Then and Now: Denis Tolpeko

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Denis Tolpeko spent two seasons in the Philadelphia Flyers’ organization, as he endured the majority of his time during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms.

However, the undrafted Russian left winger enjoyed 26 games with the Orange and Black during the 2007-2008 campaign in which his lone goal in the NHL came at a crucial point in a game against one of the best goaltenders in the league.

After he posted 11 goals and 19 helpers in 58 games for the Phantoms during the season of 2006-2007, Tolpeko tasted his first NHL action on October 4, 2007, as the Flyers visited the Calgary Flames. While the Flyers won the game 3-2, Tolpeko had three shots on net in 11:02 of ice time.

Over a month later, Tolpeko appeared in his fourth game with the Flyers, as the club hosted the New York Rangers. After he registered the secondary assist on Jim Dowd’s opening goal in the first period, Tolpeko beat Henrik Lundqvist halfway through the third period to tie the game at two and send it to an eventual shootout. Although the Flyers lost 4-3 in the shootout, the team earned a point in the standings due to Tolpeko’s lone goal in the NHL in the middle of the third period (go to 4:00).

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For the remainder of the season the forward added on four more assists, including a two-assist game in a Flyers’ 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in early December of 2008, as he totaled one goal and five assists in 26 games for the Orange and Black.

As for his time with the Phantoms, a pair of three-point games for Tolpeko helped him record eight goals and nine assists in 24 contests, as the team finished fourth in the Eastern Conference.

After missing 17 games in the second half of the regular season due to a concussion and a separated shoulder, Tolpeko didn’t suit up for either team during the 2008 postseason.

In the summer of 2008, Tolpeko left North America to join the KHL, as he became a member of OHK Dynamo Moskva. In addition to former Flyers Danny Markov, Alexei Zhitnik, and Dmitri Afanasenkov being on the team’s roster, Dynamo Moskva also boasted the late Karel Rachunek on their blue line.

Tolpeko finished 14th on the team in points with three goals and 13 assists, as he took part in 42 regular season games for Dynamo Moskva, which still stands as his high for games played in a KHL season. With his help, Dynamo Moskva finished seventh in the 24-team league with 27 wins in 56 games to advance to the postseason.

In the 2009 KHL postseason, Dynamo Moskva swept both Dinamo Riga in the best-of-five Preliminary Round and CSKA Moskva in the best-of-five Quarterfinals before being eliminated by AK Bars Kazan 4-2 in the best-of-seven Semifinals. Tolpeko took part in 11 of the team’s 12 postseason games, as he finished with two goals and an assist.

For the 2009-2010 regular season, Tolpeko stayed with Dynamo Moskva as the squad added notable NHLers Alexei Semyonov, Jiri Hudler, Linus Omark, and Oleg Saprykin.

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Although Tolpeko posted career lows in games played, goals, assists, and points, Dynamo Moskva moved up in the standings, as they finished fifth with 28 wins in 56 games. In 24 regular season games, Tolpeko had a pair of goals and a pair of helpers to finish with just four points. He was one of two forwards on the team to play in over 20 games and fail to record five points.

In the Preliminary Round of the 2010 KHL playoffs, Dynamo Moskva was upset 3-1 in a best-of-five series by Spartak Moskva, the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Tolpeko took part in three of the club’s four games, as he went pointless with two PIMs and a plus-1 rating.

The forward remained with Dynamo Moskva for a third straight season during the campaign of 2010-2011, as the club added former NHLers Miroslav Satan and Chris Simon.

In 33 games, Tolpeko set his high for goals in a season in the KHL with eight, as he finished the regular season with 15 points overall. Dynamo Moskva finished near the top of the league yet again, as they recorded 28 wins in 54 games, which was good enough for sixth in the league and second in the Western Conference.

For a second straight season Dynamo Moskva was upset in the opening round of the playoffs, as the seventh-seeded Dinamo Riga eliminated Tolpeko’s squad 4-2 in the best-of-seven series. Tolpeko did not suit up for a single one of Dynamo Moskva’s six postseason games in 2011.

With the addition of Slava Kozlov, Tolpeko and the rest of his Dynamo Moskva teammates enjoyed a memorable 2011-2012 KHL season.

Tolpeko had six goals and four assists in 35 regular season games, as the club finished third in the league and third in the Western Conference with 31 wins in 54 games.

Thanks to a pair of sweeps, Dynamo Moskva won the 2012 Gagarin Cup. After they swept Dinamo Minsk in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Dynamo Moskva beat Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in a six-game Semifinals’ match-up. A sweep of the top-seeded SKA Saint Petersburg in the Conference Finals led to Dynamo Moskva’s 4-3 win in the Gagarin Cup Finals over Avangard Omsk.

Tolpeko only played in nine of Dynamo Moskva’s 21 games in the playoffs, as the forward had a pair of assists, six PIMs, and a plus-1 rating.

The Gagarin Cup was the first title Tolpeko had won in any league.

As for the 2012-2013 KHL season, Tolpeko is expected to endure his fifth season with Dynamo Moskva.