“Getting adjusted to speeds was easier than getting used to discipline.” Dmitry Simashev – first hockey player born in 2005 to play in KHL

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04.11.2022 в 19:30

“Getting adjusted to speeds was easier than getting used to discipline.” Dmitry Simashev – first hockey player born in 2005 to play in KHL

The Yaroslavl defenseman is picking things playing adult hockey.

17-year-old Dmitry Simashev is having a successful season. The Yaroslavl trainee made his JHL debut in the 2021/2022 season and had 17 (5+12) points in 48 games. The young defenseman started the 2022/2023 season in the Kontinental Hockey League, appeared in 14 games for Lokomotiv and became the first player born in 2005 to play in the KHL. In October, Dmitry returned to Loko after a month and a half spent with Lokomotiv. Now he continues to help his club at the junior level. The team has not lost a single OLIMPBET JHL regular season game with Dmitry on a dressed list.

In an interview with the official website of the League, Dmitry Simashev talked about his experience of playing for the main team, sports psychology sessions and also revealed his thoughts about whom he would like to play a game of chess with.

“Both junior and the main team players are professionals who know what they want”

– You have returned to the JHL after playing for the main team. How are things going now?
– I have played six games for Loko (as of the date of the interview - note). My first games were against Russkie Vityazi. The very first game had a special intensity of emotions, because we came back from 2-5 in the third period, it allowed us to boost momentum and we tried to build on it in every following game. We have our goals for the season, and want to achieve them. All my thoughts are only about team wins now.

– Loko ranks high in the JHL Western Conference, Lokomotiv is one of the leaders of the West in the KHL, what is the secret of success of the Yaroslavl club?
– I think it is due to discipline, because both junior and the main team players follow coaches’ instructions, all the guys are professionals who know what they want. We have a common goal, we are pursuing it, so the secret lies in discipline and team play.

– You are a Yaroslavl trainee, what can you say about the Lokomotiv system?
– Yaroslavl provides some of the best conditions in Russia. We have a strong vertical structure - the school, then the junior team and the main team after. We have all we need: shooting zones, gym, highly-qualified coaches who talk to players, analyze moments, provide help. There are extra training sessions aimed at skating and shooting skills improvement. Mentality is also very important in the development of an athlete. Coaches work with us, they can help after a bad game and prevent cocking the nose after successful performance. Everything depends on both the coaches and yourself: if you take what they give you, you will grow up to be a good hockey player. If you don’t – face the consequences.

– How often do you fall back on psychology sessions?
– I have been working with a psychologist for a second year in a row. I believe, it is an important thing to do. There is a stereotype: if you say that you are having psychology sessions, it means that something is wrong with you, but it is not consistent with reality. All top athletes use sports psychologists, they are very helpful, such work with players is very important.

– In the 2022/2023 season, Lokomotiv relies on young players and is on a roll. What is your attitude to such a vector of development?
– I am still a young player myself (smiles). I’m glad that young guys earn trust, in any case, team leaders get elder year by year. And so do we, we grow, look up to elder players. The sooner we get a full understanding of adult hockey, the faster we will grow as players and we will be able to adjust quicker in the future and help our team. From today’s perspective, clubs were forced to develop young people due to the lack of imports. I think it will deliver benefits and do a power of good for hockey and young guys.

“I didn’t know what to do during my first KHL shift”

– You started this season on the road with the main team, made your KHL debut in the game against Avtomobilist. What emotions did the call-up and the debut cause?
– I found out that I would start the season with the main team after the home preseason game against Torpedo. The list of players to go to the tournament in Kazan was sent to our group chat. I saw my name on it. The lineup for the tournament had already been finalized before the tournament, so the coach told me to prepare for the first game of the season.
I had three or four days before the game, I tried to prepare mentally so as to stop being jittery and play with confidence doing what I was required to do. The elder guys were of great help too. When I hit the ice, it was pretty stressful, I didn’t know what to do during my first shift, the crowd was loud, I got a little tense. But after making several good moves, the coach and the guys told me I was doing good job, and the game got along all right.

– You averaged more than seven minutes per night in your first road games. Did you expect such trust from the coaching staff?
– Any hockey player, not only a young defenseman, proves himself with each shift. Your performance decides whether you will receive more ice time or less. I have my own job to do, the coach had announced personal tasks before the game, I was fulfilling them, tried to show myself to the best of my ability and help the team, it allowed me to earn coaching staff’s trust.

– You had “-3” after first five KHL games, did you feel bad about it?
– It goes without saying that bad games make you lose some confidence, but defensemen coach Dmitry Sergeyevich Yushkevich helped me a lot. We talked, analyzed mistakes and did correction work. If you get hung up on mistakes and feel scared of going out on the ice in the following game, what is the point of playing hockey at all? After making some mistakes, you need to analyze what you did wrong, hit the ice with a cool head and do your job.

