Edinburgh Capitals have signed experienced Kazakh forward Sergei Banashkov following a tip-off to new head-coach Dmitri Khristich from former NHL team-mate Andrei Nikolishin.
Russian NHL star Nikolishin, who played alongside Khristich with the Washington Capitals, and tough former New York Islanders defenceman Darius Kasparatis are assisting with player recruitment at Caps, scouring Europe and North America for untapped talent.
Banashkov spent last season playing in the Russin second tier with Kazakhstan outfit Saryarka Karaganda, scoring ten goals. Capitals co-owner Scott Neil expects the 31-year- old to be an offensive threat when the new Elite League season gets underway in September.
Neil explained: “The move came about through Nikolishin, who has had previous experience of coaching Sergei and recommended him to Dmitri, saying he’s a guy with good skills, who knows where the net is.”
Last season’s goal haul of ten from 40 games may seem modest by Elite League standards but Neil expects Banashkov, who enjoyed back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons in Kazakhstan prior to his move to the Vysshaya Hokkeinaya Liga (VHL), to find the net with more regularity in Scotland.
Neil continued: “Karaganda are a pretty good team in the VHL, where they finished third, and Sergei was their second top goalscorer. It’s a much more defensive-minded game over there, with bigger squads, and you have to take that into account when making comparisons.
“For the last three years he’s been one of the top goalscorers on his team, and getting the puck in the net was a problem for us last season. It’s hard to fathom that he won’t do a good job for us, and I expect him to play on one of our top two lines.”
Banashkov becomes only the eighth player signed by the club with Edinburgh’s first pre-season game against Canadian college cracks the The University of Manitoba Bison just six weeks away. The Murrayfield men still have ten more imports to sign, as well as tying down more British talent, and Neil expects their recruitment drive to really pick up pace in the coming days.
With Khristich due to arrive in Edinburgh next month, Caps fans can expect a real multi-national feel to this year’s team, which already includes last season’s top scorer Pavel Vorobyev and exciting Canadian forward Mike Cazzola, who was East Coast Hockey League rookie of the year with the Fort Wayne Komets last season.
Neil said: “We’re just waiting for things to fall into place. We can expect more announcements soon.
“It’s not going to be a completely different approach, as we have some North American players on their way too. Recruitment is never an exact science but we expect guys like Sergei to being experience and quality to our line-up.”