Three new faces in the Dragons’ Lair
Kunlun Red Star announced its first new signings of the summer over the weekend. Goalie Matt Jurusik, defenseman Vinny LoVerde and forward Jack Rodewalk all inked two-year deals during our on-going pre-season camp in Mytishchi.
In addition, Luke Lockhart agreed a three-year term, cementing his status as one of the foundations of our franchise. Three more familiar faces, Cliff Pu, Jason Fram and Jake Chelios all signed up for another year.
Arena Mytishchi is turning into Jurusik Park for the coming season after the Illinois native joined the Dragons. The 25-year-old goalie owns a bronze medal from the 2014 Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he represented team USA, and went on to make a strong impression in college hockey at Wisconsin and Michigan Tech.
That was the springboard to a spell in the AHL with the Texas Stars, a time Jurusik describes as a valuable learning experience. “I got a good look at what the level I’m trying to get to looks like,” he said at the start of last season. That 2021/22 campaign saw Matt divide his time between Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL, and life in the AHL. He made 20 appearances for the Stars, and a couple more on loan at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Vinny LoVerde brings a wealth of title-winning experience to our locker room. The 33-year-old has been a model of consistency on every team he has played for and got his first taste of trophies back in his college days. At Miami University (Ohio), he won a regular season championship in 2010 and traded up to a CCHA title within the NCAA in the following year. It says much about LoVerde’s style that he led the team in shots blocked in each of his four seasons in college hockey.
Next came two Calder Cup triumphs: first as captain of the Manchester Monarchs in 2015, then wearing the ‘A’ for the Toronto Marlies in 2018. Despite a nine-year career and over 500 games in the AHL, LoVerde never got a chance in the NHL and last season he decided to move to Europe. The winning streak continued, and he helped Salzburg to success in Austria’s cross-border ICE Hockey League.
Then there’s Rodewald. The 28-year-old Canadian has 10 NHL appearances from his time with the Ottawa Senators but played the bulk of his career in North America in the AHL. Two years ago he came to Europe and immediately won a Czech title with Ocelari Trinec on a roster that included former Dragons Tomas Kundratek and Tomas Marcinko. Then he moved to Finland and played for TPS Turku with another former Red Star defenseman Ville Lajunen. That team also featured Slovakia’s teen prodigy Juraj Slafkovsky, the #1 pick in this year’s NHL draft.
In addition, two young forwards signed try-out contracts. Alexander Kvartalnov, 19, made his KHL debut for Ak Bars last season where he played under the coaching of his father Dmitry. The bulk of his career to date has been in the Junior Hockey League, where he has 46 points from 104 games. Kris Afanasyev could become the first Mexican-born player to feature in the KHL. The 24-year-old was born in Mexico City into a Russian family. His hockey career took in spells in Canada and Finland before he spent three seasons in the VHL. In 2020/21 he played for Jukurit in Finland’s Liiga and last season was divided between Czechia and Slovakia.