Vasily Atanasov, forward and captain of Mamonty Yugry, is in second place in the lists of the top JHL scorers and snipers. He trails only his teammate Bogdan Senotov (73 points) with 67 (39+28) points in the first case, and in the second – Gleb Petrov, Mikhailov Academy’s forward, with 40 goals. The Khanty-Mansyisk team secured their advance to the Kharlamov Cup and is in third place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points.
Atanasov hails from Nizhny Tagil, and he started hockey with the local team Sputnik. After that, he moved to St. Petersburg and played for the junior teams of Dynamo system. The forward made his JHL debut in the 2019-2020 season for the Mamonty Yugry, and before that he played for the Yugra U18 team.
In the current issue of the JHL Zoom program, the 19-year-old forward talked about his successes and the progress of the Mammoths, his vacations in Nizhny Tagil and the pleasant consequences of his debut with Yugra.
Atanasov showed steady progress in all his JHL seasons: he scored 15 points in his first season, then 41, and this year 67. “I can’t say for sure what’s the reason behind this,” he says. “The simplest answer is professional growth. Every year in the JHL you feel more confident and get more trust from the coaching staff. In your first season you are still young, you play in the third or fourth line, you don’t play a lot of power plays.”
Moreover, often the best young players practice in the summer with the senior team. “That’s how it was for me this summer,” Atanasov confirms. “I started training with the Mammoths, and then I was called up by Yugra, so I spent the second half with the senior team. It was much harder when I was in the training camp. I was ready for it mentally, but physically I felt that I needed to improve even more.”
The forward is satisfied with the current season. “I was happy with myself. Of course, when I moved to Khanty-Mansiysk, I was going to play a level lower, I had a goal to have a good season to get into the JHL. It all worked out so well that I got moved to the JHL team and was given a chance to play there. I was very happy with that season. I spend my summers mostly with my family, friends and relatives. I always fly to St. Petersburg, then I go to Nizhny Tagil to visit my grandparents. Staying there…it’s like Nizhny Tagil (laughs). Well, it’s not like it was ten years ago when we left there. Now it’s more or less being improved, it’s starting to look like a city.”
The duo of Atanasov and Senotov had produced incredible numbers for Mamonty Yugry. “As long as it works, you should take it,” he says. “If it works, then let it work. We don’t tease each other about it, why should we?”
The two forwards put together some two thirds of the team’s goals. Maybe this means added pressure for them. “No, on the contrary,” Atanasov says. “It even inspires you to score more and more, to help the team. We have other players who score. When Bogdan or I’m not successful, they help us a lot. There is a good interchangeability in the team. First and foremost, I look at the result of the team, for now we are in third place, I would like to get from there to the playoffs, to go as far as possible in the elimination stages. And if we talk about personal statistics, it’s nice, but more in the sense that I can help the team.”
Moreover, Atanasov was called up to the VHL team, where he’s yet to score. “I’m not worried about it,” he says. “I was like that in the JHL. When I started, I knew it was going to be a lot harder in terms of scoring points. You have to go out there and do your job regardless of whether you can do it or not. Try to help the team as much as possible.”
Currently Atanasov is among the best snipers and scorers in the league. What would he pick if he had to? “Probably on the sniper race. I like scoring goals more.”