Yuri Khmylev

Of the old Soviet bloc that flooded the NHL scene in the early 1990s, Yuri Khmylev was one of the more unknown and unheralded players.

Khmylev was a skilled two-way winger who played 263 NHL games with the Sabres and St. Louis Blues. He had a lengthy career in Russia prior to arriving in the NHL.

Born in Moscow, Khmylev was a pretty well kept secret in North America because he played eleven years with Soviet Wings rather than with the more famous CSKA Red Army team. Despite his affiliation with the Wings, Khmylev was added to the Soviet National Team for 6 seasons.

Khmylev's first taste of national glory came in 1984 when was a part of the USSR gold medal winning team at the 1984 World Junior Championships. He would graduate to the Soviet national team where he played in the World Championships in 1986, 1987, and 1989, winning two golds and a silver. In 1987 he also played with the Soviet All-Stars vs. the NHL All Stars at Rendez-Vous '87 in Quebec City. He would also be part of the Soviet team that returned later in 1987 to challenge Canada in the memorable three-game Canada Cup final.

He represented the Soviet Wings when they toured the NHL in 1989-90 and played in the 1989 and 1990 Friendship Tour games in Moscow. His skill was such that he was added to the Central Red Army when it toured the NHL in 1988-89 and 1990-91.

1992 was a memorable year for Khymlev. He represented his politically revamped country (then briefly known as) Commonwealth of Independent States) when they won the gold medal at the 1992 Albertville Olympics Olympics. He would later be inducted into the Russian version of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

1992 was also memorable because the Buffalo Sabres drafted the veteran Soviet 108th overall. Because of new political freedoms, Khmylev was able to come to Buffalo that fall and made the team. He scored 20 goals as a "rookie," and followed that up with 27 in his sophomore season. Khmylev proved to be a very useful forward on either of Buffalo's top two lines. When playing with Dale Hawerchuk, Khmylev was able to play more of an offensive role. When he played on the top line with Pat Lafontaine and Alex Mogilny, he became almost a safety valve defensive player, allowing those two to cheat offensively. Khmylev was also a good penalty killer and had little trouble playing on the small ice of the Buffalo Auditorium.

Khmylev would have been a standout NHL player if he was able to come to North American earlier in his career. After two solid seasons in Buffalo his age was beginning to catch up to him a bit. He remained with the Sabres until 1996 when he joined the St. Louis Blues very briefly.

In 263 NHL games Khmylev scored 64 goals and 152 points.


Anonymous,  11:14 PM  

Great player and even better guy. I loved watching him play! Lafontaine-Mogilny-Khmylev one of the best of all time!

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