Roman Kantserov has amassed 23 points already, and his Stalnye Lisy are running on the Eastern Conference's first place.
17-years-old Roman Kantserov is gaining points at a steady pace and recently had a six-game scoring streak. So far, he has amassed 23 (12+11) points in 19 regular-season games and compiled one of the best differentials in the league (+17).
This year, Kantserov is turning into one of the league's best players - he was awarded Forward of the month honors in the Eastern Conference in September and scored four points in the U18 national team exhibition games against the Czech Republic. Roman talked about his career path and his play in the JHL and with the national team.
"I was four when I first played hockey," Kantserov recalls. "My father wanted me to avoid just sitting at home and be more active. I tried karate, tennis, and swimming, but I only had a couple of practices there. Then I tried gymnastics, but that attempt was short-lived as well. I was hooked on hockey, and I started playing at an early age. And no one in my family had anything to do with this sport; I was the first."
As one can expect, Kantserov loved his hockey practices since the beginning, and, differently from other sports, he was there to stay. "I remember when I was seven or eight years old, my team and I went to a tournament, and we lost. I had mixed feelings, but even then, I really enjoyed watching the other kids play. Then, the games began to bring more positive emotions. Today, hockey is a pleasure for me."
Kantserov was born and raised in Magnitogorsk, a hockey town known for gifting the world talents like Evgeny Malkin, Nikolai Kulemin, Ilya Samsonov, or Yegor Yakovlev. "I always played here in Magnitogorsk," he says. "I played here in kids' hockey, then in the JHL. I have never even thought about playing in another city. When I was a kid, I often visited Metallurg games. I enjoyed watching Igor Mirnov playing with the #10 jersey, and I can say that I followed his example and became a forward myself."
However, the young man doesn't forget about his education. "- I studied in an English-language school for about nine years. There were times when language classes and hockey practice were at the same time, and my dad always emphasized studying. He even agreed with the coach a couple of times, and I went to my English lessons instead of hockey. But I was not too fond of it, of course" - he smiles.
Kantserov had a good time in kids' hockey, and is also successful thanks to his coach. "Stanislav Shumik our head coach at the Steel Foxes. He was also for seven years my coach at the kids' hockey level. So he and I went a long way together. He always supported and motivated us for the games. And successfully - we won the Ural and Siberian championships five years in a row."
These years left in Kantserov some good memories. "Three years ago, we won the Region championship and went on to the Russian championship. We played against CSKA, Ak Bars, Lokomotiv, and SKA. We won the bronze medal; we all were very so excited to medal at that level. In general, childhood was a fun time. I remember as we flew to Sochi for the tournament, and almost the whole team couldn't find their uniform trunks. They were brought only the next day. It's good that we arrived in advance, and it didn't affect our preparations in any way."
After kids' hockey, players move on to the JHL, and it isn't always easy. "I could feel the age difference right away," he recalled. "The coach invited first our unit to train with the JHL team, to show ourselves off. We felt like chicks if compared to the 20-year-olds. Of course, they had different speeds and mentalities. But over time, you get used to everything and get involved."
Kantserov remembers very well his first steps in the JHL. "We went in with our bags and looked around. Music was playing in the locker room, and everyone was walking around relaxed and cheerful. I knew guys there from the school, and they showed us around and talked to us a little bit. But I still went to the warm-up with a few jitters. I was in that state for about a week, worried that something might go wrong. But then I got used to it. All the guys treated us positively and helped us."
Not surprisingly, Kantserov scored a goal in his first official game for the Steel Foxes. "We were facing Belye Medvedi at the time," he explains. "When we were warming up for the game, I was energized; I felt excited. The coaches and the older guys cheered me up right away. Of course, I was nervous, but then I got used to it and felt confident. I still remember my first goal. We were leading 4-1. We went two-on-one with Ilya Kvochko, he gave me a great pass, and I buried it. I am very grateful to him. Score at this level at 15 is a big step forward."
With 21 (10+11) points, it was a good debut season for Kantserov. "I started well; then I got a little stagnant. I was called up to the national team, so I missed a month in the JHL. But the coaches trusted me, gave me more playing time. I tried to make the best of my chances, I was slowly getting good at it, and I also started playing power plays and penalty kills. I liked my first season, even though I didn't score many points because I tried to play for the team and not chase my personal stats. Now I feel more confident. I earned some good experience, and it shows."
This year, Kantserov has already amassed more points than last season in just a fraction of games. "That's because of my coaches' trust," he explains. "I try to live up to it. Last season I had a total of 23 points, while this season I already have 23 again. You need to keep the bar high - to improve every year and at the same time not forget that you do not win games alone, but with your team. I don't get upset if I don't get to the scoresheet; our team's victory is much more important."
Moreover, he has good linemates at the Steel Foxes. "Ilya Kvochko and I have been playing with him for ten years; we were together all the time when we were in kids' hockey. That year, Valentin Zhugin played on a line with us. Our coach considered us the leaders of our team, and we always played in the most crucial moments. Now Valentin went to Canada, and Innokenty Rybin blended in well with Ilya."
Kantserov has already played with the U18 national team. "At first, I felt a little bit out of place. There were guys there who we crossed paths with at the kids' hockey level, but there were also a lot of newcomers. But we are all the same age; three days later, I talked to them and realized that they were just the same ordinary guys as me, the same good players who made it to the national team. So everything was good, and we didn't lose a single game. Except that in the first match, we were losing, but we recovered in time. Of course, I was nervous at first, but by the second game, I felt more confident."
Just as in the JHL, Kantserov scored at his debut also for the national team. "I was delighted. I had similar emotions when I scored my first goal in the JHL. It's a great honor to play for your country's national team, and when you score, it's an unspeakable emotion. When you see the puck in the net, you are happy and relieved that you could do it."
Now, as a national team's player, Kantserov has definite goals towards his season. "It is important for me to improve and get better every day. I would also like to be called up to the senior team, at least to practice and feel a level higher."