– Is the junior-to-senior transition hard for a young defenseman?
– Using a young defenseman allows guys who play 20+ minutes per game on a regular basis to get some rest. The most important thing is to play solid defense, and if you join the rush successfully, it will be even better. But defense goes first. It is clear that I might lack some experience, but coaches understand it. In hockey, moments from previous games are always repeated in the following ones. Everything comes with experience, if you don’t have it, you won’t be able to become a top-level hockey player.

– You were paired with Alexei Marchenko starting from preseason games. Did he help you to get adjusted?
– I remember well when we got paired during a practice. Alexei Marchenko helped me a lot. I think he was the one who talked to me the most, we spoke a lot, practiced together. It is clear that I didn’t feel too confident during my first games, but he was still helping me, we analyzed some plays. Being paired with Marchenko is great! When you send a pass to him, you know that this d-man can do anything: either score a goal or make a nice pass. He sees options that even people in the stands don’t see. It is very cool to play with such a pro.

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“I can’t recall blocking any super shots in the KHL yet”

– After 14 KHL games, can you name players who were the toughest ones to play against?
– Igor Ozhiganov in the game against SKA. He is a top-notch defenseman. I’ve been following Igor for a long time, so it was great to play against him. As for forwards, I didn’t pay much attention to anyone in particular, I was just doing my job on the ice. We always analyze opponents before games and we know what they are capable of.

– Lokomotiv is the only team that managed to get a regulation win against SKA. Do you remember that game?
– We suffered a tough loss to SKA in the first home game, so we owed them one. We prepared well for the second game, analyzed the opponent and followed the game plan, that was where such a result followed from.

– Is blocking shots in the KHL more painful than in the JHL?
– I can’t recall blocking any super shots in the KHL yet (smiles). There are guys in the Junior Hockey League who shoot very hard too and equal elder players in strength, so I discern no difference so far.

– And what can you say about checking?
– Of course, it’s harder, because experienced men aged 25-30 play in the KHL. I knew it and I tried to work on my conditioning before the season so as to play physically. I am not a small guy myself (194 cm - note), so some things are easier for me than for smaller guys. But it’s still tough, because players are more physical than in the JHL.

– Was your size of great help in your debut at the senior level?
– Being a big defenseman is good, of course, but being able to use your size the right way is the most important thing. I discussed it with the coaches before the start of the season, they were helping me to use my size properly. There always are pros and cons. Sometimes you might lose coordination or balance. I tried to work on my weaknesses and improve my strengths. Of course, if you are taller, it will be a little easier for you to play. But at the same time, you can be clumsy, slow, it is what it is.

– You only spent one season in the JHL before making your KHL debut. What were the things that took you longest to get used to after the junior team?
– The main difference is the decision speed. In the KHL, everything is faster, they spend less time with the puck and pass more. I would also point out discipline - in the KHL they make more responsible use of set-up plays, schemes for the game, in the JHL they don’t devote so much time to this. There always are reviews before games in the KHL and certain schemes after games, so it was difficult to remember everything in terms of discipline. When a certain situation occurs on the ice, you have to adapt to it, recall everything. Getting adjusted to speeds was easier than getting used to discipline.

– Is there a significant difference between the leagues in terms of tactics?
– KHL games are tighter, they play defense first, while in the Junior League we play fast-paced hockey with lots of chances. Of course, KHL teams also rush forward and keep goalies busy, but they play smarter and more solid compared to junior teams.

– Did you feel the differences in preseason preparation right away?
– I haven’t participated in a junior team’s preseason training camp so far, because I was with the national team before the start of the 2021/2022 season, and this year I was with the main team together with Daniil But, also born in 2005. We were excused from especially hard practices, sometimes we skated less, so some allowances were made for us. The thing that surprised me in the preseason with the main team was that players’ health is constantly monitored, they keep track of everything: measure heart rate, draw blood, provide vitamins, check weight.

– Did you aim at scoring points in KHL games or did you have other goals?
– My main goal was to play solid defense, I did not think about points. There are other guys on the team to score goals, my task is to prevent shots on goal in our zone (smiles). I had some chances to score goals, but I didn’t over-focus on them and I didn’t get upset at all, I was fulfilling the coaches’ tasks. If there are chances, the goals will also be there, but if you keep thinking about not managing to score, it won’t help you do it.

– You became the first hockey player born in 2005 to play in the KHL. How did you hear about it and what was your reaction?
– I heard about it right after the game against Avtomobilist. I got some congratulations messages. I hadn’t even thought about it before the game, hadn’t checked anything.

“The team treats me like an adult, I am not being spoon-fed”

– Igor Nikitin is known for his calmness, how do you like head coach’s methods of communication?
– Obviously, it is better psychologically when things are told and explained calmly, without yelling. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that we understand the coach, and he understands us. Igor Valeryevich does not shout at us, he explains everything composedly, our task is to understand what he wants to communicate to us and do it.

– You said that Nikitin treats you “not like a young player, but like a regular player of the team.”
– Igor Valeryevich was of great help mental-wise, he is a very good coach and judge of character. As for the attitude, I’ve said that the team treats me like an adult. I was not being spoon-fed – we had straight one-on-one talks when it was required. It is nice to be treated the same way as older guys are, it makes you feel like you are a part of the team.

