After spending a year in the Kontinental Hockey League, Jiri Hudler is returning to the Detroit Red Wings’ dressing room for the 2010-11 season. In the summer of 2009, Hudler took the Wings to salary arbitration and was awarded $5.75 million over two years, but the (now defunct) Moscow Dynamo organization dangled a $10 million offer over the same period and the 26-year-old Czech took the money and ran. But Hudler is now doubling back to the NHL…so what does this mean to you?


Hudler’s Numbers


Hudler did some great things for the Red Wings prior to departing for Moscow.


In particular, he had a talent for efficiently racking up points despite his relatively limited ice-time and this year’s Wings would certainly benefit from increased secondary scoring. Wings’ head coach, Mike Babcock, has already stated that he expects 70 points from the small, but skilled winger in 2010-11.


Will there be any hard feelings over Hudler’s Russian flirtation? Since announcing the winger’s return, Red Wings’ general manager, Ken Holland, remarked that the Czech is “a popular guy in the locker room, a bit of a clubhouse clown. His teammates like him.'' Potting a Stanley Cup final game-winning goal for an organization probably goes a long way in the dressing room too.


Despite the snub on Rotowire’s 2010’s player rankings (ie. he doesn’t appear…anywhere), Hudler’s finest is yet to come and the Wings will be a better team for having him back.  Poetically, his last name even translates to ‘dry kindling tossed upon smoldering logs’.  Eerie, huh?


Okay, I may have been kidding about his name, but here’s a rundown of Hudler’s recent scoring numbers.






2006-07 (Red Wings)




2007-08 (Red Wings)




2008-09 (Red Wings)




2009-10 (Moscow Dynamo)






While Babcock’s 70 points might be a stretch (Dobber has him at 67 in the Fantasy Guide), clearly Hudler’s scoring is moving in the right direction.  But how will his season in the KHL affect his development?


Even casual fans know that the KHL, while a nice collection of hockey talent, isn’t the NHL.  As far as the skill level goes, the fledgling Russian league has been compared to the AHL by more than one seasoned hockey observer.  So all things being equal, we should expect to see a jump in a proven NHLer’s stats if he moves to the KHL.


But nothing is so simple as that.  While the NHL clearly ices the best hockey players, every hockey league has its own distinct characteristics (and I’m not just talking about having to sleep in army-style barracks the night before a game).  Some of these characteristics can be meaningfully measured.


For example, is the KHL a higher or lower scoring league than the NHL?  By this I mean are there more or fewer goals scored in the average KHL game compared to an NHL tilt?   I think this is an important question to ask if we’re looking to predict the abilities of a player, like Hudler, who is moving between leagues.


Consider the NHL back in the firewagon hockey days of the 1980s.  There was a lot more scoring going on in that era (with about eight goals scored per game), than there is in today’s NHL (with the red lamp lit fewer than six times per game).


With all due respect to the luminaries of the period, this change in scoring prevalence is partly why certain scoring records (like Wayne Grezkzy’s 92 goals in the 1981-82 season) have been touted as currently unassailable.


But let’s get back to the KHL.  It turns out that the KHL has been a lower scoring league than the NHL.  For the last two seasons, fewer goals have been scored in an average KHL game then in an average NHL game.


Some relevant average goals per game touchstones are listed below (NHL numbers provided by



NHL’s Average Goals/Game

KHL’s Average Goals/Game



8.03 (highest modern day NHL figure)



5.14 (lowest modern day NHL figure)



5.83 (Hudler’s last year in NHL)






So while the KHL remains an inferior league to the NHL, we could perhaps mitigate players results considering that they played in a scoring environment that allowed for fewer goals, thus making each player’s goals that much scarcer and thus requiring more skill and effort to obtain.  Such abilities could perhaps facilitate a player’s transition back into a tougher league with fewer hiccups.




Hudler the Harbinger


Hudler is not the first NHLer to play in the KHL before returning to North America and the world’s premier hockey league – but, with apologies to Ray Emery (and his Hummer), the Czech is likely the most important player yet to make the return trip.


And he won’t be the last.


With the polarized economics of the NHL now squeezing out many fine journeymen, we will likely see an increase in the flow between the two leagues as players seek out their best opportunities.  This increased flow means that it will become increasing useful to predict a returning NHLer’s production after spending a season or two in the KHL.


For that reason alone, we should all pay attention to Jiri Hudler’s return to the NHL.


