Nikolai Prokhorkin has signed his one-year entry-level contract, solidifying a move to North America that gained momentum over the past 12 months.
Prokhorkin, who turns 26 at the start of training camp, is a 6-foot-2, 201-pound power forward from Chelyabinsk, Russia who has spent the last six-plus seasons playing primarily in the KHL, where in 2018-19 he was one of five players to average a point a game in the defensive-minded league, totaling 20 goals and 41 points in 41 games. He’s a responsible forward whose jam, physicality and net-front tendencies are laced with some skill and a sharp hockey sense.
Given LAKI’s coverage of his recruitment over the past year(s), you’re familiar with Nikolai by now. But if you’d like a refresher, he was a 2012 fourth round pick who signed a three-year entry-level contract and was assigned to AHL-Manchester in 2012, where he played eight games and recorded one assist. Quickly returning to Russia because of another contract reportedly on the books with CSKA-Moscow, overtures to either sign Prokhorkin or trade his rights developed around the time his KHL contracts expired, but the Kings and their hypothetical trade partners were unable to get a commitment that he’d sign amidst questions about his role – such as whether he’d be bound for the NHL or the AHL – and his desire to win a championship in Russia. In 2016, after some discussions with Edmonton, Toronto and others fizzled, we didn’t think a great deal about Prokhorkin until he was listed on the team’s organizational depth chart at the 2017 State of the Franchise forum despite reports elsewhere that the team had lost his rights.
He filled an NHL-like role for the Olympic Athletes from Russia while winning a gold medal at the PyeongChang Games, showing an aptitude to engage in and win heavy battles while showing off some speed and will in getting to the net. A third line forward who split time between center and wing in South Korea, he returned to an SKA team this past season that had lost Kovalchuk, Vadim Shipachyov, Mikko Koskinen, Slava Voynov and other productive players and turned in a fine season amidst an uptick in ice time. Early in 2018-19, it became clear that the Kings again had him in his sights, and that he had given Los Angeles word that he wouldn’t sign a new contract in the KHL. After the season, and shortly before SKA was eliminated by arch-rival CSKA-Moscow, GM Rob Blake shared with LA Kings Insider that the team would offer Prokhorkin the one-year ELC reserved for players of his age. All of this has been covered here (in the podcast), here, here, here, here, here – and HERE, which contains this golden bit from a 2014 interview translated into English:
Q: What will be the first thing you’ll buy with your first big salary?
A: I would love to buy a car. I don’t have one yet. I’m not an expert. I liked a Japanese one… I learned to drive, got my license in May. I managed to drive through the city. And the police stopped me. I forgot my documents at home. The policemen let me go, but asked for some gifts, and I gave him a stick and a puck branded CSKA.
A fuller scouting report will follow on Prokhorkin. I’ve never seen him play live, in-arena – I missed covering him in a CSKA – Lev Praha game by a few weeks during the 2012 work stoppage – but did broadcast five of his six games at last year’s Olympics, which I believe you can still access on demand if you have a 4K TV. For the best representation of his skill package, turn on the game against the United States – if you can stomach the Stars and Stripes getting suffocated for 60 minutes by their arch rivals. Ilya Kovalchuk also had two goals in that game, one of which came on what was probably the best wristshot of the entire tournament.
Via CapFriendly, the contract carries a $925,000 cap hit. A strong candidate to make the team out of training camp, Prokhorkin is waiver-exempt in 2019-20 and would be eligible to become a restricted free agent without a new contract one year from now.
Via LA Kings PR:
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have signed forward Nikolai Prokhorkin to a one-year entry-level contract, Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake announced today.
The 25-year-old Prokhorkin (born on Sept. 17, 1993) is a 6-2, 201-pound native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, who appeared in 41 regular-season games this season with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), posting 41 points (20-21=41), a plus-27 rating and 10 penalty minutes. He helped lead SKA to the Western Conference Final, before falling in Game 7 to the top-seed and eventual champion CSKA Moscow. He appeared in 11 postseason games, posting six points (2-4=6) and four penalty minutes.
Selected by the Kings in the fourth round (121st overall) during the 2012 NHL Draft, Prokhorkin has appeared 314 career regular-season KHL games, recording 186 points (92-94=186), a plus-106 rating and 248 penalty minutes. In 71 postseason games he has registered 30 points (12-18=30) and 58 penalty minutes.
He won the 2017 Gagarin Cup (KHL Championship) with SKA St. Petersburg, playing alongside current King Ilya Kovalchuk. Internationally, Prokhorkin won a gold medal in the 2018 Olympics with Russia.
–Lead photo via Bruce Bennett/Getty Images