What affect could the addition of the Kunlun Red Star, the new Beijing based KHL team, have on the China Dragon of the Asia League? The KHL rules state five players from a teams’ country must be on the roster and currently the Dragon are China’s top professional hockey team.
Before panicking let’s look at some options. The Chinese players could come from somewhere else. Andong Song perhaps? Nope. He’s at the New York Islanders Prospects mini-camp until July 1, and received a “Bona Fide Offer” which means the Isles retain his rights. Also, he’s likely to attend college in the US. Maybe his defense partner on the Chinese 2014-15 U-18 team, Simon Chen? No. He’s off to college in the US as well.
So the Red Star will have a few options to look for talent in China. Which are: getting players from the Dragon, picking guys from one of the four teams of the Chinese League, or going with youth by asking the Beijing Ice Hockey team for players.
Two other options could be to sign players born in China or with a Chinese parent, but grew up abroad or recruit foreign nationals to play for the Chinese National team. This move would allow them to fit under the KHL rules. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.
Possible affect for the China Dragon
Although the China Dragon have struggled to find success since their inception, a few players have started to emerge. After all, people forget that on the Asia League website it says they want to develop players to compete on the international stage.
One of these players is 23 year old, Mingxi Yang. The 177 cm, 76 kg defenseman has represented China for the last seven seasons. In 2015-16, he had his best season, both as a pro and in international competition. Another defenseman, Hu Tianyu won two Asia League championships in three seasons with the Tohoku Freeblades before returning to the Dragon. It’s likely the knowledge and training he gained could see him as a possible candidate for joining the Red Star. Also forward and energy player, Peng Sun could be wearing a Kunlun jersey next year. Although not a scorer, Peng wasn’t afraid to get physical when needed.
Whatever happens in the next few months, the addition of the Kunlun Red Star could have a immediate negative affect on the Dragon. However, long term, it is a win for Chinese hockey.