Cherepanov Answers Some Tough Questions
Saturday August 23rd 2008, 12:13 pm


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 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.

Thanks to Vlad for help with a few tricky bits in the interview.
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4 Comments so far
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    Thanks for the great info as always laurie!
    I get the impression everytime Cherepanov is interview that he has already made up his mind to come to this NHL after this season, but like you say, is doing the proper thing by deflecting questions (maybe Jagr stayed after practice to coach him on how badly HE messed up by not deflecting questions about going to another league… ahem). This interview to me does truly show that Cherepanov is maturing rapidly both on and off the ice. I can’t wait to see what kind of a season he has.

    Comment by Amos 08.24.08 @ 12:44 pm

    I guess I am going to take the unpopular view among Ranger fans and say it is going to be a few more years before the Rangers finally see Cherepanov come over.
    From a money standpoint it would be a no brainer to remain in Russia given the entry level salary cap for a first contract.
    From a playing standpoint, Cherepanov still has quite way to go in progressing as a player before he is NHL ready. The moment Cherepanov shows up the pressure upon him will be way too much.
    People will be expecting Cherepanov to score 50 goals in 50 games based upon the amount of hype surrounds him when at the NHL level he just might become no more than a 30 goal scorer.

    As for Cherepanov interviews we have to remember that they are translations and what we really need to have happen is to get a firsthand account to get a feel as to what Cherepanov is saying.

    I get the sense when we see these Russian interviews that they try to portray Cherepanov in a negative light. If you look at those questions they are designed to cut the kid down at the knees and make us think he is a selfish self-centered young man.

    My own sources say the kid is not like that and in most of the things he was supposed to have said or done that he had no idea (IE coming over to the Rangers camp this fall) that his own GM had made that statement

    Comment by Jess 08.25.08 @ 2:46 am

    Amos, I agree… the most striking thing to me in this interview was how much he seems to have matured — even since the end of last season. I’ve followed both Anisimov and Cherepanov pretty closely, and I was always taken by the gap in the maturity level between the two, despite the fact that less than a year separates them in age. Cherepanov’s always been more of a happy-go-lucky kid, who I wasn’t sure took his career seriously. I’ve gotten the impression lately that that’s changed. I think, like he said, last season dealt him some tough life lessons, and it looks like, right now anyway, he’s taken them to heart.

    Jess, your view may be unpopular, but you’re certainly not the only who holds it. In fact, there seems to be a large contingent who believe he’ll never come. I’m actually far more optimistic now than I was even a few months ago. And I think whether or not he comes next season has a lot less to do with money than it does with how he plays this season. He set a goal of making the senior national team before leaving for the NHL, and if he does that and has the kind of season he expected of himself last year, I think he’ll have the confidence to come over and take a shot at the NHL. I think it all comes down to whether he thinks he can stick in the NHL. The Russian press (and his own organization, I’m sure) does a good job of trying to make the AHL sound like hell on earth, and I think that, as much as the money, is influencing his decision.

    And I’m not particularly worried about the pressure he’ll be under once he gets here — you don’t break a record by Pavel Bure or outscore Ovechkin and Malkin in your first pro season and not bring a whole lot of scrutiny upon yourself. That pressure is exactly what you’re sensing when you say you get the feeling that interviewers are trying to cut the kid down. One thing the Rangers have done pretty well lately is shield their prospects from undue pressure (except among the most diehard of fans, which are a small number in the grand scheme of things). I think they’ll do a lot to temper expectations once the decision is made for him to come over.

    Comment by laurie 08.25.08 @ 10:20 am

    Laurie, I noticed more mature answers in his other recent interviews as well.

    I’m pretty sure that he’s going to come and make it straight to the NHL next season – after this year three years in Russian elite league should be plenty. He might try to get assurances in this regard from Rangers coaching staff and he should be able to get it too (though there might be some complications here).
    His expectation in the NHL will be depending on how this year goes for him – he might have a break out year and then expectations will be through the roof. And if not – then there might be less pressure on him to produce in NHL right away. Catch 22.

    Comment by Kovazub94 08.25.08 @ 6:56 pm

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