18 April 2020
Match TV, Russia’s leading free-to-air sports broadcaster, is publishing a series of ‘top 10s’, ranking KHL players in a variety of different categories. Earlier, we saw how Tyler Wong and Trevor Murphy were among the top rookies last season – with an honorable mention for Spencer Foo. Today we’re looking at the Dragon who is ranked better than Pavel Datsyuk, at least as far as the defensive side of his game is concerned.
To qualify as a top defensive forward, players were assessed on five criteria:
– A good plus/minus score
– Plenty of blocked shots
– Credible scoring
– For centers, a good win rate on the face-off spot
– Regular appearances on the penalty kill
As before, the list was compiled by experienced Russian hockey correspondent Pavel Lysenkov. His top 10 – and his analysis of Luke Lockhart’s performance this season – is as follows:
10. Jarno Koskiranta (SKA, Finland)
9. Jukka Peltonen (Sibir, Finland)
8. Pavel Datsyuk (Avtomobilist, Russia)
7. Marko Anttila (Jokerit, Finland)
6. Mikhail Grigorenko (CSKA, Russia)
5. Justin Azevedo (Ak Bars, Canada)
4. Dmitrij Jaskin (Dynamo Moscow, Czech Rep.)
3. Luke Lockhart (Kunlun Red Star, China)
Games: 60; Points: 16 (13+3); plus/minus: +13; blocked shots: 69; face-offs 54.1% (373/690)
The 27-year-old Lockhart, who just completed his third season with Kunlun Red Star, didn’t just stumble into his place in the ranking. He is the KHL’s leading forward for blocked shots and he also leads the league for short-handed goals (3). Kunlun could not make it to the playoffs, but Lockhart produced a decent plus/minus for a team outside the leaders and picked up a few points along the way. Moreover, he is eligible to represent China and should feature at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. All of which suggests that the People’s Republic is doing well with its naturalization program for hockey players.
2. Patrice Cormier (Ak Bars, Canada)
1. Kirill Semyonov (Avangard, Russia)
* * *
So there you have it. Lockhart is better than Triple Gold Club member Pavel Datsyuk! OK, it’s a fairly specific skill-set tested here, but there’s no reason why Luke and his prospective colleagues on Team China can’t aim for a triple target of their own for club and country in the coming years. How about getting the Dragons back to the playoffs, helping China move up the divisions in the IIHF World Championship and getting to the last eight at the 2022 Olympics? Challenging, for sure, but perhaps not wholly unattainable.