About the League
He scores almost just as many points as Vadim Shipachyov and is set on bringing Kharlamov Cup to Yaroslavl
17-year-old Alexander Perevalov is one of the most promising players in Lokomotiv Yaroslavl system. A year ago he made his Parimatch Junior Hockey League debut and now he’s one of Loko leaders. We’re early into the regular season and he already has 20 points in nine games. He’s enjoyed a great start of the year – almost like Vadim Shipachyov did in KHL with 24 points in ten games.
In the summer Perevalov competed at Hlinka/Gretzky Cup – one of the most prestigious U18 international tournaments – winning a gold medal with Team Russia. We sat down with Alexander to talk about the famous Lokomotiv junior hockey academy, adjusting to Junior Hockey League, playing for the national team and his goals for the season.
- How did you end up in hockey?
- I skated for the first time when I was three years old. I was in Mezhdurechensk junior hockey school until I turned ten. After that we moved to Novokuznetsk. Back then Metallurg was still a Kontintental Hockey League member. It was a good step forward because Vympel Mezhdurechensk didn’t have professional teams in top tier leagues. But after playing in Novokuznetsk for just a year I moved on to Barnaul.
- Why did you move?
- My parents along with my younger brother and sister would come to all of my tournaments. At that time they mostly worked in Altay.
There were certain financial difficulties at Metallurg so we would travel to the tournaments at our own expense. Altay didn’t have such problems. They created a really comfortable situation for us. So that’s why we decided to move.
The was another issue – Altay team of my age group competed in YHL Division II, while I played in Division I for Metallurg. My dad decided it would be great to set a goal for myself – make Altay qualify from Division I to Division II. And we were able to pull it off – we moved up to Division I and even went on to beat Metallurg in one game.
- What was the experience like for you playing for a lower tier team?
- Beating stronger opponents makes you grow. You can’t afford not getting in the right mindset. You have to battle for the win when you hit the ice under these conditions. We had a really good season. After that I began getting called up to the team one year my major.
- How did Lokomotiv scout you?
- It happened after Federal Regions Championship. I played for Team Siberia/Far East. I had a few other options but we decided to join Lokomotiv.
- I heard that boys from distant regions of Russia dream of joining Lokomotiv. Some of them even beg to invite them to a try-out. What’s your story like?
- We were approached by a Lokomotiv scout. He travelled to Novokuznetsk where I competed at a tournament. That’s when he offered me to join the team. I went to compete at another tournament after that as a member of Vityaz – it was sort of a try-out for me. After the tournament I had to make a choice – either join Lokomotiv or Vityaz. We went to Yaroslavl for a few days, took a look around the town and then I played a few more games. I like what Lokomotiv had to offer better and I have never regretted making that decision.
- What was so appealing about Yaroslavl’s offer?
- Everything. Everything that has to do with both - hockey and accommodation. It was important because we moved as a family. Obviously, it was difficult to move to another city. We had to leave behind close friends and relatives in Mezhdurechensk and Barnaul. But we still decided to move.
The club helped us out with accommodation. For six months it was just me and my dad who lived in Yaroslavl. It was a very difficult time. My mom stayed with my brother and sister back in Altay. They moved a little later – after we had settled down and made sure we were comfortable. We even have a cottage now. Yaroslavl became our hometown.
- Where do you come from? How would you answer this question?
- Mezhdurechensk. It’s where I was born.
- How difficult was the move for you hockey-wise?
- It was difficult. I used to score more goals in Siberia/Far East Division. Everything is faster over here and there’s a lot of tactics involved. My coach, Sergei Nikolayevich Bykov, really helped me. I would get disappointed when I couldn’t score but he would support me every time. He would tell me, Don’t worry, it’s going to come.
- Tell us about your schedule at Lokomotiv academy.
- It’s built around your curriculum at a regular school. If we have classes in the morning – they schedule our practices for the evening. If we have classes in the afternoon, then it’s vice versa and we practice in the morning.
As for practices themselves, there are regular at the academy – there’s ice and gym. If you want to do extra work, you go to the gym or just stay on the ice to have a shootaround. No one is against it. The length is pretty standard, too. There was just one practice that lasted for over an hour.
We hadn’t worked with weights at all. We started having our first practices only in high school as part of preparation for Junior Hockey League. We have power practices but we worked only with our own weight. On top of that we had jumps, power drills and various in-game situations drills. There was no place for monotony.
- Do you have any drills you don’t like?
- No. It’s quite the contrary with me. I love practicing. I really like to play soccer prior to the games, for example.
- I read about a Canadian coach who works on improving your group’s skating. Have you worked with him already?
- His name is Ted but he rarely joins practices at school. He works with us all the time in Junior Hockey League. We practice with him in the morning. He’s responsible for all the skills – skating, shooting and stickhandling. We are told beforehand who has to have individual on-ice practices with him so that he would have the time to work with everyone. Ted speaks a little bit of Russian. He doesn’t need a translator.
- How is your English? Do you understand him?
- I do. I wouldn’t say that my English is perfect but I get by. When I would go to various tournaments with Team Russia, I had to speak English. I would even surprise myself the way I can speak and understand what I’m told.
