The return trip to the NHL was not a long one for Viktor Tikhonov. The 2008 first round pick of the Coyotes had come back from a four year hiatus in the KHL to sign a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks to play alongside fellow countryman and new addition Artemi Panerin, but was put on waivers after just 11 games in a Blackhawks jersey, and ended up back with the team that drafted him in Arizona. An NHL market did not develop for the 28-year-old who had only six points in 50 games split between two teams, and so he is headed back to Russia. Tikhonov will re-join SKA St. Petersburg, where he played from 2011-2015, the team announced.
While Tikhonov, the grandson of the legendary Russian player and coach of the same name, was born in the USSR, he was raised in the United States. His father, Vasily, was also a coach and the family spent time in California and Kentucky during Tikhonov’s childhood. His American upbringing has not translated to any dedication to playing in North America however. Tikhonov returned to Russia to play hockey at the age of 17, and played for three years before being drafted by the Coyotes in 2008. He made his NHL debut the next season, but failed to meet expectations, scoring only 16 points in 61 games. After starting the 2009 season with the Coyote’s AHL affiliate at the time, the San Antonio Rampage, Tikhonov was loaned to Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL, a team he had previously played for. Tikhonov spent the remainder of the season with Cherepovets, but returned stateside to fight for an NHL spot in 2010. Instead, he spent the entire 2010-11 season with the Rampage and left North America permanently, signing with SKA. Many were surprised by his return to the NHL last year, and his performance showed that this surprise was warranted, as Tikhonov again failed to make a difference at the NHL level. He’ll now return to the KHL, where he has 130 points in 207 games, as compared to just 22 points in 111 career NHL games.
Tikhonov is the 20th player to have left the NHL for the KHL this off-season. SKA St. Petersburg in particular has loaded up, bringing back Tikhonov to go along with the additions of the great Pavel Datsyuk, Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev, and failed NHL experiment Sergei Plotnikov to a roster that already included the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and Russian stars Vadim Shipachyov and Nikita Gusev. However, even if Tikhonov thrives on a loaded SKA team, it seems unlikely that he’ll try his hand at coming back overseas after his one-year deal expires. His NHL playing days appear to be over.