Fyodor Svechkov raced into junior hockey and just in a year he worked his way up from Ladya to the SKA system and made his debut for the main team. At the end of December, the young center will play in his first World Junior Championship, which will be held in Canada. In an interview with the JHL press service, Svechkov talked about his childhood, playing for SKA and the Russian national team, and shared his expectations for the upcoming WJC.
– How did your hockey journey begin?
– My parents brought me to a rink and I immediately liked it. Being a child, I tried playing at the wing, and at first, I even wanted to become a goalie. But my dad told me I did not need it – pucks flying towards your head is not much fun (smiles). Actually, I really liked Pavel Datsyuk.
– Did you have to choose among different sports as a child? Tolyatti is also known for the Konoplyov Academy.
– I did not face such a choice. My father dislikes soccer, it is far from being breathtaking for him. We always liked hockey, so soccer was not even considered.
– When did you realize that you would become a professional hockey player?
– I guess, it was after my first JHL season, when I was offered a contract. At such moments, you realize that you are not just playing hockey, but you can also earn your living by doing it.
“I started thinking about the WJC after playing at the U18 WC”
– It’s not the first year for you to play among older guys. Is it hard or useful?
– I believe that if your body is ready for senior hockey, you need to start playing it as soon as possible. After all, you won’t play in the JHL for your entire life – you will have to get adjusted to playing against men. So, I think it's useful.
– Just after a year in the JHL, you began to play in the SHL. Did you feel the difference?
– It is pretty big. Making difference in SHL games during your first year is harder compared to the JHL. Playing against guys of your age is much easier than facing men who have already matured, at least physically. But I think I was able to get adjusted and everything worked out quite well.
– You joined SKA before the season. Weren’t you afraid of strong competition? The club has a lot of promising young players.
– You always want to play as much as possible and at the highest possible level. But you are given what you are given. Nothing else to be said.
– Why did you choose SKA?
– Frankly speaking, I wasn’t choosing anything. SKA paid monetary compensation and I was transferred from Lada system.
– North American scouts characterize you as a center who provides good value at both ends. What are your strengths and weaknesses as you see them?
– I think, it’s a fair characteristic. They are experts, they watch hockey and know what they are talking about (smiles). I can only add that I am able to play not only at center, but also at wing. I won’t say anything about my weaknesses - I don’t want to unlock my secrets (laughs).
– 2021 has been a busy year for you – KHL debut for SKA, U18 WC, now the call up for the WJC. Was it unexpected?
– As for the U18 WC, I knew that my age would compete there, so it was not even a dream, but a goal: to go there, to be a leader, to help my team win. As for my debut for SKA, I was also expecting it – to get a chance to try at least. I started thinking about the WJC after playing at the U18 WC. I played well there, so making it to the team was quite possible, I was able to prove that I was worthy of going to Canada.
– Which national team players are you on friendly terms with?
– I spend a lot of time with the guys from Togliatti. For example, Yegor Savikov, who is now with Spartak. Vadim Sushchev from Ladya is a true friend of mine. Nikita Chibrikov from SKA. I am on friendly terms with many guys, it will take a long time to name them all (smiles).
– How can you evaluate the group that Russian team will compete in?
– We are to face strong teams, that’s for sure. We play a lot against many of the teams, starting with the U16 tournaments. I think the group stage will be a good test for us. We don’t play much against Switzerland, but hockey is developing very quickly now. There are no easy games at the WJC, all the games will be hard-fought ones.
– What do you know about your opponents?
– The Czech team is troublesome, they play tight-checking game. The Swedes are good skaters, they have a strict system in place, they will definitely have good players on the team. As for the Swiss team, I haven’t seen them playing.
– Team USA is considered to be the main rival of the group stage. Do you agree?
–Hard to tell. It is very difficult to predict who will end up winning the WJC. We always have traditional rivals, such as the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland. But who cares? We will fight for gold. I think that it goes without saying.
– Who are the main stars of the opposing teams?
– To be honest, I only know NHL draft picks. I had to follow, let's say (smiles).
– Do you think Russian team has a fair chance of winning the tournament?
– It’s hard to estimate the chances while you are not there. And I don’t think it is something we should do. Everyone has a chance, the main question is who will take it.
– Which of your teammates have been your linemates before?
– Many of them – I played on the same line with almost all the guys born in 2003. As for older players – Marat Khusnutdinov has been my linemate. But all the guys are good players, I don’t think line combinations are so important for me. The coaches know better, I will be hitting the ice and working for the team’s result.
– Igor Larionov said that Chibrikov - Svechkov – Khusnutdinov line can be the leading one at the WJC.
– It's not for me to say – it is to be decided by the coaches. I don’t even know what comment to make.
– What do players do in the bubble?
– Last year I was reading books on my phone, watching YouTube. But you can also go to other rooms - get together with the guys, chat. There is nothing special you are supposed to do there – you just sit, wait for the game, then you play. For me, it is in no way different from regular conditions. The only thing is that when you come to a different country, you want to walk around the city, buy some gifts for your relatives. But this is not a fundamental concern.
– Did you watch the 2011 WJC won by the Russian team?
– No, I didn’t. But I do know the result down to the last detail (smiles). I would love to give a gift to the fans on the occasion of the anniversary.
– Do you know any of the players who played then?
– Great masters were on the team, they proved themselves both in the KHL and in the NHL. They are elite players. I know Anton Burdasov. But we have never talked about that tournament, he didn’t tell me anything about it.
– Have you ever been to Edmonton?
– No, I haven’t, but I’ve been to Canada for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. I’ve only visited small towns, so this country still remains unknown to me.
– What are your off-ice hobbies?
– I like watching movies, going for a walk. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city, but the weather… (laughs) I go to theaters and museums, refine myself. At first, I thought going to a theater was not my cup of tea - I like cinemas more, no intervals there, they sometimes put me off my stride. I went to museums with my girlfriend. We did not have much time to spend there – I needed to finish practicing, have meal, get to the museum and there was about an hour left before closing. Obviously, no one was already there to give us a tour.
– Do you have any plans for cultural enrichment?
– To be honest, doing it by myself is boring. If I am with my girlfriend or with my family, then yes. I always wanted to visit the Kunstkamera Museum. Some people liked it there, others didn't, but I would like to go there and see it with my own eyes.
– What is your goal for the next few seasons?
– I want to do well at the WJC, win a gold medal, make it to the KHL. But the most important thing is to play well and enjoy the game.