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Comments (10)add comment

Todd Dmitruk said:

... if radulov comes back he has to honor the last year of his contract with nashville. so he will only be making 850,000 or whatever the last year on his entry level deal was, so it will be interesting to see if he is willing to come back and take a huge pay cut. but if he does end up coming back i think it will be a huge indicator that things in the khl aren't nearly as good as they are here in the best league in the world.
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

sentium said:

... It's the same situation with Radulov as it was with Hudler. Rads' contract has just been put on hold. If/when he comes back to the NHL, he will have to honor the remaining year(s?) of the contract before he can sign a new contract. Signing a new contract before that is just not an alternative and the NHL would not accept it. There's of course the alternative that Nashville does a buyout, but I find that extremely unlikely. Or he gets traded, but he will still be on that pre-KHL contract.
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

Brent K. Lemon said:

re: Oilers rock 99 I'm not a KHL expert by any stretch of the imagination. Guys like Rosso or Chesnokov would have a deeper insight into whether or not Radulov might return to the NHL next year.

Unlike Hudler, Radulov was under contract to his NHL team when he left for the KHL, and consequently he didn't leave on the best of terms....that might make NHL clubs nervous about signing him. We certainly have seen some apprehension about drafting Russian players because of the perceived flight risk.

Further, what happens to the Predators' contract with Radulov? Do they get any sort of compensation if he consequently signs with another club? Murky waters indeed.

How would he do on his return? Well, he certainly didn't impress during the Olympics, did he? He wasn't the only problem with the Russian squad, but I guessing his agent couldn't have been pleased.


September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

sentium said:

... Finnbar: The contract he signed last year, from the arbitrator's decision, is the one he is honoring right now. It just got pushed up for as long as he stayed in the KHL, which ended up being one year. It's not a coincidence how it worked out. Hudler and Detroit didn't "agree" to a contract, they let the arbitrator handle it.
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

Finnbar said:

actually RW has Hudler for 81-22-39-61 with +10, 22 PIM and 179 SOG (love that they project SOG).

Excellent article.
Huds is definitely worth watching for any insight into khl-nhl translation,
though we'll need about a hundred more examples before we really know....

Interesting how it worked out. Apparently DET and Hudler had agreed last summer to a contract that was exactly the same
as the arbitrator's amount... and now a year later, that's what he's making?!

September 01, 2010
Votes: +1

notoriousjim said:

... I remember reading somewhere a few years back that the KHL gives out far less 2ndary assists. So the there are slightly less goals, and a lot less assists.
September 01, 2010
Votes: +1

Oilers rock 99 said:

Oilers rock 99
the next one (the white elephant) yo lemon,

what are your thoughts on radulov next year will he return and what will his potential be ?? I belive this would really hurt the KHL as radulov really put them on the map when he left
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

sentium said:

... Hudler's skating isn't below average anymore. His first step was his biggest weakness before and that's gotten better. Besides, he's shifty along the boards and consistently comes out with the puck even though he's going up against guys who are six inches taller. Great skating has never been his strong suit anyway... the player I liken his skating ability to is Brett Hull. Hull wasn't the best of skaters but he had that ability to pop up at the right time in scoring positions without anyone noticing him. Hudler has that too. He's already played both LW and RW for Detroit, so what side he plays won't be an issue. On the PP he's the most comfortable on the right half-wall, where he dictates the play.

If he can handle a lot of 5 on 5 time? Based on his stint in Russia, he can.

Also... Williams? As in Jason Williams? He's not a Detroit player anymore, nor will he be.
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

Kraftster said:

Skating The thing that worries me about Hudler is that his skating ability (below average at best) will hold him back from being able to play consistent top-six minutes in the Detroit system. I have to believe skating had a lot to do with the fact that he wasn't getting a regular top-six shift with the Wings the year before his departure (if I recall correctly). He was getting a lot of PP time (again if I recall correctly), so I don't worry about that, but, I just don't know if Babcock will trust him to give him 15:00 of even strength time. Thoughts? Sentium?

Also, any chance he moves to the left side to accommodate Franzen/Holmstrom/Williams(?)?

Lastly, any idea why I can't comment in Google Chrome anymore?
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0

sentium said:

... The single most important factor to distinguish between the scoring in the NHL and KHL is the fact that the KHL's assist ratio is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay lower than in the NHL. In the NHL, a lot of the assists are "fake" sort of. An example is if a player passes the puck to two others who score on a give and go, the NHL gives an assist to the breakout passer, while the KHL doesn't. Considering then that Hudler had quite a few assists in his KHL season (normal for him, since he's a pretty sick playmaker), that should tell you that he was the main playmaker for those goals that he assisted on.

Also, his nickname in Detroit is "Happy". Pretty fitting smilies/smiley.gif
September 01, 2010
Votes: +0
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