KHL 2016/17 Season Preview

By Tomi Rantanen

Kontinental Hockey League up to speed


Credited as the second best league in the world, Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League is up to speed already tonight, August 22nd with last year's finalists, CSKA Moscow and Metallurg facing off after the ceremonies in Magnitogorsk. It's the ninth season of KHL and much has changed during the years. This season sees an interesting expansion taking place, as Red Star Kunlun joins the league from Beijing, China. In addition to the rather unexpected expansion, the biggest headline so far has been the return of Pavel Datsyuk, who joins SKA St. Petersburg from Detroit Red Wings of the NHL.

Accuscore is of course participating in the action from the puck drop tonight until the Gagarin Cup finals played in April. We will simulate each game for 10 000 times and make a prediction of the outcome, which is based on statistical player and team data. With Accuscore season simulation, we are able to determine the most likely outcome of the season before it happens!

This is how the simulation engine predicts the standings after the final day of KHL regular season:

West

East

1 HK Sochi

117

1 Avangard Omsk

116

2 SKA St. Petersburg

109

2 Ak Bars Kazan

109

3 Dynamo Moscow

110

3 Salavat Yulaev Ufa

106

4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

106

4 Barys Astana

101

5 CSKA Moscow

106

5 Metallurg Magnitogorsk

101

6 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod

103

6 Sibir Novosibirsk

96

7 Jokerit

103

7 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk

95

8 Dinamo Minsk

94

8 Traktor Chelyabinsk

91

9 Dinamo Riga

90

9 HC Admiral Vladivostok

89

10 Vityaz Chekhov

79

10 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg

86

11 Medvescak Zagreb

76

11 Metallurg Novokuznetsk

76

12 Spartak Moscow

72

12 Lada Togliatti

75

13 Severstal Cherepovets

66

13 Amur Khabarovsk

60

14 HC Slovan Bratislava

64

14 Yugra Khanty

59

15 Kunlun Red Star

55



Despite an excellent regular season last year, finishing 3rd in points in whole of KHL, HC Sochi is definitely the dark horse in Accuscore simulations. Their proficiency in scoring and attack first mentality proved next to impossible to stop during the regular season, but in the playoffs Dynamo Moscow shut the newcomers down completely sweeping the series in which Sochi scored only three goals. Sochi's attacking core remains similar to last season and even if the defense has been completely revamped, statistically they are still excellent. Winning the regular season before the behemoths of Moscow and St. Petersburg is a massive surprise - similar success in playoffs even more so.

The top of western conference is manned by the usual suspects: Dynamo and CSKA Moscow, SKA St. Petersburg and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. SKA especially has once again reinforced their roster with elite players, Pavel Datsyuk leading the group of returnees from North America. Viktor Tikhonov, Sergei Plotnikov and Alexander Khochlatsev are top notch players in the KHL, despite failing to impress in the NHL. Last year's runner up CSKA lost Alexander Radulov to NHL, among a couple of other quality players, but have serious depth and can still challenge for the championship. Yaroslavl surprised many last season and are able to continue their progress without big changes - but the element of surprise is gone now.

In the easter conference the setting is as predictable as ever. Avangard Omsk is once again found on top, exactly like last season. Their defense has gone through big changes, with top-4 defenders from last year gone. Their replacements are good enough on paper, but there's always a doubt when the lineup changes that remarkably. In the simulations Omsk is still the top-dog before Ak Bars Kazan, Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Barys Astana. The battle for home advantage in the playoffs is closer than ever and rather surprisingly the reigning champions succumb to 5th seed. Metallurg Magnitogorsk have won two championships in past three years, so it might be the aging core does have their stomachs full which could lead to mediocre performances in the regular season.

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