23.12.2021 в 15:00

Yegor Kuzminov: “I want to prove that I am one of the best in the league”

One of the heroes of this regular season for the Red Army is forward Yegor Kuzminov. The Dmitrov native has produced 42 (22+20) points in 33 games for the Muscovites. He was among the top-ten scorers in the league, but the competition there is very tight. Kuzminov is currently leading his team in goals and points, trailing only Matvei Averochkin for assists.

Kuzminov is one of the league’s top scorers, but he isn’t looking much at his position there. “Now I pay attention not only to team stats, but also to my personal stats, because I’m already a ‘veteran’ in the JHL,” he says. “But I don’t follow the scoring race much, I only know that Gleb Petrov from Mikhailov Academy is doing great. You could say I’m just trying to prove to myself that I can be one of the best in the league.”

Naturally, he is looking perfectly comfortable on the ice right now. “In general, I began to feel confident not because of how many points I scored, but simply because of my age. But, of course, when you score points and help your team, it gives you confidence, you are more relaxed about what is happening on the ice. This is my senior season in the JHL, and I need to pay attention to myself in order to get into the VHL or even the KHL.”

Kuzminov now feels the responsibility of his role within the Moscow side. “I consider myself one of the leaders of the team,” he confirms. “I have to show results, help the team, be able to get the guys going at the right moment, tell the young players what to do. And most importantly, I have to guide the team, score goals, and show them how to fight by giving example.”

Despite today’s success, it’s always exciting to look back in history. “When I was three, my parents brought me to a public skating session,” he recalls. “Of course, I don’t remember that moment, but they said that I was good at skating right away. And then my parents decided to send me to the hockey section in Dmitrov, close to Moscow. There wasn’t a group for my year of birth yet, so I had to make an agreement to take me with the guys two years older. So, I trained for five years with guys born in 2000.” However, Kuzminov had no problems in getting into the group, despite the age difference. “No, we were a good team. I even keep in touch with some of the guys from that team now. Plus, they taught me to skate well right away, and at the initial stage it is very important – the better you skate, the easier it is for you. Then the guys got older, so to speak, and I was moved to a team of guys of my same age.” 

Having parents and family nearby is always important to any hockey players, especially the younger ones. “Mom almost always comes to home games, she even visits away games,” Kuzminov says about his parents. “My father attends my games less often, only on weekends. But even if he works, he watches the games, and then I discuss moments with him.” 

Having parents always nearby was also handy for Kuzminov as he changed teams several times in his young career, eventually joining the Belye Medvedi (Polar Bears), the same side where young Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Gusev played, among the others. “We had a pretty good team in Dmitrov, but in later years it started to deteriorate a little bit”, he says. “We used to beat everyone, but then everything changed. My parents and I began to realize that moving to Moscow and playing there would be a step forward. When I was about nine or ten years old, I was invited to play for the Polar Bears organization in the Capital. At first my parents took me to practice from the suburbs, and later we lived in a rented apartment in Moscow.” There, Kuzminov had his first stint for CSKA. “First, I joined the Red Army. There was a very good coach there, they invited me again and I decided to move. Then, when I was 15, I moved again, to Dynamo. The coach from CSKA moved there, many players left after him. Then two years later I came back to the Army team. The conditions in Moscow were about the same, everything suited me – the staff, the training process, the school.”

Naturally, soon Kuzminov understood that he was about to become a professional player. “It happens by itself when you start to devote a lot of time to sports; I had two ice practices a day, and one off the ice. You realize that you’ re not focusing on your studies, but on hockey. Then you have accomplishments, then you already think there’s a chance to be fulfilled in it. I realized that when I joined the Polar Bears.”

Krasnaya Armiya is currently the first seed in the Western Conference, with an eight-point gap over Loko. “Of course, we talked about our plans, we wanted to be as higher as possible in the standings,” Kuzminov says. “But to be honest, we couldn’t assume that we would be leaders. We thought we would be in the top three or four. Now everything is different, we are doing pretty well, so we try to stay in the top spot. We even have some points to spare and we have to lose about five games to get caught up. And we definitely don’t want to do that, it would be very bad news for us.”

Moreover, the Moscow side also established a record for the JHL, with a 23-game winning streak. “I didn’t skate in that game,” Kuzminov admitted. “But I talked to the guys. Of course, everyone wanted to make the club and league’s history. It’s a pity we couldn’t go on, but that’s okay. The record was set and that’s the main thing.”

As he couldn’t participate in such a historic game, he picked another one as his most remarkable one in his career. “My brightest game was in the 2020 playoff,” he starts. “We faced Dynamo Moscow at home: if we won, we would move on, but if they won instead, we would have to play the deciding game in our arena. It was already in second OT, and it so happened that we caught Dynamo changing lines. One of their defensemen went to the bench, our winger threw the puck over the middle line, and I went one-on-one. I remember the left corner was wide open, but I shot to the right one for some reasons. Everyone stopped, the referee even didn’t blow his whistle, and the puck rolled over the goalie’s shoulder pad. I saw that it had already fallen off his rib, so I picked it up and buried it. There was a video review, but the goal was counted. That was my strongest emotion so far.”

Among his favorite players, Kuzminov listed former CSKA star Alexander Radulov. “I like his combative nature, boldness, he has leadership qualities,” the forward explains. “He and I are similar in that respect. By the way, I crossed paths with Radulov when he was still playing for CSKA. I even have a picture with him, but I didn’t get to talk to him, I was too young then, I just asked for a picture,” he says with a big smile. But from now on, he might be himself the object of such requests.