March 10, 2014

AHL Journal: 'Koko' is crisp for P-Bruins

By Mike Miccoli

Alexander Khokhlachev has mostly made headlines as trade fodder, but lately he's producing at a pace that's giving Providence a boost - and may be enough to give 'Koko' a good look at coming up north to the big club. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

He had been here before. At last year’s trade deadline, the rumored deal for the Boston Bruins to land Jarome Iginla involved Matt Bartkowski, a draft pick, and Alexander Khokhlachev, the current Providence Bruins leading scorer. Though “Koko” was quiet in the scoring column in his 11 games with Providence during the 2012-13 season, he has been on an absolute tear with the Bruins’ AHL club since the beginning of February. The legend grew this past weekend, mere days after his name rumored around potential deals in this season’s NHL Trade Deadline.

After back-to-back games against the Sharks and Monarchs in which Khokhlachev recorded a goal and an assist each, the rookie center went off for a goal and four assists in the Bruins’ 9-3 win over the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday. Khokhlachev now has a total of 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 51 games, producing close to a point-per-game, good enough to be Providence’s leading scorer. The only other AHL rookie from the Eastern Conference who can match that production is playmaking center Ryan Strome, who was recently called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the New York Islanders.

Khokhlachev’s offensive outburst has really picked up since February – the center has tallied eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in the last 15 games. For a Providence team that needs an extra scoring surge to make the postseason, Khokhlachev is providing the Bruins with what they need.

Although Khokhlachev has yet to play in any NHL games (he was called up to practice with the big club during the Olympic break), it’s easy to see why his value is so high. Boston hears so much about Ryan Spooner but maybe it’s time to start thinking about how Alexander Khokhlachev could fit into the core of the NHL squad.

Power Rankings:

1) Manchester Monarchs (39-16-2-6): Coming off of a two-game losing streak, the Monarchs responded with three straight wins at home this week. The Monarchs are starting to see more of a scorer-by-committee offense, gaining contributions from Brian O’Neill, who had a hat trick in Friday’s 4-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms, and James Livingston, who scored twice in Saturday’s 4-2 over the Bruins. (Last week: 3-0, #2)

2) Springfield Falcons (36-18-1-5): After dropping their first game of the week against the opportunistic Hartford Wolfpack, the Falcons bounced back in a big way, wrapping up the weekend with two wins where they scored a total of 14 goals. In the Falcons 9-3 rout over the Pirates, six different Springfield players were credited with multi-point games. Notably, Jack Skille finished with two goals and two assists in Sunday’s win. (Last week: 2-1, #1)

3) Providence Bruins (32-21-1-7): Providence may have blown leads in both of its losses this week, but come Sunday, the Bruins blew out the visiting Adirondack Phantoms, scoring nine goals. Along with Alexander Khokhlachev’s five-point night, the Bruins saw major contributions from Seth Griffith (four goals and one assist) and Tyler Randell (two goals and two assists). (Last week: 1-1-0-1, #3)

4) Worcester Sharks (27-27-3-1): All it takes is a win to get the ball rolling and gain momentum. That was all the Sharks needed. After a bit of a slump, Friday’s shootout win against the Bruins propelled the Sharks to win their next two games. The points helped them gain ground in the Eastern Conference and move up in the Power Rankings. (Last week: 3-0, #7)

5) Hartford Wolfpack (25-28-0-6): Able to overcome the Falcons and Albany Devils for two big wins this week, the Wolfpack dropped Sunday’s game to the Monarchs after being unable to erase a three-goal deficit early on. Recently-assigned J.T. Miller has been an offensive burst of energy however, tallying two goals and six assists in the three games this week. Since Miller was one of the Wolfpack that was producing before his NHL recall, it’s no surprise to see him pick up where he last left off since returning. (Last week: 2-1, #5)

6) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (26-27-2-4): Here we go again. After seven straight wins, their longest of the season which helped Bridgeport inch back into the playoff race, the Sound Tigers have dropped their last four, including two back-to-back losses to the St. John’s IceCaps this past week. The story was in the shots for the Sound Tigers, who gave up way more than they were able to fire on net. For a team desperately looking for the playoffs, their recent slide is the last thing they need. (Last week: 0-1-1, #4)

7) Portland Pirates (21-28-2-7): It’s not getting any better for the Pirates. Their three losses this past week make the Pirates winners of only two of their last 10. While both Mark Visentin and Louie Domingue have faced success and adversity this season, the nine goals Portland allowed in Sunday’s loss to Springfield was a team-worst. (Last week: 0-3, #6)

Games of the Week:

Friday, March 14:

Adirondack Phantoms vs Hartford Wolfpack (7 p.m.)

Albany Devils @ Springfield Falcons (7 p.m.)

Saturday, March 15:

Worcester Sharks @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (7 p.m.)

Providence Bruins @ Springfield Falcons (7 p.m.)

Sunday, March 16:

Manchester Monarchs @ Worcester Sharks (3 p.m.)

Twitter: @MikeMiccoli