- How do you learn English?
- At school. I have always listened to music, too, but I have never looked up the translation of the lyrics. After some time, I just sort of figured out what the songs were about. Counter-Strike has helped me with a few common phrases (laughs). It’s more about everyday English. It’s different from the one we were taught at school.
My mom speaks English very well. I have always enjoyed when she spoke it. She would travel with my dad to industrial expos and they would often talk to foreigners. Sometimes they would take me with them. So it was exciting to see my mom speak to, say, Germans. I would see her and that would make me want to speak a foreign language as well.
- At U16 level Yaroslavl competes in Moscow Open Championship. Tell us about how the tournament is structured. How good is its level?
- Because we would have to travel from Yaroslavl, sometimes we would have to wake up at five in the morning because by six we had to be on the bus taking us to Moscow. We would come, play a game and come back the same day. Sometimes we would return only by one in the morning because of the traffic jams. We would play on both – weekdays and weekends. The only day we never played on was Monday – it was always a regular school day.
It’s a very good level. I had to get used to it but we even finished first at the tournament a few times.
- Do you have any memorable games?
- The games against CSKA Moscow were always memorable. We would usually battle with them for the first place. It was really exciting to beat them. It was so great when I would score points and that would help my team win or finish first overall.
- Were you nervous prior to making you Junior Hockey League debut when you first began getting called up to major junior team?
- All in all, I wasn’t really nervous. I just wanted to prove my worth. I didn’t have a set role. I was just a young player. I would the few minutes I was assigned. Sometime it would be three or four and sometimes it would be nine. I didn’t have to worry about power play or penalty kill.
- Did you feel welcome on your new team?
- We had a good team last season. The boys really made me feel welcome. It just so happened that I wasn’t the only one making my Junior Hockey League debut. I did it with my friends so it was easy to adapt.
- You didn’t play much in the playoffs. Was it difficult to watch your team play?
- I was very nervous. Especially in the finals. It was difficult to see my team lose. I was really in the game – it took me over completely. But I believe we need to put last season behind us and think about the current one.
- Was the series against SKA-1946 St. Petersburg the most special?
- I believe, every game against them is special. I can’t say for certain because I only began following every game last season but that what it feels like.
- This year you’re becoming one of Loko leaders. You play a lot of minutes and score points. What did you improve on this off-season? Perhaps, your coach pointed out a few game components he wanted you to work on?
- To be honest with you, I had a very eventful off-season. I took a pause on May 1st
and rested the whole way through the holidays. I went to the cottage and relaxed in the sauna. After that I went to the camp. I practiced with Lokomotiv and then individually. In early July I joined U18 Team Russia. And then we had to competed at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup.
At the camp I improved mentally, got more confident and did my best to fine-tune my shot. I do extra work outside of camps, too. During the season I work individually. We have a special coach at our club. I always come to his practices.
- Talk a little about your line with Timur Akhunov and Stepan Steshenko. How do you share your responsibilities on ice?
- There’s a great story about our line. It was put together right at a team lunch. We’re friends off the ice. So the coach came up to us and said, ‘Boys, you seem to get along nicely, so I’m thinking of putting you on a line together for the next game’. We said we had nothing against the idea. That’s how we started playing together.
We don’t have a strict rule who’s responsible for what. We play together. I would go as far as to say that we’re connected on a mental level. We do our best to enjoy every moment of the game.
- Can you get angry when times get rough and yell at each other on the bench?
- No, never. You have to relax and forget about whatever it is that didn’t work out. Because we battle to win. And being negative brings no dividends. We can tell each other something like, Forget about it, just let it go. Or something like that. You have to avoid the negativity. It only gets in the way.
- How would you weigh in on the level of competition in Junior Hockey League?
- It’s a very good league. There’s competition here. You mustn’t think that if you scored eight goals in a certain game that you have the next game in a bag. So I wouldn’t say there are any games you could sleep on.
- Hlinka/Gretzky Cup is one of the most important tournaments for the players of your age group. Do you remember what it felt like when you made the team?
- I wasn’t thinking that I pulled off something impossible and that I can stop at that. It was different from playing for U16 Team Russia. For example, the boys and I didn’t go there just to show what we were capable of but to win and prove we still worthy champions.
- What was the most memorable game at the tournament?
- The one against the Swedes. It was a real nail-biter. We constantly had to come back from behind. We couldn’t give up. So we allowed a goal, big whoop. We had to impose our brand of hockey. We pulled through and got the win.
- Were you disappointed to see Team Canada missing the tournament due to coronavirus?
- I really wanted to play against them. But it just so happened that they didn’t come. We came to the tournament looking only to finish on top of it. Even had Team Canada come, we still would have played only to win.
- What game proved to be tougher – the one against the Swedes or against the Slovaks in the final?
- It’s difficult for me to say. It was tough playing against Slovakia because the semifinal game in the evening. We came back to the hotel and couldn’t fall asleep for a long time. Some of us didn’t fall asleep until six in the morning. But we knew that we had to get ready for the final. We had to go out there and win. And we didn’t think that the Slovaks were weaker than the Swedes. If they made it to the final, that means they were worthy of it and that they had a good team.
