“Let’s make it Kucherov-like.” Semyon Demidov – about his brother’s records, SKA and being called Beagle Boys

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11.01.2023 в 17:00

“Let’s make it Kucherov-like.” Semyon Demidov – about his brother’s records, SKA and being called Beagle Boys

The older Demidov brother revealed himself as a goal scorer in the JHL.

The Demidov brothers moved to SKA from the Vityaz system, where they were noticeable both with the club and the national team. Despite the impressive point production of each of the brothers, the first time they played together was in the winter of 2022, and in the autumn, they played on the same line for the first time. The chemistry became evident right away: Ivan is great at assisting on goals by giving passes to his brother at any opportunity, and Semyon works to get open for a pinpoint pass and light the lamp. The older Demidov brother is one of the JHL goals leaders. The forward has scored 20 goals in 20 games while he has appeared in almost half as many games as his immediate competitors.

In an interview with the JHL website, Semyon talked about moving to SKA and playing with his brother, winning the championship, the JWC being shuttered and also explained why he and Ivan are called Beagle Boys.

“My brother is a sort of a funster, he loves that kind of thing: shooting videos, dancing, I am more modest when it comes to this”

– How did you celebrate the New Year?
– In the family circle. We did nothing special.

– What can you say about your current conditioning?
– It is at a good level, because we had a long break, there was enough time for practicing and working out, the schedule was not too busy.

– Is it disappointing that other people have a week off while hockey players have to return to training after a day or two?
– We are sort of used to it. Last year we were at the WJC and celebrated the New Year in Canada. So, it is quite a usual situation. We take it easy, as we know that it is our life and job.

– You are now in your final JHL season, do you feel greater responsibility?
– Obviously being an older player, I have wider responsibility, as I have to lead younger guys and set a good example for them to follow. Wearing the ‘C’ and the ‘A’ also makes you feel more responsible.

– You played six KHL games for Vityaz in the 2021/22 season. Is it tough when you don’t get to play at the adult level for so long?
– I wouldn’t say that it’s tough. JHL hockey is considered to be the fastest, as players are young and are able to skate a lot, while men use their heads more and play smarter. Well yes, KHL players are bigger, but I feel quite happy with where I am now.

– So, the fact that you don’t get to play adult hockey on a regular basis won’t be an issue when you are not eligible for the JHL?
– It won’t, as I have played quite a number of VHL games, spent the preseason with SKA-Neva before the start of the season. I know many guys personally and I am aware of how they play. In general, I do have an understanding of how games are played in every league. The most important thing is to play enough minutes and not get rusty. SKA has a great system in place which allows you to move up the tiers. Luckily, I was born late in 2002 and I am able to play in the JHL and average 20 minutes per night. Some guys born earlier the same year are suffering a lack of experience of playing at the adult level. I have an opportunity to gain such experience and improve my game, which I am happy about. Being able to play games is the most important thing.

– The 2021/22 season was a busy one for you: making your KHL debut, playing in all three leagues, relocation and moving to a different club…
– The start of the previous year was pretty successful. I was producing points both with the club and the national team. I believe it was the reason for me to be called up to SKA (smiles). But when I moved to St. Petersburg something went wrong. It was a new team for me and even though I knew everyone, I didn’t feel quite right. I started to self-chastise and my performance became poorer. The first part of the 2021/22 was perfect, but then I was struggling a bit. I started to calm myself down, I realized that everything was fine and I just needed to do my job, keep working hard and scoring some goals.

– How did you deal with low spirits?
– It’s important to realize that things are way less than perfect and to regroup before it’s too late. If you see a problem and do nothing about it, it means that you don’t actually see it. In the summer I worked on my mental health, read certain books. In this respect, I learned a lot from basketball player Kobe Bryant. I read his book and watched the movie where he shared his experience of overcoming challenges. I like to read about how world-class stars deal with problems.

– Are games against Russkie Vityazi statement ones for you?
– Well, I have never played against them. We are to play them in January, so I will finally have a chance to face my former team on the ice. It will be an interesting experience, there are many familiar faces on this team.

– In Vityaz the Demidov – Savin – Smirnov line was doing well, now you have good chemistry with your brother in SKA. Do you manage to build it right away?
– Yes, especially if we take 2022. It’s even hard for me to remember how many lines I played on. It seems that I played with each and every guy (smiles). I realized that I can do well with any linemates. During a first period, I follow their actions, get adjusted and then play the same style as they do. If we speak about the Vityaz line, I’ve known Kolya Smirnov since I was eight, we played together in Dmitrov, then he spent a while in Yaroslavl and we played together again after that. So, good chemistry was built and I consider him to be an ideal linemate. I won’t say anything about my brother. It’s unbelievable, I can’t feel more comfortable playing with him. Gosha Savin is a great linemate too, our line chemistry was really good.

