The hockey player learns how to play guitar and dreams of winning the Gagarin Cup.
SKA-1946 defenseman Arseny Koromyslov played his first game with SKA-Varyagi when he was 15. The blueliner was moving up the tiers to play for all teams of the franchise in the space of four years and make his KHL debut with SKA in the 2019/20 season. At that time, the young player was only 16 years old. In November 2022, Koromyslov was given a chance to become a full-time player of the main team and he successfully used it. The defenseman averages 15 minutes per game in the KHL.
In an interview with the JHL website, Arseny talked about winning the championship with SKA-1946, playing at the 2021 U18 WC, discussed the club’s system, motivation and hardest-hitting teammates.
– What did you keep yourself busy with during the All-Star break?
– Some ordinary activities: working out, going for a walk with guys, resting from hockey, but I did work on my conditioning too. We had a sauna a lot of times, relaxed. The only interesting thing is that I was learning how to play guitar.
– Why guitar?
– I wanted to learn how to play it even when I was a child. But it was sort of a fleeting desire back then. And now, as I grew older, my mom gave me a guitar for the New Year, so I develop my fine motor skills.
– Viktor Tsoi’s songs are often the first ones to learn on guitar.
– I have learned two songs and the third one will be of Viktor Tsoi. The first one is kids’ song The Green Grasshopper, the second one is a Russian folk song and Pack of Cigarettes is to be my number three.
– Do you prefer individual workouts, rest or playing in the JHL and VHL during such breaks?
– When I happened not to play some games, I always asked to be sent to the JHL and VHL to avoid rustiness, and they did so. During this break there were no JHL games played and the VHL team was on the road, there was no point in going there for one game. That was why I was working out by myself during the break. But in general, I am always glad to play for any team of the franchise.
– Can you sum up your personal results of the first half of the season?
– It is hard to put my thoughts into unambiguous sentence, there were ups and downs, which is quite normal for any hockey career. I played in the JHL and was called up to the main team, played several VHL games. I appeared in five or six KHL games in a row before the break. It was a tough period, but things are not going to get easier, I need to overcome all difficulties and keep working hard.
– Playing in the KHL, do you worry that making a mistake can lead to being benched?
– The thing you worry about is not a shift becoming the last one, but letting your team down. You get ice time, get counted on, get trusted, you have to justify it. That is why you don’t want to make a mistake. I rewatch all my games, mistakes are still there, I believe it is quite a natural thing. I try to do my best and go full force every game. Thus, I think I perform quite well in most games, but there are things that can be improved.
– You averaged 15-17 minutes per night in the KHL, did you feel that you were in the optimal game shape?
– I guess, I really was. It was the first time I played so many KHL games in a row. But I need to point out that there were many injuries and young players got their chance to play games, I was not the only one: Kirill Kirsanov born in 2002, Grisha Gryaznov born in 2000, we were a support echelon.
– It happened that being dressed for a game you did not play any minutes, or had only a few shifts. What did you feel after such games?
– Nothing special, it is my job: I am to play and help my team when needed. I played for 30 seconds in a situation when a player took a puck to his face and needed medical assistance. I was to replace my teammate for one shift. It also happened that a player got injured and could not continue playing, so I had 14 minutes of ice time. I always await my chance, I see no reason to be offended and upset because of not playing any minutes, it will do no good. If I don’t get to play, I just keep working, go cycle and continue to prepare for the following game.
– Being with the main team, you have already played against Artemy Pleshkov, Ilya Ivantsov and other players you know well from playing for Rus, what did you feel facing them on the ice?
– It is always an interesting experience, because we all are still friends. But only few players make it to the highest level, so everyone wants to see friends on the ice, even if playing against one another. Such moments remain memorable. I am glad to see my former teammates and friends playing in the KHL.
– Which player of the main team gives you some pointers on and off the ice most often?
– All the players offer their help to me, which I am very grateful to them for. But sometimes it happens so that four or five guys tell me something in a course of a game, I might forget or mix something up... In any case, pointers are very important, I analyze them after games.
– Having moved all the way up the tiers, what can you say about the effectiveness of SKA vertical?
– It works perfectly well. After Rus we joined SKA-Varyagi, it was an important stage for us. Then was SKA-1946 - the players there are stronger, the responsibility is wider. You are to progress and play with the best guys. In the VHL, players are elder and the speed is higher, so you keep progressing. You need to be on a par with other guys.
