Twenty year old Chelyabinsk, Russia native Mikhail Pashnin made history on June 1, 2009 when he became the first overall selection in the inaugural KHL draft. Nearly a month later, the 5′11, 187-pound defenseman became the New York Rangers final pick in the NHL draft, selected with the 200th pick overall.
The primary reason the promising defenseman fell so far in the NHL draft was a concern over the lack of transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL, and fears he wouldn’t leave Russia to play in North America. But as Pashnin told Russian web site Sports Day by Day on Saturday, the NHL is in his thoughts — just not in the near term. The young blueliner wants to build up his confidence — and put some weight on his frame — before making plans for the NHL.
Like most young players — and defenseman in particular — Pashnin has struggled to earn ice time so far in his rookie season in the KHL, averaging just 8:56 through his first three games before sitting out CSKA Moscow’s fourth match of the season on Thursday. It’s expected that Pashnin will make his home debut for CSKA, which started its season with four straight games on the road, on Tuesday.
CSKA defenseman Mikhail Pashnin: “Moscow never sleeps”
Saturday, September 19th, No. 1225
At 20 years old Mikhail Pashnin became the primary rival of Sergei Zubov. The veteran and yesterday’s junior have surpassed all other defenseman in the league in level of individual attention by the press this offseason. The skates and sticks of the student of the Chelyabinsk [hockey] school became part of the history of domestic hockey this summer as the first pick of the first draft in KHL history. Fate and coincidence have prepared Pashnin for his journey from Chelyabinsk to Moscow.
Today Mikhail rents an apartment near CSKA’s arena on Leningrad Prospect in Moscow, gets used to life in the capital, wonders at the city that never sleeps, and dreams of playing for the Russian national team.
- Hockey players generally become economists at the conclusion of their careers. They have a lot of money and they need something to do. You have decided to anticipate old age…
- It’s thanks to my sister that I became so enterprising (laughs). I entered the state engineering university in Chelyabinsk, in the managerial economics department. My sister graduated from the same institute and course [of study]. I decided to follow her example.
- So the question of what life to choose remained until recently…
- My main pursuit is hockey. It has been, is, and will be. But higher education is never a bad thing. It’s unrealistic for me to chase a puck until my eyebrows are gray. Of course, it’s too early for me to think about it now. I have my whole career ahead of me. But suddenly at forty I’m going to start working with a lot of money? I’ll start working with it and not know what to do with it (laughs). And it’s a fitting education! I’ll always know how to handle money.
- Games, practices, travel, studies… You’re just like Caesar…
- I’m only a correspondence student. But I attend all the necessary lectures without fail. There’s no pampering, whether you’re a hockey player or a handball player.
- You went down in KHL history as the first pick of the first draft. Do your teammates still tease you with taunts?
- Being part of history is great (laughs). It’s very flattering that selecting me first became a priority for CSKA’s management. The guys mess around sometimes. During practices, for example, they’ll say “Hey, first pick in the draft! Pass the puck!” I don’t take offense. It’s nice, even.
- The Rangers have valued you more modestly in the NHL draft — at number 200…
- The main thing is that they picked me. It’s a strong, good team, with traditions.
- So you have thoughts about the NHL?
- Of course. But they’re somewhere deep inside. I need to play with men, to put on some meat. When I feel that I can stand on my skates with confidence, then I will think [about the NHL] more specifically. Right now all thoughts are tied to the KHL and CSKA. I’d like to justify the advance [payments] they gave [me]. To win high [standings] places with the team.
- Have representatives of the Rangers already approached you?
- They’ve called, asked different questions. One of them [Rangers Russian scout Vladimir Lutchenko] is often in Moscow at CSKA games. He explains certain moments in the game, gives me specific advice.
- But they did not invite you to training camp…
- We told them right away that I would remain here.
- Does the Vysshaya League differ greatly from the ÐšÐ¥Ð›?
- I wouldn’t say that it’s [a difference of] heaven and earth. Of course the speeds in the KHL are higher. Passes are more precise, shots harder. In the KHL there are many great masters [of the game] — Jagr, Fedorov, Radulov… Everyone has his own role. But in the Vysshaya League everyone runs around, trying. The attack, struggle, and desire are present both here and there.
- Have you already gotten accustomed to Moscow? You don’t get lost on its endless streets?
- Everything’s great. The group in CSKA is good. If I have any questions, the guys help. If you approach any of them, they’ll all tell you or show you [where to go]. If necessary, they’ll bring you. I get to the arena on my own. In spite of the fact that it’s very difficult — crossing the road. I actually live across from the arena (laughs).
- You rent an apartment at your own expense?
- Yes. Incidentally, in Chelyabinsk you could probably rent three apartments at once for the same money. Moscow prices definitely differ greatly from provincial [ones]. On the other hand, the standard of living corresponds. I say that to you as an economist (smiles).
- What first caught your eye in your first extended stay in the capital city?
- It seems to me that nobody sleeps in this city. At all. Neither at night, nor during the day. Everyone’s constantly running somewhere. They say that there are traffic jams at four in the morning. I try to travel by Metro. Not by taxi, generally — you only waste time and nerves. And the Metro is a good bargain, fast and reliable.
- The glamor of the club life of the “guilded youth” of Moscow hasn’t sucked you in?
- Yeah, well… I didn’t come to party, but to play.
- During last season Vyacheslav Bykov involved you in a national team camp. What feelings remain [with you]?
- The most fantastic [feelings]! The truly great masters come out for the national team. I want very much to become one of them. Even in an friendly match — to go out on the same ice as those guys, to pass it around with Radulov, Saprykin, Morozov, Zaripov is my dream!
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