Impactful Imports: A Brief Wildcats’ History
Over the course of franchise history the Wildcats have done an amazing job selecting or acquiring highly skilled and impactful import players.
Alexei Tezikov, Dmitri Kalinin, Martin Bartek, Mikhail Deev, Patrick Thoresen, Sebastien Strozynski, Konstantin Zakharov, Martins Karsums, Oskars Bartulis, Marek Hrivik , Dmitriji Jaskin, Ivan Barbashev, Manuel Weiderer, Simon Le Coultre, Alexander Khovanov, Jonas Taibel, and Max Barbashev all have had impactful seasons in their own way for the Wildcats. We’ll spotlight a few of our biggest European stars:
Karsums’ solid two-way style of play and defensive accountability made him an instant fan favorite. The Riga, Lativia product finished fifth in team scoring that season amassing 65 pts. in 49 regular season games. He scored 34 goals in the regular season and would continue his torrid pace in the playoffs amassing 26 points in 21 games. Martins had 187 points in 180 career games with the Moncton Wildcats and still regarded as one of the most complete import players ever to suit for the Cats.
Bartulis provided stability defensively while providing an offensive punch to the lineup. The Riga, Lativia product had 31 points in 54 games and was the perfect complimentary defencemen for Ted Nolan’s and Danny Flynn’s system, during the 2005-06 season.
In 2009-2010, the trend of impactful imports continued with the addition of Marek Hrivik who recorded 55 pts. in 66 regular season games that year and added 17 points in 21 games in the playoffs. Hrivik, would add to his career totals the following year scoring 79pts. in 59 games. The Cadac, Slovakia product finished his 3rd and final year with the Wildcats by putting up 70 points in 54 regular season games. Hrivik possessed a pro release at 18 years old but has struggled to find his way to the NHL level.
The undrafted Slovakian star was signed by the New York Rangers and spent the six seasons with that organization before his one season in the Flames system. Marek played 24 NHL games then continued his career in Russia and Sweden. The highlight of his career so far is captaining Slovakia to its first-ever Olympic medal in 2022 — Hrivik and his countrymen won the Bronze Medal.
In 2011-2012 the Wildcats selected Roman Will in the import draft. The Litomerice, Czech. Republic product played only one season with in Moncton but finished with a 29-25-7 record with a 2.77 goals against average. Will’s solid performance with the Wildcats propelled him into the pro ranks.
He made his NHL debut with the Colorado Avalanche two years after his junior career had ended. The undrafted Will would only play in one NHL game before returning home.
Will spent last year in Rogle BK Angelholm of the SweHL after spending three years in his native Czech Republic.
The Russian Dynamic Duo
Dmitrij Jaskin could possibly own the best individual season of any import selected by the Moncton Wildcats. In 2012-13, Jaskin dominated the QMJHL recording 99 points in 51 regular season games. Jaskin’s 46 goals tied him for 3rd overall in the league. The Wildcats looked poised for another long playoff run but were upset in the first round that season.
The product of Omsk, Russia used his lone year in the QMJHL to adjust to the North American game and hasn’t looked back since. He played 315 National Hockey League games with the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals & Arizona Coyotes. Jaskin also played pro in Europe and was named the KHL MVP in 2019-20 while playing with Moscow Dynamo. Most recently, he suited up in 2022-23 with St. Petersburg SKA, tallying 40 goals & 22 assists in 67 games.
Ivan Barbashev’s career numbers for the Moncton Wildcats are truly staggering. The Moscow, Russia native had 262 points in 200 career QMJHL games. Barbashev saved the best for last recording 95 points in 57 games in 2014-15. He recorded 24 points in 16 playoffs games and was a key factor in Wildcats semi-final appearance that year. Ivan has also captured 2 Stanley Cups — 2019 with St. Louis and 2023 with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Barbashev and Jaskin are arguably the best import duo ever to play in Moncton. The Russian duo had an uncanny ability to get fans out of the seats every time they touched the puck.
Manuel Wiederer is the most recent Wildcat import to have an impact on the team. Wiederer arrived in Moncton as a relative unknown. The Deggendorf, Germany native put together a monumental rookie campaign in the QMJHL in 2015-16. He collected 64 pts. in 54 games while adding 16 points in 17 playoff games. Wiederer’s strong rookie season didn’t go unnoticed by NHL scouts.
