The center became one of the leaders of the team in his debut season.
18-year-old Vyacheslav Malov spent his first season in the JHL. The forward scored 39 (17+22) points in 58 regular season games and 14 (5+9) points in 13 playoff games. The player reached the Kharlamov Cup semifinals with Omskie Yastreby, won a bronze medal and was recognized as the best rookie of the League. The line comprised of Vyacheslav Malov, Gleb Trikozov and Yegor Serdyuk had a breakthrough springtime.
In an interview with the JHL website, Vyacheslav talked about starting playing hockey because of his younger brother, emotions from his first year in the JHL and plans for the 2022/2023 season.
– How can you evaluate your first JHL season?
– It went well. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. The adjustment during the minor-to-junior transition takes time. In my case, the adaptation period lasted until the first goal scored - six games were played. After that it became much easier: I had the understanding of the game and the feeling of the speed. I blended into the team quickly, as I knew all the guys from school-days.
– What was a new experience for you in the League?
– Here we battle for every centimeter of the ice, the tempo is faster and it makes it more difficult to play. Many hockey players are mature. It is especially sharply felt when you face an elder team. It is way harder to play against guys who have been playing in the JHL for several years.
– Were you worried before games?
– No, I felt calm. Playing my first games, I was not thinking about having to score goals. I needed to get an understanding of how they play in the JHL, to get adjusted and to help my team as much as I could. And when I started scoring points, I felt more confident on the ice.
– How did you manage to become one of the leaders of the team?
– The most important thing is to play your game. You shouldn’t look at anyone, you should think for yourself. When you are on the ice, you should do the things you can do. The coaches’ trust was also an important factor: they put me on the powerplay and penalty killing. I wouldn’t be able to reach such a good result without my teammates. The elder guys were always helpful, advised on how to play better in certain situations.
– And did you give any advice to other players?
– When I had many face-off wins, we discussed it during practices with other centers. I didn’t have any special tricks, but there can’t be any secrets from my teammates – my advice can help them win easier, so I filled them in on that.
– You were recognized as the best rookie of the season. What did you feel when you heard the news?
– I was very pleased. I had only positive emotions. I was surprised when the team administrator told me I would fly to the closing ceremony of the season. At the ceremony, I was a little worried, it was the first time I attended such an event.
– Let us look back on your childhood. How did hockey appear in your life?
– It was my younger brother who wanted to play hockey in the first place – we have a one-year age gap. So, our parents decided to sign us up for hockey in Novosibirsk. I liked it so much that they couldn't pry it away from me with a crowbar. My brother continued playing too.
– How did you happen to be in Omsk?
– I was invited to Omsk in 2019 together with my linemates and two coaches. They said they were interested in us. We did not go there right away, we thought about it for a long time. But then we arrived at the decision and I ended up in Omsk. Local teams play in the Ural - Western Siberia division, which is stronger than the Siberia - Far East division, which Novosibirsk plays in. In the Urals, the teams are pretty much equal, so you can develop faster.
– What other peculiarities did you notice in the Avangard system?
– They have a greater focus on the development of kids here. The Academy has all the conditions for living and practicing: there are gyms, shooting pads and cardio machines there. You can always work out by yourself to improve some of your qualities.
– How did you manage to balance hockey with studying?
– When I was a first- and second-grader, it was tough, because I was studying at a regular school and it was difficult to combine school and sports. Then I moved to a different school and became a sports class pupil. It was much easier there: the schedule was planned so at to balance practices and lessons. I was an average pupil, I mainly had grades B and C. I left school after the ninth grade, now I pursue a degree in coaching at the Olympic reserve college.
– Why did you decide to become a forward?
– My first coach put me on offence and I enjoyed it, so I never considered other positions. I was moved to the wing for a while, but then I was returned to the center.
– What kind of forwards do you like?
– I mainly follow centers. If I see something I like, I try to use it. For example, Corban Knight is very good at face-offs and he sees the ice very well. Sidney Crosby is an excellent skater and he does great low in the offensive zone.
– How can you evaluate the 2021/2022 season for Omskie Yastreby?
– It was a good season. We did not manage to reach the ultimate goal, but we won bronze medals for the first time in nine years. We felt calm and understood that no one bet big on us. There was no extra pressure, so it was easier to play. All the guys supported one other and fought for the team. You cannot win games without the team spirit. We’ve managed to prove that we were the underdogs for no good reason.
– What kind of atmosphere was there during home games?
– It was very cool, especially when we had a full building. It is much easier to play at home, the fans are a driving force for the team. Omsk people love hockey, it is a popular sport here.
– Avangard is returning to Omsk. Will the junior team benefit from it?
– I think so. It will simplify the work of the system. The coaches of SHL and KHL teams will be able to come and see us playing instead of watching games on TV. Games look different when you watch them live. The coaches of Avangard and Omskie Krylya will also be able to attend practices and see us giving it our all and working hard. It is a big plus for all of us.
– What did you do during the off-season?
– I decided to rest from hockey and did not watch any competitions. So, I just relaxed, spent time with my parents in Novosibirsk: we took nature hikes, went to the lake, to our country house. Then I started preparing for the new season. I spent less than a month at home and went back to Omsk for the pre-season training camp.
– Testing of players before the new season has started. How do you handle the training loads?
– It’s not that hard so far, all in a day's work, I feel fine. It’s more fun when training camp starts.
– What are your plans for the season?
– To stay the course – I have to play at least so that everyone is happy with me. I want to become a true leader, make my SHL and KHL debuts. But all in its own good time.
– What do you need to improve before the start of the season?
– My endurance, so that I could skate without overacidification of the muscles. I am focusing on cardio, biking, jogging, cross-country running. I don't really like it, but you cannot do without it.