18-year-old Yegor Vinogradov is one of the best rookies of the Parimatch Junior Hockey League Championship.
Nizhny Novgorod trainee Yegor Vinogradov is having a great debut season in the JHL. The Chaika forward has been consistently scoring points since November. He finished only four games out of 20 without any goals or assists. In total, Yegor scored 46 (21+25) points in 42 games and he is currently the top goalscorer of the team. Vinogradov is also good at faceoffs – the forward from Nizhny Novgorod won more than half of his duels (faceoff win percentage - 52.1). Yegor has been twice recognized as the best rookie of the week, and also became the best Eastern conference forward of December.
In early January, the 18-year-old hockey player made his debut at the senior level. The forward appeared in two KHL games playing for Torpedo against Neftekhimik and SKA. One of the leaders of Chaika shared his emotions from his debut season, talked about his childhood and his most devoted fan.
– How did you start playing hockey?
– My dad signed me up for hockey when I was six years old. He played hockey when he was a child, but he did not manage to build a hockey career. He loved this sport all his life. He used to take me to a skating rink, and then decided to send me to a hockey school.
– You started playing hockey in Nizhny Novgorod. Did you change teams when you were a child?
– No, I didn’t. I have always been a part of Torpedo system, my hometown club. I am happy it happened this way - I know all the coaches, they know me, follow my progress. When you play in your hometown from childhood up, it makes things easier, that’s for sure.
– Why did you become a center?
– I started with playing the center position and nothing has changed since then. I don’t really remember why it happened that way, but coaches always see which position each kid should play. To be honest, the role is not principal for me: I can play both center and wing.
– Did you perform well at school?
– Not really (laughs). It seems fair to say that I chucked up my studies when I was a fifth-grader. I had only hockey on my mind, I didn’t think about anything else. I lacked time to study well. Plus, I had practices in the morning, so I was only able to go to school for two lessons.
– Have you ever thought of doing something different?
– It never even crossed my mind. Everything was working out well from the very beginning. I did not do any other sports, hockey was the only thing I liked.
– Who was your idol when you were a child?
–Alexander Ovechkin was my first idol. I liked the way he played, the way he battled, his leadership qualities. But the things I enjoyed the most were his accurate powerful shots and the scoring chances conversion. Now I follow many star players, such as Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, Nikita Kucherov, Auston Matthews.
– You are having your first season in the JHL. What were your impressions from the first games for Chaika?
– I didn’t get off to a great start. The level and the speeds were different from what I was used to. It took me about six games to get adjusted. Of course, it was an emotional experience, my eyes shone with delight, but I was also nervous – it was tough. Now I feel fine playing games.
– You dedicated your first goal to your grandmother. Is she your number one fan?
– You could say that. She became interested in hockey when I started playing it - she watches games, cheers for me. My grandma always calls me before and after games and asks me how things are going. She doesn’t manage to attend all home games, but she is always there when she has a chance.
– You have already scored 46 points in 42 matches. What is the secret of your point production?
– Good linemates, Ivan Murashov and Artyom Misnikov. I wouldn’t be able to score that many points if it wasn’t for them.
– You have also won more than half of your faceoffs. Do you have any special tricks?
– I have one, but it is not the nicest - you hit the opponent's stick and send the puck behind. I drew this move from one player when I was a child. Sometimes referees notice it, but not always.
– You were recognized as the best rookie of the JHL in November and December, and the best Eastern conference forward. How did you find out about these achievements?
– I read it on the Internet - on social media of the JHL and Chaika. Of course, it made me feel happy. It's nice that it happened that way, everything is going smoothly this season. I feel more confident on the ice. When you play games, you don't think about personal achievements. But when you find out that you’ve succeeded, you just want to build on it and become stronger. I get a lot of ice time, coaches put me on the powerplay - it makes me feel good and at the same time adds responsibility.
– You played two games in the KHL. What did you feel when you were called up to the main team?
– I was very nervous, because it happened after the New Year - we didn’t have practices then. I came to Nizhnekamsk on the game day. The only thought I had in my head was that I needed to stay calm. I felt more confident in St. Petersburg, because we had a short practice before the game.
– How would you evaluate your debut?
– There was nothing in Nizhnekamsk to be evaluated, and as for the game against SKA – C+. I’ve had some good moments, but not everything worked out well. By the way, the game in St. Petersburg made my skin crawl – the atmosphere was great, the building was full. It was the first time in my life when I was a part of such a game – it was really cool.
– In what way is the KHL different from the JHL?
– In the JHL, players' eyes light up, everyone strives to play physically. And KHL players are even-tempered, but more skilled, and speeds are higher, you are to make faster decisions. This makes the league harder to play in.