“Being ranked first gives confidence, but we cannot afford to be complacent.” Daniil Sotishvili – about his first JHL season

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09.12.2022 в 13:30

“Being ranked first gives confidence, but we cannot afford to be complacent.” Daniil Sotishvili – about his first JHL season

The forward tops the list of the League’s best scorers with 35 (12+23) points amassed.

Bobruisk Dinamo-Shinnik has joined the Junior Hockey League in the 2022/2023 season. It is a member of the Silver Division of the Western Conference and is ranked first with 37 points after 29 games played.

Daniil Sotishvili, a leader of his team is having a great first season in the JHL: he is the League’s top scorer and ranks second among assists leaders. In the 2021/2022 season, the forward played in the Extraleague, was the captain of the Belarus national junior team and participated in Minsk Dinamo’s preseason training camp in the summer. In an interview with the JHL press service, Daniil Sotishvili talked about his impressions of playing in the League and being a leader, his goals for the season and spare time activities.

“JHL offers a good chance to prove yourself”

– You are now in your first JHL season. How do you like it here?
– I really like it here. It’s a great league with young guys, we play fast paced games. JHL offers a good chance to prove yourself. I like that well-rounded skillful guys play here. It is not like all players are similar, everyone has their own strengths.

– How did playing your first games feel?
– I had sort of mixed emotions at the very beginning, I had to get adjusted to the speed, smaller rink, battles. I had a hard time getting used to smaller ice surface, there’s less room and you have to make decisions faster. But it didn’t take me long to get adjusted, everything clicked into place after one or two games played.

– Did you feel jittery back then?
– Of course, but the very first shift helped me get rid of my jitters. I was worried because I had no idea what kind of league it was, as I had never played here before. All the rest was as always.

– How do you feel now, three months later?
– Every JHL rookie grows in confidence with the passing of time. We have already played many games and I feel better now.

– You played in the Extraleague. In what way is it different from the JHL?
– It’s hard to compare. The level of the Extraleague is completely different, men play there, and JHL players are under 21. But the experience of playing with elder guys helps me now. It’s easier for me in a way, because we had to play more physically in the Extraleague.

– How do Bobruisk fans support you?
– They’ve been awesome. I want to thank them, we do feel their support. At the start of the season, we didn’t even expect it to be that great. People cheer for us, send messages on social media, talk to us after games, congratulate on wins. Being supported is really nice – it adds confidence.

“I don’t aim at being the top scorer. I take the ice to contribute to the success of my team in each game”

– You are the League’s top scorer and rank second among assists leaders. What do you feel about such achievements?
– Points are important for a player, especially for a forward. But I don’t over-focus on it. Team result must come before personal statistics. Points boost confidence, but I cannot be complacent, I need to get better every day.

– Do you follow the scoring race?
– I happen to check it, but not often. My teammates usually give some updates. I don’t aim at being the top scorer. I take the ice to contribute to the success of my team in each game, the rest will take care of itself.

– Do you feel like a leader of your team?
– I feel responsible, I cannot let my team down. I do understand that there are younger players, but the age gap is not huge. We help one another, give some pointers, no matter how old a player is. We have a great team atmosphere: we stick together, support one another and fight for the team.

– Dinamo-Shinnik is ranked first in the Silver Division of the Western Conference. Did you expect such thing to happen at the beginning of the season?
– We have a goal - to make it to the Gold Division. Being ranked first gives confidence, but we cannot afford to be complacent. It is important to take the ice to win every game regardless of the standings.

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“I want to make my KHL debut. But while I’m with Dinamo-Shinnik, the main goal is to win games here”

– The 2021/2022 season was a busy one for you: Extraleague debut, playing for the national team, preseason with Minsk Dinamo. And now, you are a leader in the JHL. How does such growth feel?
– I agree, it was very busy indeed. And it’s cool. I feel that I have made improvements to all components: both in conditioning and mentality. But there is still a lot of work to be done, you must never stop progressing.

– At the Black Sea Cup in May, you wore the letter “C” for the first time in your career. Was it a team decision?
– No, we had little time, so the coach took on this responsibility. I was pleased, but it was unexpected, because I had never been a captain before that. I had pregame jitters, I was wearing the letter “C” for the first time after all, I felt bigger responsibility, I had to lead my team. I am grateful to my partners, they helped and supported me.

– You participated in Minsk Dinamo’s preseason training camp in the summer. How was it?
– It was great. I am glad that I participated in Dinamo’s training camp, it is a great experience for me. I worked with good specialists, with a team of skilled players, received valuable pieces of advice. The elder guys were telling me that I needed to make quicker decisions. I enjoyed the atmosphere, Dinamo has a great team.

– What difficulties did you face?
– The speed is higher and they play more physically. It took me a couple of practices to get used to this level, and then I got adjusted.

– What are your personal plans for the season?
– Any young JHL player wants to prove himself and move up the tiers to a Kontinental Hockey League team. I also want to make my debut with Minsk Dinamo. But while I’m with Dinamo-Shinnik, the main goal is to win games here.

“Pavel Datsyuk is a true wonder-worker. I tried to model myself on him when I was a child”

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– Let us look back at your childhood. How did you start playing hockey?
– Quite a typical story: my dad took me to a game, I liked it and got signed up for hockey. I started skating in Novopolotsk. It sometimes happened so that things didn’t work out well, but it never even crossed my mind that hockey was not my thing. On the contrary, I wanted to work harder to correct my mistakes.

– How did you do at school?
– I had average school performance. When I was in Novopolotsk, I studied at a regular school. We had practices in the evening, so I managed to balance everything, sometimes teachers made concessions. Then I moved to Minsk and played for Dinamo. We had a sports class there, studying was easier: we had practices in the morning and school in the afternoon.

– You do interviews pretty often. Is it important for a modern hockey player?
– I believe, one should not decline interviews. I check mine when they are published to see what I said, wondering whether I stuck my foot in my mouth (laughs). I analyze them so as to be ready next time.

– What do you do in your free time?
– I like playing ping-pong. I remember we had a table in Dinamo children's sports school and we used to play a lot. I still like it. I tried playing tennis too, it’s pretty challenging. I didn’t do too good at it.

– What other sports do you like?
– If there are some interesting Champions League or National Basketball Association games played, I watch them. I follow the World Cup in Qatar a bit, but as a rule, my busy schedule doesn’t allow me to watch matches. And I always root for quality soccer.

– What athletes do you seek inspiration from?
– I think that any hockey player has something you can learn from. When I was a child, I really liked Pavel Datsyuk: his style, his dangles, his shot. He is a true wonder-worker. I tried to model myself on him, but I did not always succeed (laughs).

– What kind of rest do you prefer?
– It depends. Let’s say, this summer I just wanted to have a thorough rest and relax after a busy season. When I was a child, I liked going to the country house or to my grandma’s place and enjoy outdoor activities there.

– Do you manage to see the cities when you are on a road trip with the team?
– Yes, we have some free time, so we walk around cities a little. I love all of them, both big and small ones. Each city is interesting and has its sights that I want to see. So, I have a bunch of options for holiday destinations.

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