Forward of the Ufa team Pavel Dergunov talked about Prokopievsk, moving to Bashkortostan and the 2021/2022 season.
Pavel Dergunov is from the Kemerovo region: he was a Shakhtyor Prokopyevsk trainee, played in the Metallurg Novokuznetsk system, and then moved to Ufa. He scored 63 (23+40) points in the Junior Hockey League’s 2021/2022 regular season and became the top scorer of Tolpar.
Pavel played for Toros in the Supreme Hockey League and for the national junior team of Russia at the Black Sea Cup. In an interview with the JHL website, the 19-year-old forward talked about the past season, the reasons why Tolpar failed the playoffs, the pre-season preparation and plans for the next year.
– How was the 2021/2022 season for you?
– It was a good season both in terms of production and ice time - it adds to the wealth of experience. I wanted to get into the main team, but it didn’t work out – so it will be a goal for the next season.
– You became the top scorer of Tolpar. How did the points scored affect the game?
– Scoring points gives a confidence boost. The coach sees that you are doing good and you get more ice time. Thus, you can build on good results. My most memorable goal was scored to Reaktor Nizhnekamsk. I scored on a breakaway - it was a game changer.
– You have many assists. What is nicer – to score a goal or to make a great pass?
– I enjoy scoring goals, but I like it more when someone else scores after receiving my pass. A pass is sometimes more beautiful than a goal.
– What kind of hockey players do you like?
– I look up to almost all world’s best players. I like Nikita Kucherov a lot. He is a well-rounded player, able to score nice goals and make great passes.
– How can you evaluate Tolpar’s latest season?
–We had good progress up to the New Year, we were fighting with Stalnye Lisy for the first place in the standings. But in January a failure occurred. I don't know why it happened. We lost the key home games against Sarmaty and did not manage to get placed higher in the regular-season standings because of that. We had to face Irbis in the first round and got eliminated. It's a pity that it happened that way, we were quite capable of winning the series. But in general, it was a good season for the team, many young players made their JHL debut.
– Did you lack experience in the playoffs?
– Most likely. It was the first playoffs for almost all the guys. I felt confident, but I can’t speak for others: maybe some guys had jitters.
– Were there any funny stories with the team during the season?
– One of the players forgot to bring his shoulder pads to Khanty-Mansiysk. He asked us all if we had spare ones, but we did not. We had to chip in all together and buy the new ones for him. I will not tell you who it was, let me keep it secret (laughs).
– You have made your SHL debut. How did it feel?
– I was worried before the start of the game, but I tried not to overthink. The coaches helped me get ready, the players gave a few pointers on what to do and how to do it. I got adjusted after first shifts and played a good first game.
– You started playing hockey in Prokopievsk. How did you happen to be with a hockey school?
– My elder brother is a professional hockey player. When I was a child, we used to go to an outdoor rink where he was teaching me to skate. My brother offered our parents to sign me up for hockey. So, at the age of four I found myself with the hockey school. I am glad I am doing what I love. I am grateful to my brother and parents for this.
– Is hockey popular in your hometown?
– Not really. Kids start playing hockey there, practice for a while and go to play at a more professional level in the nearby city, Novokuznetsk. I was also invited there, at the age of 11 I moved to the Metallurg system and played there for two years.
– How did you get adjusted to new conditions?
– We continued living in Prokopievsk and my parents were taking me to Novokuznetsk for practicing – we had to drive for about an hour to get there. I got adjusted to the team quickly, I knew many of the guys from playing at different tournaments. The level of the Novokuznetsk team was higher.
– Why did you move to Ufa?
– I was also invited there. My parents and I were considering it for about two months, and then we found out that Metallurg Novokuznetsk was leaving KHL. So, we ended up in Ufa. Dad went there with me and returned home a week later, and I moved in the sports boarding school.
– Did many of your teammates leave Novokuznetsk?
–Four guys left it after me - not so many, all the others stayed there. Metallurg Novokuznetsk leaving KHL factored into my decision - as a child, you watch games being eager to get there. When there is such a team in your city, you can go and see the professionals playing instead of watching it on TV. If there is no such possibility, it affects your motivation.
– What peculiarities of Salavat Yulaev system did you notice?
– It was different in many ways. For example, in Ufa we were provided with gear, but in Novokuznetsk we were not. The Salavat school had a conditioning coach and a forward coach. In Metallurg, only two people worked with us - the head coach and his assistant.
– What city do you consider yourself to be a trainee of?
– Prokopievsk, actually.
– How did you manage to balance hockey with studying?
– I was a sports class pupil both in Novokuznetsk and in Ufa, so it was easy. I did my homework after practices and tried to dedicate more time to having rest. I liked math - I loved counting from childhood up.
– Do you prefer being left alone before games or do you communicate with everybody?
– I prefer being left alone. I don’t even talk to my parents before games, I do it only after. They already know about it and they are fine with it. They wait for me to call them when a game is over.
– Do you also like to spend your free time alone?
– No, I like going everywhere with friends, we can relax or play sports: I like tennis, table tennis, sometimes bowling. I have been playing tennis since childhood – my dad, my brother and I were always fond of it. But I try not to go anywhere during the season and find more time for sleeping instead. In the evening I can take a walk and refresh myself in the out-of-doors, it is useful.
– How did you spend your vacation?
– I was at the Black Sea Cup in Sochi with the national team, managed to go to the sea on a day off and to take a nice walk. Then I visited my hometown, spent some time with my parents and went to Ufa to prepare for the season with a personal trainer.
– What did you focus on?
– I worked out in a gym, had strength training and a lot of aerobic work. We were focusing on the whole body – arms, legs, core muscles. I understood that I needed to improve my conditioning before the upcoming season, I needed to become stronger in order to be able to compete with older players.
– The training camp has started. How does it feel?
– Everything is fine, we were given time to get adjusted: we practiced without pucks for a couple of days, worked on skating skills. I'm at the training camp with SHL team Toros. For now, we are focusing on conditioning, working in the gym and on the ice.
– What are your personal goals for the 2022/2023 season?
– Whatever the league I play in, I will do my best to become the top scorer and win the main trophy.