Boston Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev was a revelation with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League last season, chipping in 30 goals and 71 points over 77 games between the regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs. Now, he's eager to take the next step and play in the NHL on a regular basis.
"I think every player’s goal in training camp is to make the team," said Khokhlachev this past weekend, per Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com. "I had a good year in Providence last year, so I look forward to Boston this year. We’ll see how it goes.
"I’m still improving as a player. I think I’ll be even better next year than I was last year. If you want to play at the NHL level then you want to play against the best players in the world. You need to be stronger, faster and work on all areas of your game."
There should be ample opportunity for the Russian-born Khokhlachev to earn a permanent spot with the Bruins at training camp. After all, the club currently has only 11 forwards signed to one-way contracts.
Still the competition is likely to be stiff for the final few forward spots, and the 20-year-old Khokhlachev will likely have to beat out players like Justin Florek, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner and Simon Gagne if he hopes to break camp with one of the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference.
Khokhlachev admits that he's been paying close attention to the club's moves this offseason.
"For sure I’ve paid attention," said Khokhlachev. "But I’m not crazy about it. I wasn’t wishing that Boston signed somebody, or didn’t sign somebody. I just want to be in the best shape I can be for training camp, take advantage of my chances and show them what I can do."
What Khokhlachev has done consistently is fill the net at every level he's ever played. Whether or not he'll earn an NHL job this fall has little to do with his offensive abilities, though, and significantly more to do with the state of his two-way game.
"I learned a lot last season," said Khokhlachev. "The coaches helped me a lot last season. It was a really fun year, and a really good year. I learned a lot that improved my game, and will hopefully help me be in Boston this year."