The Victoria Royals have received a major shot of offensive adrenalin with the return to the Western Hockey League club of six-foot-two forward Vladimir Bobylev from Moscow Spartak of the professional KHL.
Bobylev was recently demoted to the Russian minor ranks after struggling in his pro debut this season with one goal and one assist in 20 games with Moscow Spartak.
“It’s all about putting the player in the best position to succeed,” said Royals general-manager Cam Hope, of Bobylev’s return.
“If he’s not playing, he’s not developing, and you have to find a solution and change course mid-stream.”
Bobylev is 19-years-old and eligible to return to the major-junior WHL.
“This was driven by the player and the KHL club,” said Hope.
“It was not an easy thing for [Spartak] to do. But they, and the Russian federation, agreed to the transfer. And we can’t wait. It won’t take him long to adapt to the smaller ice sheet.”
Bobylev is expected to be in the line-up next week when the Royals play the Portland Winterhawks twice and the Vancouver Giants once, all three games at home, before the Christmas break.
Bobylev’s breakout season last year in Victoria included 28 goals and 67 points after recording only three goals and nine points the season before in Vancouver with the Giants.
He found a physical dimension to his game in Victoria, under coach Dave Lowry, and a way to play with edge as well as speed. That resulted in the Toronto Maple Leafs selecting Bobylev in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL draft. He instead opted to sign a pro deal with Moscow Spartak in his native Russia.
“He gives us a big body . . . and one that showed a great deal of chemistry last season with linemates [Jack] Walker and [Tyler] Soy,” said Lowry.
“He went from three goals the season before [with the Giants] to 28 with us. I like that progression.”
Lowry said he believes returning to junior is a good move for Bobylev, and that the jump up this season to playing against men in the KHL was a real eye-opener for him and made him realize what he needs to improve on to play at that level.
“It is better for him to be here and playing and getting better rather than receiving no touches on the puck [in the KHL],” said Lowry.
Hope said he does not know Bobylev’s current contract situation with Spartak, only that he will finish out the season with the Royals.
Each WHL team is allowed two European imports. The Royals currently only carry one, Russian defenceman Marsel Ibragimov, so they have a roster spot open for Bobylev.