Review of the season: Kunlun Red Star. Victims of Olympic qualifiers

31 May 2024

Each season, publishes a review of each team’s campaign. Here’s what the league website had to say about the Dragons


Red Star made a decent start to the season, winning the first three games against Spartak (4-3), Sochi (3-0) and Dinamo Minsk (4-3). September also brought an overtime win against defending champion CSKA. For a brief moment, the Chinese franchise even topped the Western Conference.

However, a promising September faded into an awful start to October and a 10-game losing streak. The underlying issue was an overloaded schedule, with KRS playing almost every other day for weeks at a time. To make matters worse, the tight timetable was intended to boost China’s Olympic qualification prospects, but in the end none of Red Star’s players were used at the preliminary tournament in February and the club’s hardships were in vain. Kunlun never recovered, and even a theoretical chance of making the playoffs ended on Feb. 13.

Best players

Devin Brosseau
35 (23+12) points from 67 games

In his second season with KRS, the Canadian led the team for points and goals. He almost doubled his productivity compared with his first season, when he had 19 points. In both campaigns, Brosseau had rather more goals than assists, highlighting his effective shot. With 23 goals in 2023/24, Brosseau set a new club record. Previously Brandon Yip had twice managed 21 goals in a season.

Tyler Wong
31 (7+24) points from 67 games

Wong matched his personal best scoring in the KHL, repeating the 31 points he had in 2019/20. This time he led the team in assists among the forwards. Wong was also a leader in terms of game time, playing in 67 of 68 games, the same as Brosseau and Yip. Only Lucas Lockhart featured in all 68.

Ryan Merkley
29 (3+26) points from 64 games

The Canadian defenseman did well in his first KHL season. He had a place on the first pair, and a role on the power play, which helped him to some encouraging numbers. Merkley is defenseman with an appetite for offense, the kind of player who could be the foundation of a D-core. He’s only 23 and, while he is currently a restricted free agent, it’s entirely possible he’ll be back next season.


Viktors Ignatjevs got his first chance behind the bench after spending all his previous coaching career as an assistant. In the KHL, that included time with Dinamo Riga, Dynamo Moscow, Spartak, Lada, Vityaz, Metallurg and Kunlun, as well as time in the VHL, Latvia and Switzerland. His first campaign as head coach showed potential, with his team proving a tough opponent for even the top teams and suggesting that it might have been a playoff contender were it not for that congested early-season schedule. Nonetheless, Ignatjevs will return to his accustomed assistant role next season. Mikhail Kravets is the incoming head coach for KRS. The two worked together in the past at Vityaz.

Best game


Battles between the outsiders in the Western Conference often proved every bit as entertaining as higher-profile clashes between the top dogs. On Dec. 5, KRS welcomed Sochi to Mytishchi and the pair served up a great game. Sochi opened the scoring, but the home team hit back with two before the intermission and a third shortly afterwards. The goals kept coming and it finished 4-4 in regulation before Yip gave the Dragons an overtime win.


Working with younger players isn’t always the easiest thing for Kunlun to combine with the club’s ambitions to promote Chinese hockey. In 2023/24, the only young player who featured regularly was 20-year-old defenseman Nikita Parfenyuk, who came on loan from Dinamo Minsk.

Summer work

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The Dragons are actively looking for reinforcements from Europe, particularly on defense. The club has already signed Adam Clendening and Martin Lefebvre from the Finnish championship, plus Ian McCoshen from the Czech league. It’s no surprise that there’s a focus on the defense: Ryan Sproul and Turner Ottenbreit both left the club.

It’s likely that we’ll also see new forwards at Red Star, particularly after Brosseau move to Amur. Among the tests for the club’s management is finding a replacement for the team’s leading scorer and most effective sniper.

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Kunlun Red Star