Nikolai Khlystov

Another of the earliest Soviet hockey greats was Nikolai Khlystov. Khlystov played in the shadows of the likes of Vsevolod Bobrov, Yevgeny Babich and Soviet Wings and national team linemate Alexei Guryshev.

Khlystov's bread and butter was his skating ability. The great book Kings of the Ice says "he had a unique skating technique that was natural and effortless." He had great first step quickness and was agile as a deer. He was not much bigger than a deer either, standing 5'5" and weighing 140lbs.

Not only was Khlystov fast, but he could handle the puck at high speeds. He was an early stickhandling wizard, using his stick quickly to feint moves left and right, fooling more than a few defensemen.

Statistics of early era of Soviet hockey are always sketchy at best. He played in 81 games (scoring 18 goals) with the national team, including when the Soviets won their first World Championship in 1954 and first Olympic gold medal in 1956. He played 250 USSR league games, joining Krylja Sovetov (Moscow) as an 18 year old in 1950. Khlystov, who is credited with 150 league goals, helped the team also know as the Soviet Wings win the league title in 1957.

Assists were not properly recorded back then. Too bad for Khylstov, as he likely would now be recognized as perhaps the best set up man of his time. He had an uncanny ability to play with Guryshev, sensing his every move for some beautiful passing plays. Guryshev was the finisher, but many credit Khylstov for his success. When Khlystov left the ice in 1961, Guryshev's goal scoring exploits became rarer and rarer.

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