**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
I don’t think I was in the minority when I say this, but I was excited about watching Kirill Kaprizov play in person this week.
The Minnesota Wild rookie forward from Russia is impressive. He gets the puck on his stick and he quickly becomes the center of everyone’s attention. He’s gifted, hard-working, and exciting.
Watching Kaprizov got me thinking about another Russian forward. No, not Pavel Dorofeyev, though he appears to be off to a good start with the Silver Knights.
Remember Ivan Morozov? He was the Golden Knights’ first player taken in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, going in the second round at No. 61 overall. He has remained in Russia and is currently playing with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League.
How’s he doing? Quite well, actually. In 55 regular-season games, Morozov scored 13 goals and had 31 points and was a +15 for his team, which won its division and was second overall in the KHL in points. He’s still maturing, both physically as well as emotionally. He’s 6-foot-1 and weighs 178 pounds. And he’s only 20 years old.
Wil Nichol, the Knights’ Director of Player Development said he has not seen Morozov play in person in a while because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus. But the Knights have their European scouts on the ground in Russia and they have access to Morozov. Alex Godynyuk is a regular at Morozov’s games and according to Nichol, the reports he’s receiving from Godynyuk in Russia are positive.
We’re really happy with him — as a player and as a person. I’ve gotten to know him and he’s an incredible kid. In terms of his development, when he played at the World Juniors a couple of years ago, he was as good as any center in the tournament. He’s carried that over to the KHL. -Nichol
The Knights own his NHL rights. Unfortunately, Morozov has one more year remaining on his KHL contract so unless something happens and he is allowed to leave, we’re going to have to wait until 2022 for Morozov to sign his entry-level contract, come to the U.S., and get on a fast track to the NHL via Henderson where he could team up with Dorofeyev and give coach Manny Viveiros a 1-2 Russian punch up front.
Nichol said Morozov and Dorofeyev are good friends. Dorofeyev’s father coached both of them as kids so they have a bond.
There’s a couple of things we know about the Knights. One, they don’t like to rush their young players. “Patience is a virtue” is the organization’s mantra. Two, they haven’t had a whole lot of success with Russian players.
We know the struggles Vadim Shipachyov went through in the inaugural season. Shippy is thriving in the KHL with Dynamo Moscow and won the KHL regular season scoring title with 66 points (20 goals, 46 assists).
We saw Valentin Zykov also have a tough time making it work in Vegas and is currently playing in Sweden.
Nikita Gusev wasn’t here long enough to draw a conclusion. He’s currently in New Jersey playing regular minutes with the Devils.
At face value, we can say it has been tough for Russian players in Vegas. But the truth is every individual has had his own unique set of circumstances. To lump them all together because they hail from the same country isn’t fair.
So let’s not indict Morozov as a failure before he ever comes to town. Things are much different with the Golden Knights than they were when Shipachyov was here, and Zykov and Gusev as well. There’s a new coach and a different philosophy for what happens on the ice. The organization is probably better prepared to help Morozov adjust to life in America in general and Las Vegas in particular. Whether it’s a support system that includes an interpreter (Nichol said Morozov’s English is improving) or maybe helping have a family member or two accompany him to the states or having Dorofeyev as a teammate, I’m guessing Morozov will handle things better than his countrymen did.
He’s very easy to work with. He wants to get better. He’s applied and absorbed everything. Credit goes to the kid. He’s a lot of fun to work with. -Nichol
The big question is, can he play in the NHL?
You look at his KHL numbers and it would indicate he’s developing in the right direction. The KHL is a very good league and Morozov has been in it for three years now. He has paid his dues and appears to be progressing nicely in St. Petersburg.
Morozov hasn’t escaped our attention here at SinBin either. In his most recent rankings, Ken has him rated No. 2 overall for all Golden Knights prospects, just behind Peyton Krebs. So he’s definitely on our radar along with the Golden Knights’.
He’s ready. We see him playing center for us — a true two-way center. He doesn’t have many holes in his game. He just needs to get some miles put on him. We’re looking forward to having him with us. -Nichol
My guess is you can start saving up to purchase your Morozov Silver Knights jersey and have it ready to wear for Christmas of ’22. I look forward to Herald the Town Crier announcing Morozov’s name in the Silver Knights’ new arena.
Bronco to the rescue
Most of you may not recognize the name Rick Braunstein. The Golden Knights’ Director of Team Services oversees the Knights’ travel and has done so since the beginning.
“Bronco” as the players, coaches, and staff refer to him, is very good at what he does. So when a knuckle-curve was thrown his way Friday afternoon in San Jose with the sudden news the Fairmont Hotel, where the team was staying was shut down, he quickly sprung into action.
He had to find alternate lodging for 40-50 people, which is no easy trick, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Complicating things, the hotel the team would move to had to meet the NHL’s extensive COVID-19 protocols.
The NHL designates one hotel in each city for team travel so teams don’t get to choose where to stay. So the league had to get involved with the switchover.
Hockey players, like most professional athletes, are creatures of habit. They have their routines and don’t like to have them altered. So following the team’s pregame meal, which means a nap for most guys, Braunstein was informed the Knights would have to vacate the premises because the Fairmont had declared bankruptcy and was no longer functioning.
Within minutes, he texted everyone in the party to pack up their stuff and they would leave for Friday’s game with their luggage. He lined up new accommodations nearby and the Knights went on to beat the Sharks in overtime, 5-4, then check in to their new hotel. It must have agreed with them because they shut out the Sharks Saturday, 4-0.
It could have been a major distraction and a disastrous situation. But the switch went off seamlessly and a tap of the stick to Braunstein, who is a pro’s pro, for flawlessly facilitating the move.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**