He was selected in the 5th round, 150th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Entry Draft. Wiederer returned to Moncton for his sophomore season and was a point a game player for the rebuilding Wildcats before being traded after 30 games. Wiederer’s ability to play in any situation made him a very dangerous player and a perfect compliment for QMJHL, CHL scoring sensation Conor Garland.
The Swiss Didn’t Miss
Simon Le Coultre witnessed and experienced the lowest of lows when it comes to Junior hockey’s dreaded cycle. The Swiss born two-way defenceman’s first foray in the QMJHL was tough to say the least, but it didn’t take long to see how talented he was when it came to playing the position and game he loved. Le Coultre’s game and confidence grew with every outing and was definitely a key piece in the Wildcats’ resurgence over the next two and half seasons.
Le Coultre was a big part of the core group the Wildcats brain trust wanted to build around heading into the 2017-2018 season and beyond. Le Coultre played in every situation for the Cats during his tenure with the organization and put up respectable offensive numbers on rebuilding teams. The 2018-2019 season was clearly going to be a career year for Le Coultre, but a nagging injury and the prospect of a future opportunity ended his time in the QMJHL. Le Coultre was on fire scoring 10 goals and adding 7 assists in only 27 games to start the season, but decided to shut things down and elected to get surgery so he would be ready to play professionally the following year for his hometown team the Geneve Servette of the Switzerland National League A which is part of the European Elite hockey league.
Le Coultre played a monumental role internationally as well, while being part of the Wildcats organization, appearing in the U18 International Championship and three IIHF World Junior events. Simon Le Coultre might not have the flashiest of numbers for the Wildcats, but he logged massive minutes and showed great resolve and resiliency through some very tough years in Moncton. He faced a ton of pressure, high expectations and adversity during his time with the Cats, but never once deviated from the process and plan both on a personal and team level.
Better Late Than Never
Alex Khovanov and the Wildcats loyal fanbase had to wait six long months after the 2017 import draft. It was six months of uncertainty and concern for the Moncton Wildcats. The highly touted Russian forward was sidelined for nine months, recovering from Hepatitis A that left the young Saratov, Russia, product wondering if he would ever return to the game he loved.
“Of course, I had negative thoughts, but mostly I tried to stay positive,” said the young Russian in 2017.” Khovanov’s arrival gave the struggling Wildcats hope. It took a while for Khovanov to adjust to life in the QMHL and Moncton, but when he did it was special to watch. The Minnesota Wild drafted the highly skilled play making forward in the 3rd round 86th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Khovanov’s elite level skill was full display during his final two seasons in Moncton. It was extremely unfortunate that Khovanov and the Cats couldn’t finish what they had started in the 2019-2020 season.
During his time in Moncton, Alex Khovanov recorded 201 points in only 144 games. He was the hockey club’s 1st line center when the season ended in 2020 due to the pandemic. There’s no question, Alex Khovanov left his mark on the Moncton Wildcats and the QMJHL.
A Family Affair
June 30, 2020. The day that Max Barbashev became a Moncton Wildcat. One could say he was destined to be a Wildcat, but did he ever have massive skates to fill following his brother’s path. There’s destiny to contend with and then there’s just a crazy amount of pressure and expectations. From nicknames like “Baby Barbs” to undue pressure of a city and fans expecting the same type of player as his brother, Max Barbashev definitely met and arguably surpassed any unfair expectations that have confronted him for the past three years. Obviously, there were some growing pains, and time to acclimatize to the city, organization and the league, but Max Barbashev learned to take everything to the “max” during his tenure with the Cats. The soft spoken fiercely competitive 19-year-old forward from Moscow, Russia is more than likely going to make the jump to the professional ranks for the 2023-2024 season.
One could look at all the numbers, analytics and his offensive contributions over the years, but it’s the intangibles that Barbashev brought to his game that had the biggest impact on the organization. Barbashev’s leadership qualities and character went to the next level every time he stepped on the ice for the Wildcats. There’s no question he came into his own in the QMJHL the last two years after a feeling out process during his first foray in the QMJHL during the COVID shorten season of 2020-2021. Barbashev only appeared in 16 games that season, but it was easy to see there was something special there. Taking it to the max, that’s Max Barbashev, and that’s exactly why he was so successful in Moncton and why he will have a successful pro career because he knows what it takes to compete and excel under the pressure of high expectations. In 136 games with the Wildcats, Barbashev recorded 53 goals, 64 assists. In 21 playoff games, he recorded 7 goals and four assists.
The Barbashev family have undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the city of Moncton and the Wildcats organization.