The Windsor Spitfires might have a little Koko in their Christmas stocking.
This would not be the first time a teenager who had played in Europe returned to the junior level in January after the world junior hockey championship; in fact, it's a somewhat common progression. The Spitfires were vexed, to say the least, when their most dynamic player Alexander Khokhlachev decided to play in the KHL for Moscow Spartak this season. Now the Boston Bruins second-round choice, whom Windsor smartly reclaimed on waivers, isn't really saying yes or not to whether he'd come back to the Spitfires after playing for Team Russia in the world junior, but his phrasing ("I don't know and I don't want to talk yet") suggests it is more a matter of when than if.
From Jim Parker
Former Spitfires centre Alex Khokhlachev, who goes by the nickname Koko, did not rule out a return to the Ontario Hockey League team at some point this season.
"Yeah, I think so, but I don't know and I don't want to talk yet," Khokhlachev said before being held scoreless in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the QMJHL team at the Subway Super Series in Val d'Or, Que.
Khokhlachev is seeing limited ice time and not playing centre.
In 19 games, he has just one goal and two points and is a minus five playing for a team that sits tied for last in the Western Conference.
"We're not a really good team this year and I'm not scoring goals, but the experience is good for me," Khokhlachev said.
"It's tough to lose a lot and not score goals." (Windsor Star)
Some in North America might not agree, but it was worth it for Khokhlachev to take a shot at facing older competition. It is always dicey whether a teen in a pressured-packed pro environment is going to be to develop in the truest since or just fill a perhaps limited role.
No doubt the Spitfires (8-7-0-4, .526 point percentage, seventh in the OHL's Western Conference) could use a spark from getting Khokhlachev back from Spartak. General manager Warren Rychel's plan to develop a team for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup (who knows how league politics will affect the decision on a host team) included building around a coterie of players in the 1994-95 age cohort. Starting goalie Jaroslav Pavelka is the only 19-year-old on the team. The drawback is that Windsor is averaging fewer than three goals per game and is 1-for-17 on shootout attempts. It's good long-term planning, but clearly they could use Khokhlachev to prevent them from leaving valuable points on the ice. Windsor would be fourth in its conference instead of seventh if it had won all of its shootouts.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.