Alexander Avtsin: “Playing in the CHL makes no sense to me” (Photo © khl.ru)
Alexander Avtsin is without a doubt one of the highest touted prospects from Russia. Unfortunately he is not playing now because of a hand injury, and will come back most likely only in one month.
In this interview with Olga Alexandrova, appeared on the official Dynamo Moscow’s site, Avtsin explained why he decided to remain in Russia for this season, discussed his own current season’s performances and he also told how he met his girlfriend Milana.
RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation.
Alexander, are there other athletes in your family?
Avtsin: “Yes, my mother is a runner. She used to be a distance runner as she competed in 800 and 1500 meters. My mom really wanted that I became a sportsman and she was happy to bring me every day to the practices.”
And how did you transfer from Vympel to CSKA?
Avtsin: “I knew a coach who worked in CSKA with 1989-born guys. I am 1991. When he started training the guys of my birth year I’ve asked him if it was possible to move into his team. He said that I would have to undergo a try-out. This is how I went into CSKA’s first practice and never came back to Vympel.”
And you liked it there since the start?
Avtsin: “Yeah, since the start!” (smiles)
And how did you turn out in Dynamo?
Avtsin: “I played four seasons with CSKA. The first years were pretty good, but the last one not quite. I was already playing for the Moscow selects and there I befriended many guys from Dynamo. They started asking me to join the team. Then Dynamo’s head coach Ramil Valiulin approached me and said ‘Come on Sasha, join us. I’ll put you in the first line.’ The season was over and I, without hesitation, moved to Dynamo.”
Do you still have friends in CSKA?
Avtsin: “Almost all the guys from my birth year, just like me, parted with the Red Army. Now, of course, I’ve good ties with them, but nowadays most of my friends are my Dynamo team mates.”
The next step was playing for Dynamo-2.
Avtsin: “Yes. I managed to score two goals in my first game with Dynamo’s farm team. I was so happy. We arrived to the farm club close to the season’s end, we played a total of five matches. It was me, Nikita Dvurechensky, Pavel Zotov and Oleg Li. The following year wasn’t so good for us, except for Pavel Zotov, who played very well. But the season after this one was simply great.”
The one in which you scored more than 100 points?
Avtsin: “Yeah, that one. But many other players had an excellent season, not only me. Especially Zotov, Dvurechensky and [Roman] Vasiliev. We all play together now.”
After such a great season you were drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and you decided to report to their training camp, in which you played very well. Why did you decide to remain in Russia, despite they offered you to stay in Canada?
Avtsin: “We thought a lot if it would have been better to remain in Canada or not. We weigh the pros and cons with my mama and my agent. But then we decided that there was no need to hurry. Giving that I have the chance to play in the KHL, playing in the North American junior leagues makes no sense to me. And now I don’t regret a single bit of that decision.”
Do you want to come back there?
Avtsin: “I don’t want to guess the future, but playing in the NHL is my dream since the childhood.”
And for which team did you want to play?
Avtsin: “When I was a little boy here they would talk only about the ‘Russian five’ in Detroit. I made no difference, everyone was cheering for Detroit. I had myself a cap and a jersey of that team. Now I can’t really pick one of the teams in the league.”
Russian press loves you! You are only 18, but you had more interviews than a lot of other KHL players. Doesn’t this great attention tire you?
Avtsin: “I never said even only once that I like the press’ attention. But I’m always willing to talk. Well, sometimes I don’t really want, for example if I am in bad mood because of a bad game. You get out of the locker rooms and they put a microphone in your face and daze you with cameras’ flash. I don’t know how can one appreciate all this… But, of course, I understand that this is part of my job and I try to act in a professional way.”
Did the ‘press training sessions’ in Montreal help you on this matter?
Avtsin: “Yes, in Canada there was a good preparation. They showed us some video clips about the correct way to talk and to act. It was very interesting. But on the other hand in our team there is a player, Alexei Zhitnik, which doesn’t need any course to teach him how to give an interview. He’s a true professional.”
Zhitnik isn’t a true professional only while giving interviews. Nowadays in Dynamo there are many other great players. Do you try to ‘steal’ something from your team mates?
Avtsin: “I pay a lot of attention my partners’ play. I try watching their dekes, their shots and their performances. You can learn a lot from them even during the practices.”
Do you ask your more expert team mates for advices in the locker room?
Avtsin: “Of course, they always help me, no one never denies anything. Zhitnik himself, during the games’ breaks, often suggests us what we should do and how to do it.”
Maybe in Dynamo’s junior team they ask you for suggestions?
Avtsin: “No, in our junior team it’s not like that. We are peers, everyone talks with different people. If you want to, you can advise something yourself, hardly you will have something to ask though.”
In which team do you feel more confident, in the KHL one or in the MHL one?
Avtsin: “For now in the MHL one. I am a leader there, in the important moments of the game they are going to ice me. In the KHL I play in the fourth line, whose main aim is to give some rest to the top-6.”
And what about the game-winning goal you scored against SKA?
Avtsin: “I was lucky. Vadim Epanchintsev gave me a great pass, I only had to tap the puck in.”
But there was also the game against Neftekhimik, in which you scored your first KHL goal and got the man of the match honors.
Avtsin: “I’ll never forget the emotions after the first KHL goal. That was fantastic! It was like being in the fog…everyone was running toward me, but I was running away. Only later I understood that it should have been better to celebrate with my team mates. “
How much important was that goal for you?
Avtsin: “Without any doubt for any young player it’s really important. When you score you are really happy but, more importantly, they are going to trust you more, to give you more ice time. With such conditions any player starts playing with more confidence.”
Are you superstitious?
Avtsin: “Generally speaking, I don’t believe too much in omens. But almost all hockey players pay attention to such things, like the side on which they put the jersey. I am no exception. I always put on my equipment starting from the left side. The skate, the guard, the glove. Always the left side first.”
Can you tell us about some funny sportsman’s superstition?
Avtsin: “Frankly speaking, there are many of them. Many find funny my own superstition: I want anyone to stay off my stick prior the game. I prepare it, I set it up and then no one else has to get any close to it.”
Your girlfriend has a beautiful name, Milana. Can you tell us about the first time you met her?
Avtsin: “We met not in a ordinary way. I was flying to the draft with my agent. In the Boeing my seat was the second in a row of four armchairs, and in the same row was sitting an attractive girl. When I was going to get on my armchair, she approached me and said, in English: ‘Is this your seat?’ I replied ‘Yes’ (in English – ASR) and got to my seat. My agent was behind me. When the plane started to gain altitude, I turned toward her and asked something in Russian, and she instantly reacted: ‘And so you are Russian’. So we begun a conversation and with her that long flight didn’t look that long. So I found out that Milana was born in Riga and her parents live in Canada. She was flying to them. The next time we met we were already in Montreal. During the draft (training camp perhaps? – ASR) she attended all my games and we walked through the city in all the free evenings. Milana showed me all the places of interest of the city.”
How do you communicate now? She lives in Latvia, you in Moscow…
Avtsin: “Milana tries to visit me as often as possible. But of course, most of times we correspond through the internet or Skype. It’s much more interesting that way!” (smiles)