– Do you already feel like a player of the main team in terms of physicality and mentality?
– Yes, I feel that I can play, but I also understand that there still are many things to improve: speed, battles, quick decision-making, skating. It is important for a defenseman to work on these components. KHL ice time helps to progress faster.
– Does the fact that you don’t have any points in the KHL brings some pressure to bear?
– Playing defense is my main task for now. When I earn a roster spot and full trust, I will be able to link up with the attack. When we played the latter game against Minsk, I had a chance to score my first point when Dmitrij Jaskin found the back of the net. But the puck rebounded from a Dinamo player. Scoring points is not my top priority, they are down the road.
– You mentioned that competition among defensemen is intense, has the situation changed when you moved up to the KHL?
– The competition is undoubtedly there, as SKA always aims at winning the Gagarin Cup. Some of the strongest players of the League play for this team, they know what their goal is and do their job the right way. And I am here to learn from them and to try to earn some ice time.
– Are there some KHL opponents who stand out in particular?
– As a rule, there are none. But it is one of my teammates who sticks out in my mind. In the preseason, we did some 2-on-2 drills. We were mainly focusing on defense, so D-men were not taking any shots, we were just working on playing defense and by the end of the practice we were given some time to play. That was when I thought: “The moment for some dangles has arrived.” So, I started dangling and bang: I found myself sitting on the ice. I got on my feet, saw the puck, rushed towards it, and got checked into the board – and there I was, sitting on the ice again. I decided to check who it was, and Dmitrij Jaskin it was. I found myself sitting on the ice twice in the span of five seconds. I don’t even know how to justify myself, my plan was dead in the water. That is something I do remember, you’d better not dangle on him.
– Do you think you should try to play more physically?
– Yes, I really like the way Mikhail Pashnin hits, I believe, I am not alone in this opinion. I’ve already asked him three times: “How?” He says: “If you see an opponent with his head down, hit him right away.” Easier said than done, but when I see a player with a head down, I feel like I will try to hit and I will fail. Of course, experience is important, you need to practice in order to find the right moment to throw a check.
– What does it feel like to make your JHL debut at the age of 15?
– Being thrusted into the spotlight because of young age is nice, but I had a similar experience with Rus. I went to the U18 Russian championship, where guys born in 2001 also played. So, I had no fear making my JHL debut. I knew what the task was and was doing my job to secure a roster spot.
– In addition to the JHL, you also became the youngest debutant of the main team having played for SKA at the age of 16 years, 10 months and 20 days. How did you prepare for your debut?
– There was no special preparation. It was a tough year for everyone, SKA-1946 were about to go on the road, but some problems occurred in the main team. I was one of those young players who were called up to play, I was informed about it three hours before the game. I didn’t even realize that this would be my KHL debut, it felt like before some exhibition game, but when I hit the ice in front of full stands, it got through to me quickly.
– You were on the ice when the final buzzer sounded and SKA-1946 became a champion.
– I can say for sure that I watched the last ten minutes of the game 100 times: from the moment Matvei Michkov scored and we allowed a goal soon after. Every time I get upset and think: “Why did we have to allow one right away? With 3-1 on the scoreboard, we could have played the score but instead we got a nail-biter.
It was the biggest win for me, I had never played playoff games at such level before. SKA-1946 beat Krylya Sovetov, then Moscow Dynamo, then there was a tough series against Irbis. Seeing your team win the championship is an unforgettable experience. I was extremely happy.
– Did you manage to take the Kharlamov Cup to Rus, as you planned?
– No, I didn’t, because I was abroad on the day I was supposed to spend with the Cup. I did not manage to bring it to the school I am an alumnus of, but that’s okay. I will bring the Gagarin Cup instead (smiles).
– Playing in the JHL, do you feel that opponents are highly motivated when facing the champion?
– It seems to me that all opponents have always been highly motivated when facing SKA-1946, the same was true even before we won championship. Perhaps we will feel it acutely in the playoffs, because we have a very strong team this year as well, we stand a good chance to duplicate the success.
– You are a Moscow hockey trainee, was moving to St. Petersburg hard for you?
