Artem Anisimov’s rookie campaign didn’t garner a whole lot of interest from the North American-based Russian press. Not surprisingly, the small delegation of reporters tends to gravitate towards the country’s bigger stars, like Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. Little attention was paid to players like Anisimov or Florida’s Dmitri Kulikov, the two Russian rookies who became full-time NHLers this season.
That changed after Team Russia assistant coach Andrei Nazarov included the youngsters on a list of players he came to see during a whirlwind visit in late March. Nazarov was in North America to scout and recruit potential candidates for both May’s World Championship squad, and for the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
The former NHL enforcer liked what he saw during the two games in which he watched the Ranger rookie play, and last Friday Anisimov was named to Russia’s preliminary roster for the World Championship. The 21-year center will make his debut for the national team during a pair of exhibition games in Italy later this month. If all goes well, he’ll continue on with the team to Germany for the World Championship.
“Anisimov had solid statistics for a fourth line center,” Nazarov explained to Sovietsky Sport when the roster was announced. “During my trip oversees it was possible to watch two of his games. The guy impressed me. I believe he has a good chance to go on to the world championship.”
Nazarov’s visit and subsequent comments suddenly made the Rangers’ Russian a figure of interest for the Russian press, resulting in pair of interviews that will be translated here this week. The first, performed after the Rangers’ 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 7th — two days before Anisimov was formally named to Russia’s preliminary roster — was published in Sovietsky Sport on April 10th and is included below. The second, published in Sport Express after the Rangers crushing shootout defeat in Philadelphia last Sunday, will be posted here later in the week.
- Artem, will you answer a few questions?
- “Have a seat.” Having heard Russian speech, Anisimov smiles and motions towards a place near him on the bench. “I’m losing my mind! An interview every day! I’m already tired of talking,” jokes Artem. “Why hasn’t anyone come in the past year? It’s like you didn’t even know there was such a player as Anisimov.”
- It’s good that they know you now! It means you had a good season. The team is just about to make the playoffs…
- You’re right, right now everyone thinks only about the playoffs. We have two more games to win against Philadelphia, and then we’ll compete for the Stanley Cup.
- If you play the way you did today, anything’s possible.
- The game today was difficult. Fatigue has accumulated. We played two days back-to-back. The rinks are small, speeds are fast…
- It’s already your third season in America. Surely you’ve gotten used to it?
- It’s easier now, of course. My last two seasons have gone well. And I’ve tightened up my language. I’m much more comfortable with English.
- Did you work with a teacher?
- No, on my own. After all, everyone around me speaks English. After three years now I communicate with ease.
- In Russia, especially after the defeat by Canada, everybody compares our training system more often with the foreign [system here].
- It’s difficult for me to speak on this topic, I haven’t worked under the guidance of Russian coaches for a long time now. In fact, when I left Lokomotiv, we were also coached by an American, Paul Gardner. And how can you compare it to here: the rinks are different, the speeds are different, the amount of time to consider your actions is different.
- Is it true that during the off-season all NHL players prepare according to a special manual?
- Yes, Reg Grant — our physical fitness trainer — prepares a special manual for each player at the end of the season. It’s very thick. There’s a schedule for every day from June through September of what to do and how to it so that you arrive at training camp already in shape.
- And are there players who ignore these manuals?
- No. Everyone’s a professional. And everyone is fighting for their place [on the roster]. Everyone wants to play in the NHL, especially for a team like the Rangers. In training camp we have a single practice. And there the coach quickly identifies who is in good shape and who is not. Who will play this season and who will sit on the bench.
- Would such manuals work in Russia?
- At home there’s only one month of vacation. There’s no time for manuals.
- We know that you recently met with coach Andrei Nazarov, who is in charge of recruiting NHL players for the country’s national team. What did you talk to him about?
- Yes, we met. He asked me about playing for the team, about living in New York.
- I quote his words: “I watch Anisimov, for example, and start to gauge where and how he can be used.” Based on his words, is it possible to draw the conclusion that you will play in the world championship?
- No, he didn’t make such an offer. But if they did, I’d accept it with pleasure. It’s an honor to play for the country’s national team. After the defeat in Vancouver there can only be one objective for the team — a victory in the world championship. What happened with the guys at the Olympics, I can’t understand. I watched on the Internet. It was obvious that they played badly. But I can’t put my head around why.
- Getting back to the question which Nazarov asked you: how is it to live in New York?
- I don’t live in New York. There’s a place called White Plains. It’s a half hour from Manhattan by car. Our training center is in White Plains. I live there too. But I go to New York often. The city is very beautiful, especially Central Park — that’s my favorite place. It’s nice to take a walk there, in nature, squirrels running around.
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