In his rookie season young ‘Hawk’ Maxim Melnikov managed to surpass many of his teammates in the scoring race as he finished fourth among Omskie Yastreby forwards in scoring. The forward played almost every game in the regular season – in 57 games he scored 16 goals and notched 13 assists for 29 points. More than a solid result for a rookie. We spoke with Melnikov about his passion for hockey, his NBA career, what trophy is the most special around his house and the star fever.
FIRST STEPS IN HOCKEY
“When I was a kid, my father used to take me to Avangard [Omsk] home games. I liked the game,” says Melnikov. “It was interesting watching the games. I asked my mom and dad to buy me hockey equipment and take me to practice. I was five years old. And they did just that. Back then Jaromir Jagr was playing for Avangard. I liked him a lot. I even took his number - #68. Hockey was the only thing I did, I wasn’t interested in anything else. When I was about 12 or 13 years old I figured I wanted hockey to be my profession. Yes, there were some misfortunes and sometimes things just weren’t going my way and I thought to myself – maybe hockey isn’t for me? But then I went back to work. I knew I couldn’t live without hockey. I study to become a coach now. I try to prepare well for my exams and I do well. Whenever the season is over – I study and pass my exams.”
MOST MEMORABLE EPISODE FROM JUNIOR HOCKEY SCHOOL
“That would be when our team won Gazpromneft Cup,” says Melnikov. “It was an undescribable feeling. It can’t quite recall what year that was (2010 and Melnikov scored the game-winning goal in the final game). We faced Tyumen in the final. We were down 2-0 after first period but we got back into it and won 4-3. I remember Jaromir Jagr was in the stands at the final game. Everyone was excited.”
ON HIS ROOKIE JHL SEASON
“After graduating from junior hockey school, we were invited for a try-out game against Omskie Yastreby,” reminisces Melnikov. “After that Junior Hockey League team coaches made a decision on who was making the team and who wasn’t. The thing that stood out the most for me in my rookie season was the game itself – everything was faster and the opponents were stronger. I would say that all of the games were important and good. I was able to make a successful jump from junior hockey school to JHL because sometimes luck was on my side and I also played with good linemates – I played a lot on the line with Nikita Samokhvalov and Artyom Rozhkovsky. Although, I also played a lot with the guys I went to junior hockey school with. Most often it was Erik Blinov. However, I believe I could have played better. I’d set a goal before the season to help my team play well but we couldn’t do it.”
ON HIS FIRST GOAL
“I didn’t expect the puck to bounce the way it did,” remembers Melnikov. “When I understood that I scored, I got very excited. Every coach gave me a high-five and said – Good job, Max! Now I want to score my first KHL goal. So far my most special trophy is Most Valuable Player Award I received at Alexei Cherepanov Memorial in Omsk.”
ON HIS SPARE TIME
“I like to go for a walk and spend some time with PlayStation,” says with a laugh Melnikov. “I play FIFA, NHL and UFC. I play the Ultimate Team mode, not career mode. I played career mode in NBA but I didn’t do that well and eventually dropped it.”
Traditional Q&A with our rookie
- Your main hockey superstition?
- To step on the ice with my left foot.
- What is the best well to beat nervousness in the first minutes of the game?
- Play the best you can. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake and play with a cool head.
- What’s your favorite type of vacation?
- Beach in the summer. Something like Turkey. I don’t like spend too much time in Europe. It’s another type of vacation. During the season I like to go for a walk or go to the movies.
- Describe in a few words what does ‘star fever’ mean to you.
- When you forget about people who were with you when you were a nobody. And when you put yourself above other people.
- Imagine you play at an All-Time All-Star Game. You can pick your linemates. Who would you pick?
- Jaromir Jagr and Sidney Crosby.