– No, it actually wasn’t. Playing hockey was my main priority and my mom took care of relocation process. I was not alone, but with my friends, it also made things easier. We stuck together, stayed close. We had a good season with SKA-Varyagi.
– Has St. Petersburg already become an adopted home for you?
– It has. I got used to living here and I started loving the city, I have been living here for four years now, after all. The thing that distinguishes St. Petersburg from Moscow in the KHL is a perfect rink attended by 10-12 thousand fans for each game. Such high attendance is not quite typical for Moscow, even CSKA-SKA games attract less spectators. But I still treasure Moscow in heart, it is my home, I spent 15 years of my life there. I always feel nostalgic when I am in Moscow.
– Defensemen often say: “Only those who don’t play have no penalty minutes”. What is your opinion?
– I started having less penalty minutes when I moved up to the JHL. I used to have a large number of penalties when I was with the school, but it was more of a psychological aspect: should someone touch me, I would fight. Things are different in the JHL, in most cases I take penalties for some kind of unnecessary stupid hooking which is unintentional. Playing in the KHL, I am 100% focused so as to avoid hooking and making my team play shorthanded.
As for the phrase itself, it seems to me that a player may avoid penalties if he is passive when battling. And some defensemen in certain teams are required to be active and aggressive. This might make guys deliver a late hit and take a bad penalty. In any case, it is better to avoid penalties, the one who doesn’t take penalties does a good job (smiles).
– You played center when you were a child. Did you ever feel like moving back to playing forward?
– Such thoughts used to come to my head early on. But I did well playing defense, so I easily gave up this idea. Now I am totally fine with what I have: I join rushes, can demonstrate my skills. Well, to be honest, I don’t think I would be a great forward, I think I would be an average one and it is not quite what I want - you always need to be the best. Playing forward requires speed, I am able to skate fast, but when it comes to my explosive speed, there is undoubtedly some room for improvement. Having that said, I do my job playing defense and I like it.
– What is the reason for the shortage of offensive defensemen and how can this situation be changed for the better?
– Well, I haven’t been following, but I will name two guys I know personally, they are Daniil Pylenkov and Alexander Nikishin born in 2001, both of them are offensive defensemen. Igor Ozhiganov can be named as well. He scores goals and produces points, so I see no such problem. Yes, they do not score as many goals as forwards do, but still, points are not their top priority, they link up with the attack at the right moment.
– You won silver at the 2021 U18 WC. What did the national team lack to win gold?
– I don’t want to look for excuses, but I think everyone understands that many things are done at such tournaments so that it’s not us who win. We played the semi-final game at 7pm, and the final game was scheduled for 1pm on the following day. We had almost no time to get rested in contrast with Canadians (Team Canada played the semi-final game four hours earlier - note). We all went to bed at three or four in the morning, but not because we were having some fun, it’s just that it’s always hard to fall asleep after such games. We took the lead twice but allowed a bad goal playing shorthanded late in the first period. I would not say that we lost momentum, but we allowed one more goal and didn’t manage to come back. Plus, we failed to convert on power play when the goalie was pulled. Of course, I don’t play the world’s smallest violin every day because of that, but I am upset that we won silver. Even my phone’s screen saver shows the moto “Only gold, no silver.” If I can be number one, why should I be number two? My opinion is that we should have won, we played well.
– Do you mean to say that at the international competitions they sometimes act against Team Russia?
– I’d hate to say that, but there are certain little things that stick in players’ minds. When discussing that U18 WC with guys, someone made a point: “Do you remember, we were placed first in the group standings and were supposed to stay at our rink, but instead we went to a different city to play against the team placed fourth in another group?” I mean, we were supposed to stay and play the quarterfinal game on our ice, but we had to go to a different arena. Not a big thing, but it does stick in some players’ minds.
– Playing against Team USA, you came back from a 5-1 deficit to win the game 7-6 in overtime. Is it one of the most memorable games in your career?
– I think so. To be honest, we were much stronger than Team USA. It didn’t take us long to make it 4-5, all the guys were excited, we kept on saying: “Keep playing!”, “Keep pushing on!”. Then we allowed one more goal and thought: “How come?”. We scored one more with one minute to go in the second period. Danila Yurov didn’t manage to score on a breakaway in the third period, but we still tied the game to score the game-winner in overtime. I cannot call the beginning of this tournament perfect, but we demonstrated our character, it was important and we got it going.
