The scrambling has begun. Young hockey players across the globe are beginning to look at playing options for the coming season. With some leagues not likely to restart play until fans can return to the games, the start dates for those leagues remain a big unknown. Other leagues like the KHL have set firm start dates for next season (September), and thus appear to be attractive options for those players whose leagues are still in doubt.
According to Pressball.by, Svyatoslav Kiselyov, the agent for Belarus hockey players Aliaksei Protas, Vladislav Kolyachonok and Yegor Sharangovich, hinted that the young Belarus’s stars could continue their hockey careers next season with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL, and that the team has already entered into negotiations with the players. The last word, of course, is not for the players to decide, but for the NHL clubs (Protas – “Washington”, Kolyachonok – “Florida”, Sharangovich – “New Jersey”).
Protas, a 6’6”, 210 lb left-handed center, was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the third round (#91 overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year-old Belarusian has spent the last two seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL.
The 2019-2020 season was a tale of two seasons for “the Viper”. Protas, who was selected as an Alternate Captain for Prince Albert, started the season with 18 goals and 24 assists in 27 games (1.55 points per game) before departing for the World Juniors at the end of November. Following a very good showing for Team Belarus where he recorded four goals and three assists in just five games (1.40 points per game), Protas returned to Prince Albert in late December. The second half of the season was not as productive. He recorded 13 goals and 25 assists in 31 games (1.22 points per game).
Protas, who signed a three-year entry-level contract for $825,833 AAV on July 10, 2019, is ineligible to play in the AHL next season due to age restrictions set forth in an agreement between NHL and CHL, and is likely looking at returning to Prince Albert in the WHL for a third season.
Dynamo Minsk, who finished in last place last season, is struggling financially, meaning signing top KHL stars is not in their immediate future. According to Pressball.by, playing time for Protas is almost guaranteed.
A year in the KHL would be a good next step for Protas. A year with older, more experienced players would be a good precursor season before reporting to the Hershey Bears for the 2021-2022 season. But will the Capitals approve?
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By Jon Sorensen