– Your ice time changed a lot in the space of 14 KHL games – from one and a half minutes to 13. What is it due to?
– I was getting more ice time in the games against Torpedo, Severstal and Dynamo, because Nikita Cherepanov was injured and I replaced him in the third pair. As I said, everything depended on me. If I had a little more than a minute of ice time per game, it means that I was unprepared and lacked self-confidence. After the first shift, the coach himself decides whether to trust me in this game or not.

– Was returning to the JHL after playing in the KHL easy for you?
– The JHL is a very strong league too. It comprises good teams. Obviously, this experience helps me in some moments. Playing defense was a way easier after returning from the KHL. It was also easier to play in terms of speed, because I returned from the league, where it is higher. Here I get more time to think in order to make the best decision.

– What are your goals for the season?
– I will not say anything about the main team, let it be a secret. As for the JHL, helping Loko win the Kharlamov Cup is the main goal for the season. My personal goal is to show my best hockey and develop my skills.

– Which teams can you call your main competitors for the Kharlamov Cup?
– SKA-1946 and Krasnaya Armiya are doing very well now. As cliche as it may sound, these two teams have always been among the strongest, so they are very dangerous not only for us, but for all other teams in general.

– What is your attitude to SHL and KHL players joining junior teams for the playoffs?
– It is not prohibited, it has always been like that, guys themselves must understand it. During the season, everyone realizes that players from the KHL or SHL can join the team. Therefore, we must do our best, prove that we are able to meet competition and contribute to the success of the team more than them.

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“I was a center until the age of 11”

– There is hardly any information about you on the internet. How did you start playing hockey?
– It was my mom who signed me up for hockey in Kostroma when I was six years old. I was practicing there from the age of six to 11, after that I was invited to Lokomotiv, and I have been playing here since then.

– Did you start playing defense right away?
– I was a center from the age of six to 11. When I joined Lokomotiv, I was already quite tall, taller than other guys, and I skated well. The coach said that I would make a good defenseman, and I did not mind, I didn’t have a thorough understanding yet. I liked playing defense, so I continued to play this position, I did not have a desire to move back to playing forward.

– Were there any blueliners you looked up to when you were younger?
– I didn’t follow hockey so closely back then, but I remember my dad showing me Lindstrom highlights when I was a child - he became a role model for me, I started watching highlights myself.

– What do you do in your free time?
– I love reading. Now I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo, a real page turner, I encourage everyone to read it. I also like other sports, basketball is my second favorite sport after hockey. I would say, I am pretty good at it, I don’t know what others would say (smiles). I also follow American football, an interesting sport. I haven’t actually played it, but I love watching it. I play video games, but I can’t call myself an avid gamer.

– Would you like to try playing American football?
– To be honest, I would love to have some training sessions and try playing it. I’m all for it.

– There aren’t many avid readers among hockey players, how do you manage to fit books into your busy schedule?
– In fact, saying that there is no free time is just an excuse (smiles). There are always 20-30 minutes before going to bed. You wake up at 8 am, have a practice at 8:30 and does it last till 10 pm? It does not. A couple of hours a day for reading can definitely be found. I did not really like to read when I was a child, but luckily my parents fostered my interest in it, it became a habit. As my years increased, I began to like it, not only I enjoy reading, but also enhance the brain functions.

– What books did you like the most?
– Number one is The Master and Margarita. Number two is The Count of Monte Cristo, even though I haven’t finished it yet. Number three is The Idiot. I don’t read classics very often, but I will still name this particular book. It is a difficult one, and I am very pleased that I was able to trudge through it. I don't think many people manage to plough through this novel.

– With such a love for literature, are you going to take the Unified State Exam in it?
– (laughs) No, I won’t take the Unified State Exam at all. I am on college now, it had been decided that I would enter it after the ninth grade. It was not only my decision, we made it together with my parents.

– Is high hockey IQ a gift that is either given or not, or can it be boosted and improved?
– There are people who just have it, but if you don’t develop it, you can easily lose this skill. You can always find ways for development: reading books, watching top hockey. I believe that it is very important to do other sports as a child: basketball, soccer, volleyball, depending on what a kid likes. It also develops IQ, you need to improve focus, reaction.

– What would you do if it wasn’t for hockey?
– If it wasn’t for hockey, I would like to become a basketball player. But before starting playing hockey, I played chess from the age of three to six and was doing pretty well. I could continue playing chess, everything is possible.

– Do you still play chess or did you make it a thing of the past?
– When I see my dad, we always play chess. I myself also play on my phone - one or two games every day, I still like it. It’s also one of the ways to improve your IQ, because you have to think two or three moves ahead when you play chess, it helps a lot both on the ice and in life.

– Whom would you like to play a game of chess against?
− Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. I’ve seen this chess prodigy “humiliating” his opponents.

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