– Team Russia does not participate in major international tournaments these days. Where should a young player look for motivation given such situation?
– We need to keep working to be ready to play for the Russian men’s national team at the World Championships and Olympic games when things get back to normal. This is what the motivation should be. I felt bad when Russia stripped of World Junior Championship, but it is what it is. The 2002 teams did not have a U18 WC due to coronavirus pandemic. I will keep working hard in order to be able to play for the men’s national team, this is my motivation.
– Your father used to box, your mother is a former sambo athlete, did you do these sports too?
– Yes, when I was a child, I used to box with my dad a lot, and my mom often showed me some nice moves. But a hockey fight is a different story, some other things become important: you need to grab a player so that he doesn’t skate away, somehow block his hand. Plus, you are to keep your balance so as no to fall on the ice. Boxing and hockey fights are worlds apart, my father would be of no help here. But he taught me punching techniques.
– Is it easy to put you out of temper?
– It seems to me that it’s a very hard thing to do. Nikolai Yakovlevich Pavlov who coached me when I was a kid, paid special attention to this aspect. He only wished me well and I learned a great deal from him, which I am grateful for. When I was cheсked during a practice and if it was a bad hit, he would not blow his whistle, he tempered my character. That is why now it’s very hard to put me out of temper, one can try to get under my skin until hell freezes over. I don't want to make my team play shorthanded.
– What are other important things in addition to keeping a cool head on the ice that the coach taught you?
– Just like Ilya Ivantsov, I use my head, I mean I play smart, it’s what we have been taught playing for Rus. Thanks largely to this, we won those two Russian championships and unofficial world club championships. Passing and making plays were everything we had.
– What can you say about working with Sergei Zubov, the legendary Russian defenseman, who is now a member of SKA coaching staff?
– When I was with the national team, I didn’t manage to get to know him better and work that closely with him, because he was the head coach. And now, I enjoy working with him. He offers some drills and some transition options that I couldn’t even though of. Even after practices, when we play 3-on-3, his skills are very noticeable, they are still there. It is great to have such a person to learn from.
– Do you mainly pick some things up from players of the previous century, or do you focus your attention on modern hockey stars?
– Both. But these two categories can hardly be compared, as hockey has changed a lot. Today a team can play 1-2-2 and you can’t do anything but dump the puck into their zone. You can try to pass or use pattern plays any given number of times, but they would play defense which is hard to beat. I always pay attention to other guys playing smart so as to use some moves in a difficult situation.
– How do you like the 3-on-3 format?
– I love it. But I don’t have full understanding of what the rules should be, because it can be a half-ice 3-on-3 tournament with one set of rules, or a full-ice tournament with some other set of rules. When the format is averaged, everything will be clear. And now it is, roughly speaking, “my favorite overtime”, but I like it.
– You have a good plus−minus statistic for a fourth-liner.
– I put a lot of time into working on it. Since early age we are taught that a good plus−minus statistic means that you do not allow goals, do everything the right way and help to score goals. I hate allowing goals. Every time an opponent finds the back of our net during my shift, I think: “Why? How could we let this happen?"
– You study at the Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health to be a coach. Matvei Polyakov from SKA-1946 finds it pretty much impossible to balance studies and sports. Do you agree?
– I can agree that it’s a hard thing to do. Well, you just focus on subjects that are important for you personally. Stepan Anisimov is a bright illustration of the opposite. If we have a practice scheduled for noon, he attends one or two first classes in the morning. He can also go to the university right after practice. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I don’t do the same, but I still try to avoid academic deficiencies, and study subjects slowly but surely.
– When a coach is a former defenseman, he believes more in a defensive style of play. What is your attitude to this?
– I would be happy to practice an offensive style of play, because I find it more exciting. When you play with the puck a lot and get a lopsided win, everyone is pleased and happy, it even seems easier to play. I know some coaches who are former defensemen and who believe in offensive hockey.
– You have summed up the results of the first half of the season, and what are your goals for the second one?
– To be getting more ice time, to do my job, to jump into the rush more often (smiles), to win the Gagarin Cup. If I am told to go and help SKA-1946 or SKA-Neva - to take the title with them, to achieve my personal best point production and plus-minus stats. My global goal is to keep getting better every season.