The recently-announced retirement of former NHLer Miroslav Satan got me thinking – what other former Sabres players are out there around the world, still continuing their playing careers in leagues and countries worldwide? Today, let’s focus on one: Maxim Afinogenov, 34, who now plays in the KHL.
Maxim Afinogenov was born in Moscow, and that’s exactly where he was playing when the Buffalo Sabres drafted him with the 69th overall selection in 1997. The Sabres were considered lucky to have selected Afinogenov at that point in the draft, and many heralded him as “the next Pavel Bure,” taking note of his skating, puckhandling and potential to be a big scorer.
After the draft, Afinogenov continued to play out two more seasons with Moscow Dynamo before making the jump to North America.
The 1999-2000 season was his first in the United States. He spent the majority of that season with the Sabres, but also appeared in 15 games with the Rochester Americans.
That, it turns out, would be the only AHL action of his career.
In his rookie season, Afinogenov put up a 34-point campaign in 65 NHL games with Buffalo.
Afinogenov would stay with the Sabres until 2009, playing nine seasons with Buffalo. He had some injury issues during this time that would cause him to miss time or change his style of play.
A 2005 Sports Illustrated article mentions that just hours after he signed a two-year contract in 2002, Afinogenov took a puck to the head during a pick-up game in Moscow. That forced him to miss the first 46 games of the next season, and even upon returning, it took almost two years for the after-effects of the concussion to disappear.
Overall, he put up 334 points in 569 games with the Sabres, but scoring wasn’t the biggest part of his game.
Even though he was never the most consistent player, Afinogenov was always well-known for his speed. The Hockey News even once said that his speed “often made it appear he was powered by rocket fuel, while opposing defencemen were running on fumes.”
His time in Buffalo included playing in the 2008 Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium, an experience that Sabres.com asked Afinogenov about on December 12, 2007. After his time with the Sabres, Maxim Afinogenov spent one year with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers before moving to play overseas.
He spent parts of three seasons with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL from 2010 to 2013, but was plagued with injury during his time there.
He also continued to represent Russia internationally. After his time in Buffalo, Afinogenov played in the 2010 Olympics. He won silver with Russia at the 2010 World Championships later that year, and took 4th place with Russia in the 2011 World Championships.
So — where is he now?
This past season, Afinogenov went on to play with HC Vityaz of the KHL.
He had 26 points (12-14) and 69 penalty minutes in 53 regular season games.
Proving that he is still considered a contender, Afinogenov also participated in the 2014 KHL All-Star Game, which he also played in during the 2010-11 season. That year, he won the fastest skater competition, with a time of 13.96 seconds.
Considering that he’s still only 34, Afinogenov probably still has a few good years left in him if he wishes to continue his hockey career.