22 July 2021
Luke Lockhart signed a contract extension with Kunlun Red Star as our team starts its preparations for the coming season. Lockhart was one of 11 deals confirmed on Wednesday as the roster takes shape.
The players who put pen to paper this week are all familiar with the club. With one exception, 21-year-old goalie Paris O’Brien, they’ve all played for the Dragons in the KHL, while O’Brien has been part of our system since 2017.
Jeremy Smith needs no introduction. Back at the club for a third season, the 32-year-old American already has 49 KHL appearances. Previously, he shared the starting role with Simon Hrubec; now his partner is Alexander Lazushin. The much-travelled Lazushin returns to the club for the third time: his first full season in 2018/19 was solid, with 12 wins in 39 games at a GAA of 2.48. The second stint, last season, was less successful as Laz played just once, early in the season, in a painful 0-7 loss at Avtomobilist. Later in the campaign he moved on to play for Dinamo Riga, then HK Detva in Slovakia.
Paris O’Brien, 21, is set to provide cover for that experienced duo. The young Canadian was out of action last season as the pandemic forced our development teams to pause for a year. Previously, he was a mainstay of our teams in the Junior Hockey League and got a taste of adult hockey in the VHL.
Smooth-skating D-man Jake Chelios is back on the team for a third season after agreeing an extension with the Dragons. To date, the 30-year-old has 91 games and 22 (2+18) points in the KHL. Ryan Sproul is also back with the club for a third campaign and should provide plenty of ammunition from the blue line. Last season he put up 25 points for the team, and the 28-year-old former Red Wing will be looking to lead once again.
Zach Yuen is another familiar name. He was the first Chinese player to score for the club and has been involved with the organization since its birth. Along the way his progress has been hampered by injuries and last season he did not play at all, but he’s back with us now and looking to add to his 121 games in Red Star colors. Jason Fram, 26, is another returning defenseman. Last season he contributed 8 (6+2) points but his most memorable game for the club was back in 2019 when he scored twice in a 3-0 win at Avangard.
The return of Luke Lockhart is the big news here. The 28-year-old has been with us for four seasons already, making a club record 210 appearances and maturing on and off the ice to become a real leader for the team. His productivity has improved year-on-year and it’s great to have him back in the Dragons’ Lair.
Luke is joined by three other players who have spent plenty of time in the organization. Greg Squires is back after a tour of Europe that took in spells in Austria, Finland and Switzerland. Earlier, he had two seasons with the Dragons, initially dividing his time between the VHL and KHL before stepping up to the K for a full campaign in 2018/19. Similarly, Josh Nicholls returns after time in Europe. The 29-year-old played last season in DEL2 and got right back on the scoring trail with 31 points in 32 games for Heilbronner Falcons. Josh has shown similar productivity in the VHL and will be looking to translate that into the first team. Finally, Yang Hu, 24, has been a prominent and productive center on our VHL teams in recent years. Now he’s looking to take his chance in the first team and add to his three KHL outings to date.