Yuri Cheremetiev’s Russian is rusty and he hasn’t been to his native Moscow since he was four years old.
But the 20-year-old Halifax Mooseheads’ forward is hopping on a plane today and heading overseas to get reacquainted with his birthplace and begin his quest to earn a job with CSKA Moscow of the new Kontinental Hockey League.
Cheremetiev, who was raised in Stoughton, Mass., will spend the next 10 days sightseeing and working out to get ready for CSKA’s training camp beginning on July 20.
“I have no idea what it’s like,” said Cheremetiev, who had 49 points in 65 games last season to co-lead the Mooseheads. “It’s a great opportunity to see Russia and where I was born, and I’m excited to see the culture there.”
It’s also a chance to play for a team he grew up revering. CSKA, which drafted Cheremetiev 33rd overall in last month’s inaugural KHL draft, has produced legends such as Igor Larionov, Slava Fetisov and Sergei Fedorov, not to mention one of Cheremetiev’s childhood coaches, Vladimir Lutchenko.
Lutchenko and Cheremetiev’s dad, Vadim, started a hockey school in Stoughton where Yuri honed his skills.
“I always heard about that team and as long as I can remember it was my dad’s favourite team growing up,” Cheremetiev said. “It’s really cool now to have a chance to play for them.”
The KHL is filled with NHL-calibre talent and won’t be easy to crack. When asked if he’d be back in Halifax for his over-age campaign in August, Cheremetiev said he’s “not sure what’s best” for his hockey career at this point.
He has a couple of possibilities for tryouts at NHL training camps, but for now, he’s focused on the KHL.
“This is a huge opportunity to showcase how I’ve improved over the summer and how I’ve improved over the past year,” he said. “I’ve grown a lot, mentally and physically. My goal is to go out there and prove I deserve a spot on the team.”
Former Herd captain signs with Belfast Giants
• Brandon Benedict is headed to Northern Ireland.
The former Halifax Mooseheads captain has signed with the Belfast Giants of the United Kingdom-based Elite Ice Hockey League, according to the team’s official site.
“Benny is a legit first-liner,” said Giants head coach Steve Thornton in the press release. “He plays with grit, skates very well and is very creative … He will be an impact player for us and will play big minutes in all situations.”
Benedict, 27, split last season between Denmark and the Central Hockey League. He returned from Europe at mid-season and had 34 points in 34 games with the Texas Brahmas en route to a Central Hockey League championship.