The Omskie Yastreby prospect has already played in two leagues
Mikhail Gulyayev is one of the most promising Russian defensemen born in 2005. In the 2021/2022 season, the Novosibirsk hockey trainee made his JHL debut for Omskie Yastreby. He scored 35 (7+28) points in 54 regular season games, and then continued to assist his teammates in the playoffs: he was credited with five assists in 13 games of the Kharlamov Cup playoffs and won a bronze medal together with his team.
Gulyayev was an Avangard training camp participant and made his debut for the main team at the tournament in Sochi. He started the regular season playing for Omskie Yastreby and collected 2 (1+1) points in the game against Stalnye Lisy. The defenseman's first goal was a nice one: a powerful and accurate shot from the blue line. After that, the player was called up to Omskie Krylya, a Supreme Hockey League team. In an interview with the official JHL website, Mikhail talked about the principal rivalry with the Magnitogorsk team, the training camp with Avangard, Anton Belov's advice, the first steps in hockey and the goals for the season.
– You started the season with a rivalry game against Stalnye Lisy: you scored a goal and made an assist. What can you say about the first game?
– Stalnye Lisy is a principled rival. We were battling hard in the last playoffs. They have a good team. We were preparing for an active game, we started well, progressed over the game, converted our chances and won.
– Did you feel that the Magnitogorsk team wanted to take revenge for losing in the playoffs?
–They surely wanted it, we could feel it, but they did not succeed. Beating such an opponent is worth much. We started the season with a win, it will help the team and each player.
– The players of Stalnye Lisy said that losing to Omskie Yastreby in the playoffs was a serious blow. Did you feel the opposite?
– Of course. We had a very young team. Now, perhaps, we have become even younger. Playing playoff games is something incredible for every young guy. The JHL is a new level. Everyone dreams of playing in the playoffs, and we managed to eliminate the leader of the regular season.
– Will Yastreby be expected to show better result after finishing third?
– Of course, especially since three teams play in Omsk: KHL, SHL and JHL ones. The player can gain experience in any league to progress every day. Those who performed well in the 2021/2022 season were called up for training camps with SHL and KHL teams. Everything depends on the way you work.
– Can Stalnye Lisy be called the most principled rival for Yastreby?
– Yes, and not only in the JHL. When we were with the school, all games with Metallurg were important. It didn’t matter if it was year 2004 or 2005. Those were games played by two strong opponents. We battled hard every game.
– And what about Sibirskie Snaipery?
– It is my former team, but it’s not such a principled rival as Stalnye Lisy.
– Do you notice jeers and acts of provocation when playing against your former teammates?
– Of course. I even enjoy it in a way. Someone can try to mess with you, and you will do the same in return. It’s ok for hockey. They often say something about the score. When an opponent wins, they can say: “Look at the scoreboard! Where are you off to!” And so on.
– Have you learned to control your emotions in order not to respond to this?
– Yes, I’ve learned to take the jeering coolly. But sometimes it’s more than that – when someone you don’t even know has a go at you. Emotions can run high and you can take a penalty. Obviously, it does no good for the team.
– You are a skilled defenseman who likes to jump into the rush. Do you feel that you are played tight and sometimes rough against?
– Yes, forwards are forwards. There are always three of them. And when a D-man links up with the attack, it makes things harder for defense. On the other hand, it's good that they are trying to play more actively against us. Playing tight helps to progress. They try to play actively against me, they play tight, so as to limit space and time for making decisions.
– You spent the preseason with Avangard, played for the main team at summer tournaments. Did you quickly get adjusted to playing at junior level again?
– Hockey is the same everywhere. Only speed is different, in the KHL everything is faster. The players are older and bigger. In the JHL, the speed is lower - it was not hard for me. But for now, I'm not a super-defenseman. All opponents are good, you need to play the right way against everyone, you can’t get puffed up. I play every game aiming to win. It doesn't matter who we are facing.
– What is back in your game after Avangard now when you play in the JHL?
– When I was with Avangard, I didn’t jump into the rush that often due to my age and experience. In the JHL, I get more time with the puck. In the KHL, the speed is higher, sometimes I was too cautious when making decisions. It's important not to make mistakes. On the other hand, hockey is a game of mistakes. If you don’t make any mistakes, you don’t grow. Avangard coaches didn’t prohibit me from anything. They asked me to play the way I can. But at some moments I played more in accordance with the task and did not take risks.
– Is it easy for you to give up creativity in favor of a reference solution?
– That’s what differentiates between a professional player and a nonprofessional one – you are to be able to play any hockey, whether it includes joining the rush or not. The coach might ask not to jump into the rush and play solid defense only. You have to be flexible.
– You were paired with Anton Belov. What did you feel playing with him?
– Being paired with such a player is worth much. It was a great pleasure. Anton has been playing in the KHL for a long time. He was giving me a lot of pointers during practices and off the ice. For example, regarding faceoffs. We always agreed on breakouts, talked about how to act further.
– Was there a player you looked up to when you were a child?
– In the KHL, I followed Kevin Dallman. He liked to join the rush, was a good shooter. Now I closely follow Cale Makar from Colorado. I like how he plays on the blue line, how he jumps into the rush. His skating skills are fantastic. I would love to have the same ice vision as he has. When he receives the puck, he already has two or three options for continuing the attack. I also watch other defensemen playing. I try to pick up some useful things from them. Sometimes I try doing them during practices.
– Can your debut for Avangard be compared to any other event in terms of impressions?
– Probably not. Playing in the KHL is my dream. I can’t recall suchlike events in my life. I have to work really hard to become a good hockey player and stay on the team. Otherwise, nothing will work out.
