One of the best goaltenders in the KHL settled in Kunlun. Why won’t we see Smith in a major club?

“Kunlun” continues to surprise at the beginning of the season. The Chinese-Mytishchi club began the regular season with four wins in five matches, including meetings with two Moscow clubs – Spartak and CSKA. A three-match series of defeats followed: Red Star lost twice to Lokomotiv and once again came close to inflicting the first defeat of the season on Igor Larionov’s Torpedo gang, who were in the lead until the third time.

Today the dragons returned to their winning rhythm: Viktor Ignatiev’s team survived the away match against Khabarovsk “Amur”, winning at the end of regulation time and earning two points based on the results of a series of post-match shots. They survived, because the players of the Far Eastern Club made 57 shots on goal at the Kunlun goal, of which only one was accurate.

For some time, Kunlun was among the leaders of the KHL:

Kunlun defeated the champion and topped the KHL table. Is Chinese leadership here to last?

Red Star’s real hero in this match was the team’s goalkeeper, 34-year-old Jeremy Smith. And this is not his first performance of this type this season, although it is his most notable. Smith has to sweat in every match: in the matches with Spartak and CSKA and in one of the matches with Lokomotiv he made 40, 48 and 41 saves, respectively. He managed to “rest” a little only in the confrontation with Sochi, when Jeremy knocked down all 29 shots of the southerners. “Jeremy Smith helps us in every game. In case of a 90% victory, our best player is the goalkeeper,” Kunlun coach Viktor Ignatiev commented on the goalkeeper’s performance.

Smith is currently one of the best goaltenders in the league across the board. In terms of the percentage of reflected shots (96.4), he is second only to Andrei Shutov from Barys (96.7) and his today’s counterpart Dmitry Lozebnikov from Amur (96.9). At the same time, more shots were fired against Jeremy than against Shutov and Lozebnikov combined: 222 against 189 (92+97). Only eight goalkeepers surpass Smith in terms of reliability coefficient, and of those who played at least as many matches as Jeremy (five), only one is Dynamo’s Ilya Konovalov, whose strength was tested only 110 times.

Such an effective goaltender, accustomed to being constantly under attack, could be useful for many top KHL clubs with cup ambitions. And for Smith himself, this would be an excellent opportunity to express himself publicly; After all, the attention to Kunlun’s successes is not as close as that of any of the Russian teams. Especially at 34 years old, when there is not much chance of winning an important trophy.

Jeremy Smith in the match against CSKA

Photo: Yuri Kuzmin,

This was pointed out by one of the Telegram channels, but the official account of Red Star, which in the media field is sometimes even more interesting than the “dragon” team on the ice, was quick to explain why Smith’s departure from Kunlun in the next few days. The future is impossible: “His four-year quarantine for naturalization for the Chinese national team has ended, but he still needs to be processed according to all IIHF standards. In addition, the deadline for transfers to the KHL is scheduled for the end of December, while Smith should surely be in Olympic qualification with the national team in February. No one will let him go until then, of course.

And in general, you know, Smith in “Kunlun” is about loyalty to the team and also to the country. Jeremy was happy for his friend Shimon Grubets, who won the Gagarin Cup with one of the KHL teams, but his path is completely different. Smitty is a veteran with ties to China, played in the Olympics and is further along than any other foreign player in learning Chinese. He is enjoying his career. And he catches pucks. “This is how he lives,” reads the “dragons” statement.

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What kind of quarantine are we talking about? Under IIHF rules, a player has the right to change his or her sports citizenship. If he did not previously play for the national team under the auspices of the federation, this will take two years, and if he played, four. Smith was the goalkeeper for the United States youth team in the 2008 World Cup, so he had to go through a four-year journey to legitimize his game in the Chinese team (as an exception, Jeremy played for Celeste in the Olympic Games in home). .

Playing in Kunlun is an important condition of this procedure: “The player has the right to change national team if he is a citizen of the chosen country; if for four consecutive years he has competed in his new country, he has not been transferred to clubs in other countries, has not played in other countries and has not played for his previous national team during this period; if you have an international transfer card confirming your transfer to the national association of the new country, which has been approved and dated at least four years before the start of the IIHF competition in which the player wishes to participate”, the rules of the State of the International Federation.

Jeremy, thanks to Shimisa Jezhuimi’s new passport, made his decision several years ago. Therefore, we will not see him in another club, at least this season.

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