– What did you feel when moving to SKA?
– Needless to say that playing for SKA is very prestigious, and the same is true for any league. You might as well say that joining SKA means joining the number one team in Russia. When Mosya (Danila Moiseyev - note) and Bardak (Zakhar Bardakov - note) moved there, they were shocked and happy. In my case it was a story in its own right. I returned from Sweden with the national team. I had a fever and stayed home to get some sleep during the day. I woke up after a two-hour nap and saw a gazillion of missed calls. I answered the call, and heard: “You are now with SKA.” Playing in this club is incredibly nice, but it is different in terms of the competition. It is huge, while many teams dress same lines most of the times, in SKA three or four players compete for one roster spot. The competition for a spot on the roster is constant and acutely felt.

– When playing for Vityaz, you said that you prefer being a playmaker. Being with SKA, have you changed the focus from being credited with assists to scoring goals?
– No, I haven’t. I always try to dictate the terms of play. It’s just that my brother is an ideal linemate for me, so I just work to get open for a pass. When I play with other linemates, I myself create some chances. I know that Vanya is better at puck control and stick-handling, so I prefer to get open. But if it’s me who has the puck, I will also work to create a chance for him.

– You mentioned that you watch both old-school and modern highlights. Speeds and battles used to be different, didn’t they?
– I can agree that they did. We mainly watch modern hockey these days, because the speeds are three to four times higher. Time was, if you had good skating skills, you could have the edge over other players. It’s like with the Russian Five: Сanadians just followed them with their eyes and did not know what to do. I watch old school and great players videos. And today it is possible to watch and analyze any hockey player’s actions on the ice. Every player has his own style. Obviously, today everyone follows McDavid, he is an ideal player, he really rocks in the NHL. However, I follow Nikita Kucherov closer. I know I won't skate like McDavid, so I follow the player I would love to play the similar style with.

– Your social media engagement has increased, how do you feel about it?
– My opinion is that social media is what the world is built on nowadays. To be honest, I am not an active user, because, as they say, when you start talking, you stop playing. Before the New Year, my brother and I took part in shooting several videos for the club. I had gotten adjusted by that moment, so I said yes to it, even though it was my first experience. My brother is a sort of a funster, he loves that kind of thing: shooting videos, dancing, I am more modest when it comes to this. SKA-1946 are very active on social media, it’s really cool.

“I would love to break Shalagin’s record, I need to score 28 more goals… it is quite a challenge”

– Your brother was a goal scorer before you were placed on the same line, and now he is a playmaker. Were the roles distributed in advance?
– It took us a couple of games to get used to playing together, as we had never done it before at such a level. After a while, I got an understanding of what would be better for me, I saw that sometimes he is better at puck control and dangles and I just need to get open and look for a way to score a goal. Things started clicking: he always finds me on the ice, I get open and score. We share some sort of unexplainable connection.

– Your Vityaz line was called Kucherov – Gusev – Gallo, are you and your brother being compared to anybody?
– Ilya Vakhtangovich Grebennikov, our conditioning coach, came up with a funny idea to call us Beagle Boys. That is what we are sometimes jokingly called. It is the only thing that comes to my mind.

– Ivan made his KHL debut with SKA. Did you give him any pieces of advice before or after his first game?
– I messaged him right before the game that day, told him that KHL players are totally different, they are world-class stars. I advised him to stay cool, play his game and, most importantly, play with confidence. When I made my KHL debut, I felt jittery and sometimes confused, and it did affect my performance. We are facing humans, not robots, after all (smiles). These are things I told him.

– What do you need to improve in order to be able to play for the main team?
– There are many aspects that need to be improved. I do have some strengths but there are certain weaknesses. My skating is one of them, while my brother’s skating skills are divine. I think he is the best skater in Russia. As for me, it is something I need to work on, as well as my speed. If you are skating fast, you are one step ahead of others.

– Do you follow Ivan’s stats and records?
– To be honest, before the game against Almaz when we scored four or five points each, I had told him: “Let’s make it Kucherov-like. I’ll help you, make sure to give some passes.” And that was what we did. And at the All-Star Game, I told him: “This hockey is perfect for you: skating with slow feet and having no battles, that’s just the way you’d prefer to beat anyone any day” (laughs). Joking aside, he does a great job indeed.

– And do you check the list of top goal scorers? You rank high on it.
– I do happen to check it (smiles). The thing is that I got sick four times since September thus I have played so few games. Of course, I would love to break Mikhail Shalagin’s record – 48 goals scored in the 2018/19 season. Hence, I need to score 28 more goals… it is quite a challenge (smiles).

– You encouraged your brother to avoid being puffed up and haughty. How important is it for today’s young players?
– It is the most important thing. I’m not just saying for the sake of it, I’ve seen suchlike people. It even happened that I suffered from VIP syndrome until one of the older guys delivered a wake-up call. Such pieces of advice are passed down through the generations. My brains have been straightened out, so I know what to say to my brother or any other young player.

– Ivan mentioned that playing hockey was the only option for him when he was a child, since you were playing it. Tell us about your path to the game of hockey.
– It was our father who signed us up for hockey, he used to play it too. He was not a high-level player, but he dedicated his life to this sport. You might as well say that I had no choice either, but I was fine about it (smiles). Our father was teaching us to skate, there would be no Beagle Boys in hockey if it wasn’t for him.