– Weren’t you lost in a great deal of information during practices?
– During first practices, Dmitri Anatolyevich Ryabykin was giving many pointers, explained the details. I received a lot of information. Perhaps at some point I could be slow on the uptake (smiles) and forget what I had to do. Those were my first practices with the KHL team after all. After a week I got used to it and felt better.
– Did you feel that you fully coped with the level of the KHL?
– I was adjusting during first games at the tournament in Sochi. I had to be faster and make quicker decisions. It took me one or two games to get used to it. Then I recognized the level and could match the speeds.
– You were not dressed for the first game against Sochi that was rich in fights. Were you glad you were not on the ice?
– No, why would I be glad? I wanted to play against any team. Maybe I would have to fight, but I don’t know what the outcome would be. There still is a difference between men and a 17-year-old guy. But I wouldn't be afraid to fight.
– When was the last time you fought on the ice?
– When I was with the school. I haven’t fought in the JHL, there hasn’t been any need for that.
– Were you informed that you would start the season in the JHL right after the training camp with Avangard?
– No, I found it out just two days before the game. I was practicing with the SHL team when I was told that I would play for Omskie Yastreby.
– Is becoming a full-time KHL player your goal for the 2022/2023 season?
– Of course. I try to prove, first of all, to myself that I am worthy of it. The coaching staff of the KHL team reviews practices and games, so everything is in my hands, everything is possible.
– On September 8, you played for the SHL team. How does the Supreme Hockey League differ from the JHL and the KHL?
– The KHL is the first level. The SHL is the second. Serious men with KHL experience play in the league. The speeds are similar.
– Does moving among three teams interfere with your development?
– No, it doesn’t. In order to develop, you need to be able to play any hockey in any league. The KHL and the SHL have different styles of playing hockey. I need to accept it, develop and play the way the coach asks.
– Scoring first KHL goal is like ticking the box for a forward. And what is such an indicator for a defenseman?
– I would be glad to be credited with an assist. Scoring a goal is even better, of course. But an assist or winning a matchup would be an answer to your question. Good checks also count.
– Which of the KHL forwards would you like to play against?
– Alexander Radulov and Vadim Shipachyov. They are the leaders of Ak Bars and the league in general. I would love to play against them.
– What did you spend your first salary on after signing a professional contract?
– I didn’t spend much of my first salary, I saved the money for going on vacation. I want to fly somewhere in the summer, I haven’t decided on a destination yet. I'll probably go to Turkey.
– Do you maintain your personal budget yourself, or do your parents do it?
– I do it myself. At my age, you should already have a head on your shoulders. I understand what to spend money on.
– And what should you spend money on?
– You can spend it on yourself: to buy some vitamins or something for recovery. I don't like going out a lot. I can walk with my friends along the embankment. I help my family if needed.
– How did you get rested and prepared for the season in the summer?
– I spent one month resting from hockey: I was recovering, having a sauna, getting massage, healed some minor injuries. On June 10, I started skating, had a training camp in Novosibirsk. I skated and worked out in a gym for ten days. Then I rested for two or three days and arrived in Omsk.
– Do you like having a sauna?
– Of course. Sauna is the best place for recovery. We have our own sauna at our country house, I often have it.
– Oak or birch sauna whisks?
– Birch ones. My dad makes them himself.
– Do you now fully understand your body and know what loads are needed?
– I understand 80 percent of what I need and what I don’t. I learn something new every day, get new information.
– Do you easily follow the daily regimen when there are no practices with the team or games?
– I always try to follow the regimen, even on days off. A good breakfast is a must-have. An afternoon nap and not staying up late. Taking a walk and getting some fresh air during the day.
– You were born into a hockey family. Did you understand that you would become a hockey player from a young age?
– As my mom told me, when I was born, she said that her son would be a hockey player. There were no two ways about it. I liked hockey - and I started playing it. I have a sporting family. My elder sister is a master of sports in rhythmic gymnastics. My father is a hockey player and a coach. I guess, he also wanted his son to become a hockey player.
– Did your sister give any pieces of advice on stretching?
– She used to do gymnastics before that. Now she is a mom herself, there are more important things to think about. When I was a child, at the age of six or seven, I asked her to help me stretching my legs, but after one time I refused her hand. It was not because she tried too hard (smiles). I just didn't like stretching.
– Was your father involved in your hockey training?
– My father taught me to skate when I was a child. Until the age of 10 or 11 I was coached by Vladimir Nikolaevich Goltz. And my dad used to skate with amateurs in the evenings and take me with him. I played with them, got some experience. It was tough when I was a child. When I got older, it got easier. We had a small net at our country house and I practiced shots there.
– Did you decide to follow in your father’s footsteps and become a defenseman?
– Yes, I remember having a game training in Novosibirsk at the age of seven. I was about to take a faceoff as a center forward. And my dad who was watching it from the stands, shouted to me: “Where on earth are you? Go play defense.” After that, I didn’t try playing offense and became a defenseman. At the same time, my father always forced me to jump into the rush and help forwards.
– Are you similar in playing style to your father?
– My dad still plays with amateurs. Sometimes I watch him play. Perhaps our styles have something in common. Maybe skating. But I'm still the second version of my dad.
Gulyayev Mikhail Alexandrovich
Born on April 26, 2005 in Novosibirsk
2013-2020 – Sibir, Novosibirsk
From 2020 – Avangard, Omsk
Hlinka Gretzky Cup winner, the 2021/2022 season
Bronze medal at JHL championship, the 2021/2022 season