18 July 2023
All you need to know about the Dragons’ pre-season
It’s only a couple of weeks until the Dragons reassemble to begin preparations for the 2023/24 season. As usual, the front office is hard at work putting together next season’s roster – and we’ll bring you all the latest about that as soon as it’s confirmed.
Meanwhile, Red Star’s pre-season schedule is set. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up ahead of our season opener on Sep. 2.
The first big date was July 16, when the guys came back from vacation. After the usual medical checks, it was straight into our first training camp in Mytishchi. That’s already well underway, and runs through August 10, giving plenty of time for everyone to get settled into their roles for the season ahead.
Kunlun’s first action comes in Togliatti when we contest the Lada Cup from Aug. 11-13. Host club Lada Togliatti is returning to the KHL for the first time since 2018, and invited the Dragons to join Neftekhimik and VHL champion Khimik Voskresensk in a four-team contest. KRS has some history with this tournament. Back in 2016, Togliatti saw our first games after the club was founded. The guys got off to a flyer, winning three games out of four and only missing out on gold after a loss to Barys.
After that trip, it’s back to Mytishchi for a further training camp. This time, practice is interspersed with exhibition games against AKM Tula, a VHL team preparing for its third season in competition, and our old friends Amur Khabarovsk. Kunlun faces AKM on Aug. 17 in Mytishchi and plays Amur on Aug. 20 in Novogorsk.
The finishing touches will be applied at the Mayor of Moscow Cup, which takes place in the capital from Aug. 24-27. In this six-team tournament, Red Star begins in a three-way group featuring Spartak and Vityaz. Our placing in that section will determine the opposition for the placement games on the final day, when we will take on one of CSKA, Dynamo or Amur. In the two previous years, the Dragons lost in the final of this prestigious tournament. Could it be third time lucky?
New season schedule
The KHL schedule for 2023/24 was released last week. Like last time, Kunlun can look forward to a 68-game regular season. Our season starts on the road at Spartak on Sep. 2, the day after CSKA and Ak Bars get things started with the traditional Opening Cup curtain-raiser. Immediately, we’re up against some old friends: Spartak’s coaching staff includes Igor Ulanov and Alexei Kovalev, both of whom have graced our locker room in past seasons.
Red Star’s first home game is on Sep. 4, when HC Sochi visits the Dragons’ Lair. Our first five games also include match-ups against both of last season’s Gagarin Cup finalists: on Sep. 8 we travel to Kazan to face Ak Bars, before returning home to entertain defending champion CSKA on Sep. 10.
The regular season runs through Feb. 26, with a break in December to accommodate the KHL All-Star Game and the Channel 1 Cup international tournament. After KRS plays Sochi on Dec. 5, there’s a pause until Dec. 22 when we entertain Traktor. The season finishes with six of our last seven games on home ice – hopefully providing a springboard to take the Dragons into the playoffs. Post season gets underway on Feb. 29.
The core of last season’s team remains in place. Matt Jurusik returns in goal, with defensemen Zac Leslie, Doyle Somerby, Ryan Sproul, Jason Fram and Jake Chelios already confirmed for the new season. Up front, captain Brandon Yip continues to lead by example and he’s joined by Devin Brosseau, Tyler Won, Cory Kane, Colin Campbell, Luke Lockhart, Cliff Pu and Jack Rodewald.
There are also two new faces, at least compared with last season. However, both Mikhail Abramov and Zach Yuen are well known to Dragons’ fans. Abramov, 24, has been part of the KRS system since 2018/19 when he played junior hockey at KRS Heilongjiang. By 2021/22 the young forward graduated to the first team, playing 21 KHL games and scoring 6 (3+3) points. Last season Mikhail played for HC Sochi, but now he’s delighted to be back at the club that gave him his start in pro hockey.
Yuen has an even longer history with us. He’s been part of the Dragons’ story since our first season and holds a unique place in history as the first Chinese player to score in the KHL. However, there have been plenty of bumps in the road for this versatile workhorse of a player. He missed a full season due to injury, but recovered strongly enough to earn a place on China’s Olympic team in Beijing. Last season, once again, Zach was unable to play, but now the 30-year-old is back to full fitness and ready to continue writing new chapters in Red Star’s – and China’s – hockey history.