With the hockey world/community still reeling from the untimely passing of Wade Belak, seven days later, a horrific plane crash outside of Yaroslavl, Russia took the lives of 44 of the 45 people on board. 37 of those passengers were members of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team, a prominent and successful team playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Like many other clubs in the KHL, Lokomotiv was stocked with players with international backgrounds, including other European nations as well as significant representation with NHL connections on their resumes. The tragedy evoked an outpouring of grief from across the full breadth of the game, including current NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, who intoned his sympathy in a statement that, "though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey worldincluding the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates, and friends."
Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, called the disaster the "darkest day in the history of our sport." The event has prompted a renewed cry for improved aviation safety measures, such as the retiring of older aircraft, across Russia.
With no disrespect intended for the deceased crew members, or the Yaroslavl team members without an NHL past, the following list is a comprehensive look at those lost with direct connections to the National Hockey League:
Vitaly Anikeyenko, 24, was a third round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators in 2005. He never came to North America.
Pavol Demitra, 36, played in the NHL for 16 seasons, most recently an injury-abbreviated stint with the Vancouver Canucks in 2009-10. The three-time NHL All-Star won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2000 as a member of the St. Louis Blues, with whom he spent eight years.
Robert Dietrich, 25, a German national, was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. The undersized defenseman was brought over to the Predators' AHL affiliate in 2008-09, where he spent two seasons, without ever getting the NHL call, despite putting up very good offensive numbers for a blueliner.
Stefan Liv, 30, was a Polish-born, Swedish-raised goaltender drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round of the 2000 draft. An active member of Team Sweden's 2006 Olympic Gold-medal winning squad, Liv spent one season in North America, playing for the Wings' AHL club in Grand Rapids in 2006-07, with the majority of his career being spent in Sweden. This was to be his second season in the KHL.
Jan Marek, 31, was an eighth round pick of the New York Rangers in 2003. The Czech center spent his entire career in Europe.
Karel Rachunek, 32, played in the NHL for eight seasons after being drafted by the Senators in the ninth round of the 1997 draft. Rachunek was the captain of the doomed Lokomotiv team. The veteran Czech defenseman spent most of his NHL career with the Sens.
Karlis Skrastins, 37, originally a ninth round draft choice of the Predators in 1998, played over 800 games in the NHL and in three Olympic tournaments with the Latvian squad. The rugged defenseman, who holds the record for most consecutive games played by a blueliner, at 495, spent the last two seasons as a member of the Dallas Stars.
Daniil Sobchenko, 20, was a sixth round choice of the San Jose Sharks this past June. While he attended a team-led prospect camp in the US, the pivot was likely a few years of additional development away from a move to North America.
Ivan Tkachenko, 31, was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round in 2002. He never came over to North America.
Josef Vasicek, 30, was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 1998 draft. The big-bodied centerman spent seven seasons in the NHL, mostly with the 'Canes, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2001-02. This was to be the Czech veteran's fourth season with the Yaroslavl club.
Alexander Vasyunov, 23, made his NHL debut last season, playing 18 games with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him in the second round of the 2006 draft. Most of his season was spent on the farm in Albany. He had gone back to Russia to acquire more playing time in the hopes that the experience would make him a better NHL player in the future.
Brad McCrimmon, 52, was the first year head coach of Yaroslavl. After being selected in the first round of the 1979 draft by the Boston Bruins, McCrimmon enjoyed a long NHL career of over 1,200 games. After retiring from active play following the 1996-97 season, he embarked on a coaching career that saw him work as an assistant on NHL benches for four different teams. He is currently 10th all time in career plus-minus, with a mark of plus-444.
Alexander Karpovtsev, 41, played nearly 600 games in the NHL, most notably with the Rangers, with whom he won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1993-94, the first time a Russian earned the right to have his name engraved on the Cup (along with Alex Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, and Sergei Nemchinov). After retiring from the professional game following a two-season stint with the KHL's Sibir Novosibirsk, he moved into coaching and was an assistant to McCrimmon on the ill-fated team.
Igor Korolev, 41, like Karpovtsev, was an assistant coach for Lokomotiv. A second round pick of the Blues in 1992, Korolev played parts of 12 seasons in the NHL, surpassing 20 goals scored twice. His last active hockey playing came for Torpedo in 2009-10.
Re-signed RW Teemu Selanne to a one-year contract worth $4 million (Sep. 15, 2011)
After taking most of the summer to rest and rehabilitate his ailing knee, which underwent arthroscopic surgery in late June, the "Finnish Flash" recently informed Ducks' GM Bob Murray that he wanted to return for another kick at the
can Cup. The legendary sniper actually took a pay cut to return to Anaheim, as his salary last season included a bonus of $1.25 million, bringing him a total of $4.5 million. This year's salary places him in a tie for 130th among NHLers, with teammate Jason Blake (3.1 GVT/3.8 GVT), Sabres' Drew Stafford (13.2 GVT /8.9 GVT), Brad Boyes (13.1 GVT /6.3 GVT), and Derek Roy (7.2 GVT /8.7 GVT), Penguin Jordan Staal (6.0 GVT /7.3 GVT), Bruin Nathan Horton (11.4 GVT /10.5 GVT), and Shark Joe Pavelski (13.1 GVT /11.9 GVT), looking only at forwards. The numbers after each player measure their overall GVT contributions of a year ago, followed by their VUKOTA-projected GVTs for this upcoming season. In comparison, Selanne (at least 13 years older than each player above, excluding Blake) had an amazing 17.6 GVT last season and is projected by VUKOTA for 9.3 at the age of 41 this year, albeit in fewer games (projected for just under 61).
Even if we are to take Selanne at his word that he is now healthy, he had missed a combined 101 games in the three seasons prior to 2010-11, adding credence to VUKOTA's projection for his games played. Also of note: only one player in NHL history has ever scored more than 20 goals in a season after the age of 40. Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe scored 31 at age 41 and 23 at age 42 for the Red Wings before his first retirement. Facing the somewhat diluted competition of the WHA, Howe topped 30 goals four more times as he approached his 50th birthday. Johnny Bucyk, and more recently, Gary Roberts, were the only others to score 20 in that age cohort. A repeat of last year's 31 goals would tie Selanne for 10th all-time with Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille. Selanne should team up this season on the Ducks' second line along with countryman Saku Koivu. The aforementioned Jason Blake could complete the "Geritol Line", although he should be challenged for top-six minutes by 21-year-old Brandon McMillan. Both are projected for 3.8 GVTs this season, but the upside play here should be obvious.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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