The talent of the CSKA system rocks in the JHL playoffs. Agatha Christie helps Prokhor Poltapov prepare for games

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29.03.2022 в 12:00

The talent of the CSKA system rocks in the JHL playoffs. Agatha Christie helps Prokhor Poltapov prepare for games

On March 30, Krasnaya Armiya will face Loko in the deciding Game 5 of the Kharlamov Cup quarterfinal. The points leader of Krasnaya Armiya is 19-year-old Prokhor Poltapov who has proved himself to be an excellent playmaker in the 2021/2022 playoffs.

Poltapov was born in St. Petersburg, but he didn’t happen to be a main SKA school trainee, although later the hockey player said that he had been actively invited there. “Since I was a hyperactive child, my parents brought me to a skating rink at the age of three. There was a large outdoor rink next to our place – it was where my first steps were made. I was signed up for a hockey school at the same age, even though they were enrolling kids aged 5 and over, so, I was skating there with elder trainees. At the age of six, I made it to Serebryanye Lvy school,” the player said in an interview with Allhockey.ru.

At the same time, little Prokhor was practicing his skills out of school. Just like Nikita Kucherov, who had ice laid down in his garage to help him perfect the shot, he confirmed the “ten thousand hours” rule with the game of the Russian national team. “I played with a ball and a stick every day at home after coming back from school - I could “kill” the whole day like that. I didn’t have any extra practices with coaches” Poltapov said. Consistent practicing helped the plyer to boost his technical skills when he was taking the very first steps in hockey.

Poltapov didn’t stay long with the relatively modest Serebryanye Lvy school, but he was not invited to the main St. Petersburg school. Prokhor moved to Moscow region, where he made the way from Vityaz to Dynamo and then to CSKA. “Being a child, I just played the game and didn’t think about the future, but then I realized that hockey is my future,” the player said in an interview with the KHL website.

Poltapov took the third step when he had to move to the JHL. He chose a system that was not quite typical of his style. Over recent years, CSKA has built a well-defined vertical structure in terms of style of play, the VHL and the JHL teams were ideologically similar to the main team. “Unlike Dynamo, the CSKA system requires forwards to handle the defensive aspects of the game, too. Being with Dynamo, I was focused only on attack. It took me about three months to get adjusted, then I got used to it,” said the hockey player.

In the 2020/2021 season, Poltapov became the points leader of Krasnaya Armiya (52 (25+27) points in 61 games), but in playoffs he scored only three points in six games. Poltapov’s successful performance in the regular season allowed KHL-TV experts to include the forward in the top ten players of the season. “The main problem of Prokhor Poltapov is scoring chance conversion. He creates a lot of chances for himself, and if all of them resulted in goals, the young forward would score 80 points. Poltapov is a very technically skilled player,” said KHL-TV expert Artyom Bozhko.

After the successful season, Prokhor took part in the 2021 U18 World Championship in the USA. The CSKA player was probably less noticeable to the audience, as Michkov and Miroshnichenko were on the front burner, but he was getting points, and scored a nice goal in the game against the Czech Republic.

During the 2021 WJC-U18 he was noticed by foreign reporters. “Poltapov plays a tenacious, driven style that complements a decent skill package. He’s the heartbeat of whatever line he usually plays on. He makes decisions quickly, works hard off the puck to get open and apply pressure defensively, thrives in the guts of the ice and has enough skill to get to the net and fight through traffic with control to score around the home plate area. He is the kind of player who is always in the mix and making something happen when he’s on the ice.” wrote American junior hockey specialist Scott Wheeler.

Poltapov did not make it to the 2022 World Junior Championship. Perhaps the reason for this was his frequent moving from one team of the CSKA system to another. In addition to the JHL team, Poltapov played for VHL team Zvezda and for CSKA. In the 2021/2022 season, due to leaders being injured, the head coach of the main team, Sergei Fedorov, was giving a lot of ice time to young players, who are always pretty noticeable. Being with the main team, Prokhor had five minutes of playing time per game as the player from the youth team list included in the main team’s roster for a game. He played for almost a third of the season for the main team.

In October, Sergei Fedorov gave a comment on this moving back and forth: “He will always be torn among the VHL team, the junior team and us, because he needs to play more. I suppose, at the age of 18 it is difficult to build your game in all three zones with and without the puck. This is a heavy workload. It can be seen that he is great in offense – as good as other players of the team”.

The evaluation given by Krasnaya Armiya head coach Khasanov Rinat in Novosti Molodyozhki program was different: “At the end of the day, Poltapov is not a full-time player either of the main team, or Zvezda, or ours. We need a clear understanding of which team he is a leader of, of where he is getting enough ice time and field experience. The priorities should be sorted out”.

Poltapov himself did not try to shift the blame to someone else and continued to work. In the regular season, he could not help Krasnaya Armiya, but even without him, the team had one of the best seasons in the history of the JHL and it gave them a JHL record streak of 23 straight victories. In the playoffs, Prokhor finally unlocked his potential: he was giving great passes and taking blasting shots.

And what helps the hockey player off ice? In an interview with the KHL website, he said: “During difficult moments, I always talk to my mother. She manages to find a good answer to the question of what I did wrong, and to give valuable advice. It really helps."

Just like Spartak system player Vasily Ponomaryov, Poltapov loves reading, and gives preference to detective novels. He admits that they make it easier to predict the behavior of opposing players: “It's more interesting for myself - trying to figure out who committed the murder, I like to unravel thoughts of people who think differently from everyone else. It helps in hockey as well, because you study goalies, the way they play, for example, when would they stay low or stand up. My recommendation is “Peril At End House” by Agatha Christie - the ending is absorbing.”

Poltapov will have a chance to be a full-time CSKA player in 2022/2023 season. During the regular season, Sergei Fedorov showed his readiness to trust young players even when all the leaders are on the beat.

Rodion Vlasov

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