About the League
Loko Yaroslavl head-coach Alexander Ardashev is well-known in Russian hockey. The 2-time Russian champions with Lokomotiv, he has worked for Yaroslavl for many years as both sports director and Junior Hockey League team head-coach. In the upcoming season Loko will likely be one of the main cup contenders. We spoke with Ardashev prior to the season about how Yaroslavl spent the summer and who amongst his players is worthy of keeping an eye on.
“First we need to get into the season, and then we’ll figure out everyone’s worth”
- Loko won a pre-season tournament Tula Region Governor Cup, beating JHC Spartak Moscow in a high-scoring final game 4-3, thus wrapping up the pre-season. What is your take on the summer part of the season?
- I believe, we had a good pre-season. The only downside is that not every player joined the team on the first day of the camp. Some of our players were called up to Team Russia of their respective age group. Perhaps, we could have used a little more time to adjust our tactics but we were able to fix that at the tournament. I believe, even if we’re not 100% ready, we’re definitely 99% ready.
- In early August Loko lost two games to St. Petersburg teams – JHC Dynamo and SKA-1946. You had beaten them in the playoffs, though. Why did you lose then?
- Pre-season tournaments are just stages of preparation for the new season. Coaches test out young players who aspire to get a regular roster spot and become new leaders. In St. Petersburg we gave a chance to those players, who had won the NJHL championship last year.
- After that you won nine games out of ten. Would you say you were able to adjust the team’s play and inspire your guys?
- Young guys from junior hockey school joined our team. They’re talented and ambitious. They brought energy to our team. There are certain nuances, which we’re going to try to fix before the season starts. Our main objective is to get the players to realize and understand that Junior Hockey League offers a different level of play. We need to teach them to professionally and responsibly prepare for every game and practice. I think, we got a smart group of guys here so they’re going to realize that quickly.
- The game against Irbis Kazan a flashback of the playoffs as you pulled off a great win in a hard-fought game. What did you do to successfully turn the game around?
- We prepared for the game against Irbis poorly, especially mentally-wise. On the first day of the tournament our team won 5-0. In the game against Irbis, after we allowed two goals, we conscious decision to shuffle our lines. We asked the boys to play exactly the way we discussed prior to the game. It seemed to work. We managed to tie the game up and win.
- How pumped up are you going to be for the season-opener against JHC Dynamo Moscow, to whom you lost this spring in Kharlamov Cup Finals?
- First game of the season is always exciting, no matter who you face. Obviously, the boys are going to come out pumped up to the max. Besides, the story of the game is going to come into play as well. After all, we’re facing the reigning champions. We are in debt to them and we want to pay it back.
- Both teams will put less experienced teams on the ice compared to last spring. Who do you think lost more because of that?
- Let’s get into the season first and take a look. We haven’t seen Dynamo and they haven’t seen us. I believe, we have to start first and then we can understand everyone’s worth this year.
- Tell us about the trade of Maxim Denezhkin to Ladiya Togliatti for Stepan Steshenko. Who was the initiator of the deal?
- The deal was initiated by both sides. Maxim is a very good player but he is yet to achieve the physical conditions he must have to play in KHL. We understand well that he didn’t have a lot of chances to make Lokomotiv roster this year. We came to a mutual conclusion that we need to give the guy an opportunity to develop, even though it might be outside of our system.
Stepan Steshenko is a 2002 year born and he already has VHL experience under his belt. We have been interested in Styopa for a while. He’s a tall and skilled player who has a good understanding of the game. He can be either one of the young ‘limit’ players in KHL or play in Junior Hockey League. It’s a trade of mutual benefit.
- 16-year-old Daniil But, Anton But’s son, is one of the most promising young players on your team. Is he ready to become of Junior Hockey League leaders?
- Actually, we have three 2005 year born players on our roster [aside from But it’s Gennady Chalyi and Dmitry Simashev]. They’re all gifted boys. As for Danila, we expect an exciting and productive play from him this year. He’s a very talented hockey player. Despite being a tall guy, he’s well-coordinated. He drives hard to the net, has a great shot and hockey sense. This guy has a bright future ahead of him.
- Do you see But-Kiryanov-Steshenko as your top-line?
- Right now we expected them to be our first line. But obviously there are going to be different situation and we’re going to have to have roster rotation.
- In the summer everyone seemed to be surprised by the news about Daniil But moving overseas. We you worried when the news was reported. Could you talk a little bit about that?
- As the matter of fact, I was one of the last to learn about it. I don’t even know where the news was published. I was just sent a picture of the news posted somewhere online. Our father works within our club system. His 16-year-old son plays on the top line of our Junior Hockey League team. I’m certain that Daniil will soon make Yaroslavl fans happy by making his KHL debut. Most likely, it was fake news.
- Nikita Kiryanov was a little under the radar last season. What do you expect from him this year?
- I definitely expect him to make a breakthrough. Towards the end of last season he improved physically. He’s a talented guy with great ambitions. I’m certain he’s going to grow up to be a big player. Physical conditions problem can be fixed. He was one of best players in the playoffs. Andrei Vladimirovich Skabelka noticed Nikita and invited him to KHL team pre-season camp. He played a few games at KHL level this summer.