New attacking options

16 June 2024

Productive defenseman returns, schedule confirmed

halbgewachs sharks

Mytishchi isn’t noted for its open water culture – but Kunlun’s new signing Jayden Halbewachs loves nothing more than a summer day wave surfing or wakeboarding. Growing up near Katewpa Lake in Saskatchewan, the 27-year-old forward always enjoys a day on the water – but it’s on the ice where he’s made his name.

The Dragon’s latest signing has some career highs: a championship win in Sweden, season scoring awards in the WHL and CHL. Now he’s coming to the KHL on a one-year deal, promising to inject some pace and flair into our offense.

Jayden also has some NHL experience. Although he went undrafted in 2017 – a touch unlucky after putting up 101 points in 71 WHL games for Moose Jaw Warriors – he responded by producing an even stronger season next time around. With 129 regular season points, plus a deeper run in the playoffs, he generated some serious buzz and earned himself a deal with San Jose. From there, it took time to get to the show: three seasons in the AHL with the Barracuda, including a COVID-curtailed campaign in 2020/21. A hip injury further limited his game time. The following season, he made his NHL debut for the Sharks in December 2021 and eventually had three appearances and contributed one assist.

After finishing the season in the AHL, Halbgewachs left the Sharks organization and headed to Europe. A season in Sweden with Vaxjo Lakers was a success: 20 points in 52 games contributing to a championship. That led to a try-out with Carolina, but there was no NHL return. Instead, after playing alongside his brothers back home, Jayden came back to Sweden to play for Frolanda. An initial seven-week deal to provide cover during the Spengler Cup and World Juniors turned into a full season in Gothenburg.

In terms of his game, Halbgewachs talks up his speed and his ability to score and create goals. With the Barracuda, he was noted as an architect behind some highlight-reel plays, albeit with an acknowledgement that greater consistency was required on occasion. Throughout his time in the AHL, Jayden steadily improved his strike rate. Now, coming to the KHL for the first time, but blessed with ample European experience, now could be the time for a scoring explosion.

Welcome back

Ryan Merkley is back on the Dragons’ D. the 23-year-old, who played alongside Halbgewachs with the Barracuda, came to Europe for the first time last season and acquitted himself well. 29 (3+26) points in his rookie season was a solid return and had him leading our defense in scoring. Everyone at the club is delighted to see him back in the Lair for another year.

On the flip side, we’re saying goodbye to a couple of stalwart servants. Ryan Sproul, five years a Dragon and a Chinese Olympian, is leaving us. Ryan played 232 games for us, contributing 83 (24+59) points in that time. Similarly, center Alex Riche has left the club. Like Sproul, Riche was with us for five seasons. However, injuries ruled him out for the whole of 2019/20. In total he played 98 games for eight goals and 12 assists.

Schedule announced

The KHL released its official schedule last week. As before, the Dragons face a 68-game regular season. Unlike last season, though, there is nothing like the kind of fixture congestion that undermined our playoff push. That’s partly due to the absence of international commitments, and partly thanks to the KHL’s decision to extend its whole season. Although we start in September as usual, the regular season continues into late March with the playoffs set to go deep into May.

Red Star’s season starts in Moscow with a road game at Dynamo on Sep. 4. The first home stand begins on Sep. 6 against Admiral. Two days later we face Severstal before entertaining last year’s runner-up Lokomotiv – Alexander Radulov and all – on Sep. 12. The Far East tour is finished early on, with the Dragons returning from Novosibirsk in mid-September. There are two significant breaks in the schedule: one in December to accommodate the Channel 1 Cup in Moscow, and another in February for the All-Star Weekend. Regular season ends on March 22 with a home game against Avangard.

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