Minnesota Wild prospect Alex Khovanov was granted permission to spend next season in the KHL, per The Athletic’s Michael Russo. The 20-year-old center was rumored to be on his way to Ak Bars Kazan last month, but the Wild were said to still be discussing the best route for Khovanov’s development.
The Russian lefty was a third-round pick of the Wild in the 2018 draft. The 86th overall selection signed officially with Minnesota last March, but injuries have slowed his development. He was held out of the NHL Prospect Tournament last year after having a benign tumor surgically removed from his left leg.
Regardless, the ceiling is high for Khovanov. He potted 32 goals while finishing his junior career in QMJHL Moncton. He wrapped up the 2019-2020 campaign with an impressive 99 points in just 51 games.
With an uncertain start date for next year’s AHL season, the hope here is that a delayed NHL season in 2020-2021 will allow Khovanov to get a full season of reps while in Russia and still return sometime mid-year to join the AHL, if not the Wild.
If he does indeed come back mid-season, Khovanov will use up the first year of his Entry-Level Contract at that time. For the Wild, if he gets a full season of development time in the KHL, that’s well worth the cost of burning the first year of his ECL, even if he only gets a partial season stateside.