The Russian junior squad won their first game of the 2008-2009 season, 8-2, against a young Dynamo Moscow farm team yesterday. New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov scored two goals in the effort, playing on a line with Anton Lazarev (1g, 1a) and Yegor Dubrovsky (1a). Scouts from the Rangers, Detroit, Columbus and Montreal observed the game.
When discussing the roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships after the game, head coach and former Ranger Sergei Nemchinov once again reiterated his desire to include a group of recently-drafted Russians who were not present at the current evaluation camp because they’re preparing to start their seasons in North America — a group that includes Rangers draft pick Evgeni Grachev. “Naturally we have already identified candidates for the trip to the World Championships. But there are guys who have already left to play in the junior leagues of North America, and we hope for them too, their appearance is quite possible. Even more so because the World Championships will be held in Canada. In this instance I’m talking about Voinov, Filatov, Krugrashev, Kulikov, Grachev and Plotnikov.”
Following the game, Mikhail Kraev of the Russian web site SportStand.ru took Cherepanov aside for an interview in which he asked the young star a number of challenging questions about his performance last season, rumors that have dogged the young Russian since last summer’s Canada-Russia Super Series, and the exodus of young players from Russia to the NHL. Cherepanov answered each question openly and honestly, though one can’t help feeling that, specifically as it regards his leaving for the NHL, the young star is doing his best to say what his target audience wants to hear, dodging the question in order to avoid disappointing the locals.
Alexei Cherepanov: No One Understands What I Went Through
Date: 08-22-2008 Time: 14:53:00
Russian Junior team and Avangard Omsk forward Alexei Cherepanov spoke frankly about why things didn’t turn out for him last season, how Jaromir Jagr has started to coach him and what problems stand before him for the upcoming season.
- This year Russian league clubs came off holiday on July 15th. But the majority of hockey players didn’t wait for the official start of the pre-season to prepare themselves. You too?
- Yes, I began to work much earlier than the designated time. I had a trainer with whom I worked. I went to the gym and took to the ice when possible. And when the team got back from holiday, I was ready for the [work] load.
- Those who saw you at the pre-season tournaments say that you have started to move much more confidently than last season. Was there no desire to refuse the appearance with the junior team in order to definitively stake out your place on the [Omsk] club?
- The junior team is different. Of course it would be desirable to play with Avangard, but the national team is probably more important.
- Is it possible to say that you are in excellent shape for the Tournament of Four Nations that will take place in the Czech Republic?
- Yes, probably. Now everything is in order.
- And in the last season everything was not all right. What happened with you?
- Yes, straight off things didn’t go well. It all started in the Super Series with the Canadians. I suffered a serious injury, a concussion. I was treated for a long time, rehabbed for a long time. And then nothing went the way I wanted. Only by the end of the season, really, did I begin to regain my previous form.
- The concussion was really serious?
- Of course. I was in the hospital for two weeks.
- That, in principal, explains a lot. But there was a perception that you also developed psychological problems.
- Those who believe that — it’s their right.
- They said that Cherepanov began to earn decent money, and was more worried about how to spend it than about hockey.
- And who knows how much money I receive?
- Few know precisely, probably. But such conversations took place.
- It’s all conjecture.
- Well then, let’s discuss what the medical problems were?
- Only I know what actually happened. Everyone else only guesses, surmises. But nobody understands what I went through. Furthermore, for a young athlete the second season is always harder than the first. But in total I would not begin to put down my season as a liability. I scored 17 goals… In general, that’s not a bad result.
- Most likely, it got on your nerves that something supernatural is constantly expected of you?
- That also played a role. It especially applied to the junior team. There everyone expected too much from me. But on the other hand, last year became a good life lesson for me. I know now, how to conduct myself in similar situations.
- And how is that?
- Not to pay attention to anyone. To play my own hockey. That’s all.
- Last year Avangard wasn’t successful. Did you also suffer because of these problems?
- Of course. But on the whole last season turned out to be instructive enough.
- So was it a “negative” or a “positive”?
- I couldn’t begin to say that everything was bad. For me it was more positive. Even from all these negative moments came good. Now I’ve become wiser. I know how to act, to not get into such situations. And how to get through problems. I became more experienced.
- They say, that in the past year you were struck by “star” sickness. Was it so?
- Hm… it seems to me, that those who say that for some reason don’t like me. Or they are simply envious. Let them talk. How can I say whether I have this illness or not? Ask the guys [on the team].
- We’ll move on to hockey. They already wait for you in America, but nevertheless, when do you intend to try your strengths in the NHL?
- I will play out this season for Avangard, and we’ll see later. However, this is the last year of my contract.
- The KHL did everything so that young players would not leave. But people all the same have set off for North America. Why do you think that is?
- Perhaps our league develops also, but not as quickly a I would like. And then, the NHL is still stronger. It’s a very old league, to play in it is prestigious. But I believe that in a few years nobody will leave for there.
- Perhaps, it won’t be worth it for you to go overseas?
- For now, I’m not going to predict what will happen in the future.
- In your interviews you talk about Jaromir Jagr, who has returned to Omsk, solely in enthusiastic tones. Is he really so great?
- Of course. Everyone knows all about Jagr, it doesn’t make sense for me to introduce this Czech player. But next to him you make progress. Especially because now Jaromir has begun to help me very greatly.
- And how did that come about? Did you go to him? Or him to you?
- One day after a practice I went on to rehab activities and Jaromir went to the weight room. We met in the dining room. He said [joking]: “Why is it, Alexei, that I go to the weight room, and you’re in the dining room?” And since then he works with me individually. He became my fourth coach.
- Now instead of the dining room, you also go to the [weight] room?
- Yes, but I always liked weight-lifting.
Meanwhile, back in Omsk, the Vladimir Blinov Memorial tournament got under way yesterday, with Avangard losing their opening game to Sibir Novosibirsk by the score of 6-1 without both Cherepanov and Jaromir Jagr, who had just returned from playing two charity games with Team Jagr in the Czech Republic. They faired better today, with Jagr in the line up, defeating Amur Khabarovsk by the score of 5-2. Jagr picked up an assist, while Maxim Yakutsenya picked up a goal and assist playing in place of Cherepanov on a line with Anton Kuryanov and Alexander Popov.
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