– Why did it happen so that you guys were developing your careers with different clubs: you were with Vityaz and Ivan was in Dmitrov and with Lokomotiv?
– We are from Dmitrov, and we started playing hockey there when we were kids. I played there until I was about eleven years old, and then I moved to Vityaz. Before my last year in Dmitrov, I spent a season with Moscow Dynamo, then moved to Podolsk. My brother moved from Dmitrov to Lokomotiv, and to Vityaz after that. And then he joined SKA, three months earlier than I did.

“We were a notch above the rest, I had confidence in our team, any of the players was able to make a difference”

– Does the rivalry between your team and Loko give extra motivation to win games?
– They are leading now, but if we win all our games, we will be one point ahead when we have the same number of games played. We were nine points ahead after November, but then we had some bad games in Belarus and Sakhalin, and we squandered the lead. In my opinion, low motivation was the reason for losing games to our rivals from the Silver division.

– Your team is to spend the entire month of January on home ice, will it be a substantial advantage?
– Yes, it’s a big plus. Firstly, because of fans’ support, and secondly, because of the ice itself, we skate every day and know every millimeter of it. We are tough to play against in our barn. We definitely need to win all home games.

– You have taken more than 200 face-offs in the JHL. What can you say about your experience in this component of the game?
– Being with Vityaz, I was sent to the VHL to play for their farm-team Ryazan. They were coached by Igor Vladimirovich Grishin back then, he decided I would play wing. The team in general was not doing great, so I asked for an opportunity to play center, and so I did in all the nine games. We practiced taking face-offs. My older teammates were teaching me how to win more face-offs, hence the experience.

– You have quite a number of goal streaks with six to nine goals scored in five games, but goalless streaks are always there as well. What is the reason for that?
– I want to score some goals in every single game and chances are there (smiles). Being able to score and extend a goal streak makes me feel the game, then comes a game without any goals scored and I start reproaching myself trying to figure out why I couldn’t find the back of the net. All those thoughts sow the seeds of doubt. But one goal is enough to lift in spirits and move full steam ahead to score another one.

– SKA-1946 have recently received their championship rings.
– We thought we would receive them in the summer and waited for that day to come. Someone even joked: “We won’t get them at all, they will tell us that we are to win the second cup to receive our rings!” (smiles). When I got mine, I spent a while scrutinizing it, what a nice thing it is.

– What was the team’s recipe for success?
– Best players of Russia were on the team. We were a notch above the rest, I had confidence in our team, any of the players was able to make a difference, everyone was a leader. If one would be struggling, the other one would make a step forward. All the guys were doing a good job.

– You scored two goals in the playoffs, including one in the deciding game of the finals. Was it a memorable moment for you?
– Generally speaking, I didn’t do a great job in the playoffs. I was suffering with what I’ve mentioned earlier - I couldn’t score any points and started to self-chastise. I scored my first goal in the series against Irbis, it was a one timer. As for the second one, it was in the last game against Krasnaya Armiya, on the very first shift. I received a pass, decided to whip a one-timer and pocketed a goal. The stands were fully packed, it was a deciding game and that goal made the crowd go crazy. I looked around and thought: “holy moly...” Ending the goalless streak was nice, especially given that it happened in the final game. I helped my team succeed and win the Kharlamov Cup.

– SKA-1946 head coach Vladimir Filatov said that defending the title is the team’s top-priority task. What can help the team achieve this goal?
– We must do our best to win every game. What happened yesterday doesn't matter, we are to take each day as it comes, one game at a time. We have players who know how to win the championship, we are able to win second Kharlamov Cup.

“Sergei Zubov and Igor Larionov are stars, they know what needs to be done”

– You made a strong showing at the 2022 World Junior Championship that was cancelled after four days of play. What did you feel when heading back home?
– When we arrived in Canada and entered the Edmonton arena, I looked at the stands and it seemed that the upper bowl was somewhere high in the sky. In general, the atmosphere was great, especially during the exhibition game against Team Canada. We lost our first WJC game against Team Sweden, but beat Switzerland. Team USA were the first ones to test positive and they forfeited a game. Then we and some other teams had some positive covid tests. We were to play against Slovakia, but the game was cancelled. We were in my room with Marat Khusnutdinov and I dropped a phrase: “Mar, what if the World Championship gets shuttered?” Two hours later, it was officially cancelled. There was an aching void in my heart. We celebrated the New Year and returned to Russia.

– What can you say about the conditions at the tournament?
– I could have done with fewer covid tests (smiles). We had to get up at six in the morning every day, go there to get tested, and this rubbing the nasopharyngeal cavity is not fun... There actually weren’t any bubbles, we walked by some people in Edmonton and Red Deer. The guys told me that it was unlike previous WJC. Of course, we were to follow certain rules: wearing face masks, living in single rooms. I guess, excluding contacts with third persons could have helped avoid players test positive.

– What can you say about working with Sergei Zubov?
– Working with Sergei Alexandrovich was an exciting experience, he is an open-minded person, he would always make some jokes, could go over to any player to have a talk. Having such a coach behind the bench was great. He was always ready to help, give some pointers, and his requirements were clear since the very first practice. The same is true for Igor Larionov. They are stars, they know what needs to be done.

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