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Spits poised to land talented Russian

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The Windsor Spitfires are days away from cashing in on a major gamble.

Two trades moved the Spitfires up to No. 23 in last month’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and the club landed Russian phenom Alexander Khokhlachev.

The 16-year-old Khokhlachev is under contract with Spartak, but Russian agent Alexei Dementiev expects things to be cleared up in the next week to enable him to join the Spitfires.

“He’s with Spartak right now at camp,” Dementiev said from Moscow. “He’s signed until August. They’re releasing him Aug. 4. We’ll sign the documents Aug. 5.”

If all goes according to plan, Dementiev expects Khokhlachev to arrive in Windsor by Aug. 15.

“Yes, sure,” Dementiev said.

The six-foot, 176-pound Khokhlachev is a highly skilled centre that North American Central Scouting already has rated No. 8 overall for the 2011 NHL Draft.

“It’s big,” Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel said of securing Khokhlachev. “I’m sure there’ll be some adjustment, but by Christmas I’m sure he’ll be going.”

Spartak’s potential release of Khokhlachev is unexpected considering Russian players are the hardest for Canadian Hockey League teams to secure.

It’s even tougher with Khokhlachev having not been drafted by an NHL team.

“We’re surprised,” Dementiev said. “That’s very unusual and we’re appreciative that (Spartak officials) understand what the player needs and what he wants. (Spartak) will retain his rights if he goes back to Russia.”

Playing in the Kontinental Hockey League sponsored Russian Junior League, Khokhlachev had 15 goals and 40 points in 51 games last season, but was outstanding at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Khokhlachev led the Russian team in scoring and was second in tournament scoring with five goals and 13 points in six games and named to the all-star team.

“He’s the kind of player you look for in the playoffs and overtime,” Dementiev said.

“He can score the goal. He’s a very good player. He’s very strong and his shot is very accurate.”

With several graduations at forward, Khokhlachev’s arrival will provide hope for Windsor’s dream of an unprecedented third straight Memorial Cup title.

“We’re going to be OK,” Rychel said.

Dementiev, who worked as an NHL scout for Ottawa, Washington, Nashville and Boston, has known Rychel for years and knows the club’s recent success can be a boost for Khokhlachev’s NHL hopes.

“I know they’ve won two Memorial Cups,” Dementiev said. “(Andrei) Loktionov played there and it was good for him.

“Only two Russian players have their name on the Memorial Cup. (Alexander) Radulov (in 2006 with the Quebec Remparts) and Loktionov. (Khokhlachev) wants to be the third.”

© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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