BOSTON — This year’s Bruins training camp likely is Alexander Khokhlachev’s last chance to crack the NHL roster.
Boston selected him in the second round of the 2011 NHL draft, but he’s played in just four games for the Bruins, three of which came last season. He’s eager to be a regular NHL player, something he hoped would have already happened.
“This is my last year of contract. 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,” Khokhlachev said after Saturday’s training camp practice at TD Garden. “They told me just wait for your chance and I’m still waiting for that.
“I played in Providence two years and was the leading scorer for two years. I think I played good, and I’m not a young guy anymore, 22. I think I’m ready for the chance.”
Entering last season’s training camp, Khokhlachev was expected to make the Bruins opening night roster, or at least play at a level in Providence that would earn him more of an opportunity later in the campaign. Koko played in three games from Nov. 21 through Nov. 24, was assigned back to the P-Bruins and didn’t make another NHL appearance in 2014-15.
“Well, I played two games and the third game I played two minutes. I don’t think that’s really a chance,” Khokhlachev said. “I played fourth line — it doesn’t matter what line I play — but I don’t know if that’s really a chance if you play two games.”
Khokhlachev said he wants to play for the Bruins and is confident he’ll have a chance to impress Claude Julien and the coaching staff enough to earn a spot.
“I’m just focused on making (Boston’s roster). That’s my team, they drafted me,” Khokhlachev said. “I think they believe in me and want me to play, so I’m just focusing on that. I believe they will give me a chance and everything will be good.”
Unfortunately for Khokhlachev, the fourth line appears to be his only avenue to make this team. He could slide in at left wing or center on that line, and his impressive offense skill — good shot, smooth skating, above average playmaking ability — would fit well in the Bruins’ new system that’s incorporating more speed and skill.
That said, there are many forwards competing for fourth-line jobs, and a few of them are on one-way contracts, including Chris Kelly, Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo. Koko also has to beat out younger guys such as Seth Griffith, Brian Ferlin, Noel Acciari and others. Joonas Kemppainen, who signed a two-way deal in May, is 27 years old, but he’s a more well-rounded player than Koko and could begin the regular season as the fourth-line center.
Khokhlachev appears to be frustrated with how his time in the Bruins organization has played out so far, but he still has a chance to make this team and be a valuable contributor. Julien wants more goal scoring from his fourth line, and Koko is the type of player who can make that happen.
He just needs to seize the opportunity. There might not be many more for him in Boston.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sep 24, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev (76) skates in the offensive zone during the second period against the Washington Capitals at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports