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Vladislav Kara traded to Severstal Cherepovets

Toronto Maple Leafs’ 4th round pick in 2017 Vladislav Kara was involved in a KHL trade today, moving from Ak Bars Kazan to the Severstal Cherepovets.

Stats

The 6’2″ Russian winger was drafted as a 19 year old out of the Kazan system in 2017, after he split time between their VHL and MHL clubs. In 2018-19 he spent the majority of the season in the KHL, recording 5 points with 7:10 of ice time per game. In 2019-20 there was a marginal increase to his ice time (8:17/game), and Kara recorded 8 points in 27 KHL games.

8 points may not sound very impressive, but it lands him in the top 10 for points per game by u22 KHL forwards (minimum 20gp). Compare him to a prospect the Blackhawks just signed, Andrei Altybarmakyan, and Kara’s 0.3 p/g isn’t far off of Andrei’s 0.35. Altybarmakyan did so with 13:46 of ice time per game, an additional 5 minutes per night when compared to Kara.

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Severstal vs. Ak Bars

So what does this trade mean for Kara? Well, he is going to a team notorious for giving young players opportunity. 20 year old defenceman Makar Khabarov played over 16 minutes a game last season, 20 year old forward Adam Liska led the team in ice time for forwards. In fact, the top 5 forwards in TOI were all under 25.

Kara should be a permanent fixture in the Cherepovets lineup, playing more games in the 2020-21 season, and getting more responsibility in the games he plays. This will give him an opportunity to develop into a more complete player, who can come to North America and produce when his KHL contract ends in 2021.

The tradeoff is that Kara goes from one of the top teams in the KHL to a team that has made the playoffs once since 2013. On Ak Bars, Kara leaves behind a goaltender that was rumoured to be signing with the Leafs in Timur Bilyalov. Another interesting player on Kazan the Leafs may have gotten some extra viewings of is Artyom Galimov. He has already been passed over in 2 NHL drafts, but Galimov recorded 23 points in 55 KHL games as a 20 year old. If he is available in the later rounds the Leafs could add a player that is extremely close to being NHL ready.

Expectations

Fans in North America, including myself, have had very limited viewings of Kara. He looked good when he attended Leafs development camp, but it wasn’t a large body of work. From highlights we can tell he has a good shot with a quick release, but it would be nice to see him on a smaller ice surface in a game scenario.

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When Kara plays in the Russian minor league, the VHL, he is one of the top producers at his age. When he is called up to the KHL he has to compete with one of the best forward groups in the KHL for ice time, and has respectable numbers once he’s on the ice. At this point I would say we simply do not have enough information to know if Kara will ever become a player in the NHL.

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This trade means that in a year we likely will have enough information to know, and it comes at a great time. Kara will be 22 for the entirety of the 20-21 KHL season, playing on a Severstal team without established forwards taking up the majority of the ice time. If the KHL plays a full 62 games next season, Kara recording 25-35 points would represent a reasonable step forward for the winger. It will be difficult to do so if Severstal does not improve as a team, but they appear to be pointed in the right direction.

At the earliest, Leafs fans could see Vladislav Kara in North America once his KHL contract expires in May 2021. He would be eligible for a 2 year Entry Level Contract at that point. If Kara decides to remain in the KHL beyond 20-21, he would only be eligible for a 1 year ELC until he turns 27.