and more experienced competition could speed Khokhlachev's development, but the Bruins won't be able to keep tabs on him quite as easily as when he was in the OHL.
"If he's over in the KHL, then we have to be diligent to be able to stay on top of that," Sweeney said. "If he's playing back over here then we have a little easier path to do that."
While Khokhlachev is expected to return to Spartak Moscow, where his father, Igor Khokhlachev, is the club's general manager, the youngster was very pleased with his experience in North America. He spent two years with Windsor, putting up 25-44-69 totals in just 56 games this past season.
"It was great," Khokhlachev said of his time in Windsor. "I had a great two years there. I learned the language, learned the North American style of game and I still dream to one day play over here."
Khokhlachev's season was cut short when he suffered a lacerated kidney when hit from behind in a game against Plymouth on March 3. He has recovered from the injury and participated in Thursday's on-ice workout, but won't take part in any of the contact drills or scrimmages this week.
"I feel good, not cleared for contact, but I feel good," Khokhlachev said.
Khokhlachev did not require surgery for the injury, needing just time to rest and recover. Now he's biding his time awaiting final word on where he will play next season, with a return to his homeland the expected destination.
Photo via Flickr/slidingsideways