- You were put on a line with Matvei Michkov during one of the games. How comfortable were you playing with him?
- Matvei and I first played together back in junior hockey school. We were both on Lokomotiv-04. I’m going to be honest with you. We’re not really close off the ice but we have always been good at playing hockey together. In order to win tough games, the coach would always put us together. That’s when we were able to turn games around.
- What’s his superpower?
- He can score goals. Even if you make a pass for a breakaway, not everyone can capitalize on it. Matvei does it better than anyone else.
- Is Ivan Miroshnichenko a different kind of player?
- Yes. He’s bigger. He’s more of a power forward. He just plays another brand of hockey.
- What games did you grow up on? Do you have an idol among Russian stars?
- I have never had any idols. So I just grew up without them. I just enjoyed watching the teams play as a unit when World Championships were on. I like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. But I usually watch just their highlights without worshipping them.
I always think about certain dekes and dangles but I never look for them specifically. When I put together a certain picture in my mind, I do my best to pull it off on the ice
- You would you describe your brand of hockey?
- It’s difficult for me to weigh in on myself. I just don’t know how to do it. Sometimes I tend to pass the puck more often. That means that my teammates are good at scoring. It’s important to me that the score on the board was in my team’s favor.
- It’s clear on TV that you have quick hands and you can really dangle. Do you work extra on this aspect of the game?
- We have built a shooting range at the cottage. So I work there almost all the time. I can take a few shots after practice or before going to bed to work on my hands. I have pucks of different weights and size. You can say that I live for this stuff. I love what I do. It’s not monotonous work. It’s just something I enjoy. It helps me to have a better feeling of the puck in the game.
- Do you have any pre-game rituals? Perhaps, you tape your stick in a special way for the games?
- I used to have a few superstitions when I was a kid. But then I just tapped my blade and handle the regular way and I had a good game. I haven’t changed it since.
- What sticks do you use?
- I always use standard ones. When I was a kid back in Mezhdurechensk I didn’t have the opportunity to buy sticks of the latest models or have any sort of choice. However, my dad would always buy me the top-line skates so I wouldn’t have any trouble with skating. I have signed a deal with Bauer and they send me the equipment. I chose Geo Nexus. It’s of standard characteristics – flex 87 and 92 curve.
- How many sticks do they send you per season?
- I break my sticks quite often. So after the game I send a text to their manager and they just send me new ones. There’s no clause in my contract that I’m limited to a certain number of sticks per season.
- You mentioned that skates were important to you. Do you sharpen them yourself?
- I have a sharpening tool. There’s a master from Chelyabinsk. I go to him to sharpen my skates. I had a huge problem right when we first moved to Yaroslavl but my dad helped me to resolve the situation. Skate-sharpening is vital for me. It’s a very important aspect. If I can’t get my blades – I can’t skate or play the way I normally do. My dad helps me out. He knows he everything should be. All I have to worry about is studying, practices and games. But it’s not easy to cover all bases. Sometimes I bring with my five or six blades just so that I wouldn’t have any problems.
- It’s obvious that hockey is your life so the logical question is – how do you get your mind off it? Do you even need a rest from it or a hobby?
- My way of relaxing is simple – I go to the sauna. I enjoy maral baths. They’re really great. I do my best to practice whenever I can but I feel I need to rest – I just take a break.
- Do you eat healthy?
- I always never have fast-food or pop. I just don’t like it. My mom cooks really good at home so I have nothing to worry about.
- Is there a weight you feel comfortable with playing?
- I’m not going to give you a concrete number but I don’t overeat and I do various exercises after practice. Gymnastics so my muscles stayed relaxed. So at this point of my career I feel comfortable.
- Do you have the time these days to play videogames?
- Not at all. My schedule is pretty tight with games and practices. Sometimes I can play on weekends when I hang out with the boys. But right now I have a lot less time for it.
- Do you any preferences in movies and music?
- Not really. Sometimes I just watch movies I was recommended. The latest movies I watched were the classic Spiderman Trilogy starring Tobey Maguire.
- Then the most important question is – who is the best Spiderman?
- Maguire. And the best movie with his is the first one – the one where everything begins.
- How does your family like your success?
- Until the whole coronavirus thing happened, everything was simple. My whole family would travel to my tournaments – all around Russia and Moscow. Now everything is more difficult. They come only to my home games. I get tickets for everyone.
- Have you ever got carried away with star sickness?
- There was a time when I had to listen to a lot of praise in my regard. My coach was tough at putting me back in my place. He told me, ‘There was a time I couldn’t put out the practice cones quick enough for you, because you were so eager to do any drill and now you’re skating out here all-smiles, knock it off.’ It was exactly star sickness. I just went easy on myself. So I’m grateful to him for spotting that and talking to me about it.
- What are your goals for the season?
- I took a note of what I can win with my teams. I can win gold medals at U18 World Championship and I can win Kharlamov Cup with Loko. I would like to get back even with Dynamo Moscow and bring the trophy back to Yaroslavl.