DANIIL TARASOV: “THIS SEASON GOES FOR TWO”

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26.10.2017 в 16:02

DANIIL TARASOV: “THIS SEASON GOES FOR TWO”

Product of Bashkir hockey Daniil Tarasov is currently the most promising netminder of the Republic. Right now he makes his first steps in professional hockey and shines on Tolpar Ufa but he has already met a few challenges. A gruesome injury made him miss a whole year and now he tries his best to make up for the lost time. He’s doing well – Tarasov is one of the best goaltenders in the Junior Hockey League and consistently gets called up to practice with Salavat Yulaev.

That long absence didn’t affect international perspectives of the young netminder as he was selected at NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets 84th overall. North American club executives believe in his talent very much and follow him closely.

In everyday life Daniil is a regular nice guy just like many around. There’s just one thing that’s special about him – he’s really crazy about hockey.

A year without hockey

– You recently missed a few Tolpar games. Is everything OK?
- When we played against Kuznetskie Medvedi, I got a minor injury but nothing too serious. I practice as usual, nothing bothers me. We just decided to play it safe so it wouldn’t get any worse.

– Your injuries are concerning. You missed the whole season last year because of it.
– Sometimes it happens (smiles).

– How did you manage a whole year without hockey? Was it pretty tough?
– I wouldn’t say so. My family supported me. I went to the rink, meet with Tolpar teammates and coaches. Everything was great in that regard. There was no pressure.

– What kind of injury was it, anyway? It didn’t look that serious at first.
– I got a surgery on my tibia. There was some kind of tumor.

– Wow, so it wasn’t a game injury then?
– Here’s the story. I was called up to Team Russia. We weren’t getting ready for the Hlinka Memorial and began outdoor practicing. That’s when I felt the pain. I went to the doctor, we got a checkup and it showed nothing. So I did an MRI. That’s when it all came up.

– And you didn’t expect it to be that serious, did you?
– First I was told that it would take about six months. After the surgery I was told to come back in three months. But then they told me to get back in three months again, and again. I came to accept the fact I was going to miss the whole season.

– It must have been tough mentally for you at the time.
– It was the most difficult at first. I watched the games and it really frustrated me that I couldn’t help my team. As time went by, I began to recover little by little and started going to the gym again. I went back on ice only after nine months.

Draft

– Does it bother you more because it happened right before the NHL Entry Draft?
– I don’t think I would have been drafted anyway if it weren’t for that spontaneous call up to Team Russia for U18 World Championship. That’s when all the interest in me from the overseas began. They called me a lot and asked a lot of questions. When I’d come here to the Zorge Arena, scouts asked me about my recovery, practices and other things. We also sent them video clips of my outdoor practices so they’d be sure everything was going well. Nobody is going to waste your draftpick on you for nothing. Overseas they treat it very seriously and care about it a lot.

– When did you realize you were going to get drafted?
- It became fairly clear about a month before the ceremony. Although, I was meant to be selected 88th overall by Detroit Red Wings but Columbus beat them by two picks.

– But you certainly don’t mind it happened that way.
– Of course not. Columbus is a great team and a great organization. Besides, there have a few Russian guys.

– They’ve got Bobrovsky. Have you had the chance to meet him?
– Not yet. I mean, I didn’t go to the training camp. We were having a camp of our own here in Ufa so I was told I could go only next year. But I do want to go there, meet everybody and see the team’s infrastructure for myself. It’s going to be interesting to learn about the club and how they do things around there.

– Tell us a little about the ceremony itself. How did it go?
– It’s a great event over there. So many people. At Day 1 they had a soldout 20,000 crowd at the arena. Besides, the league was celebrating it centennial, so they brought a bunch of trophies and awards. The level of organization is very different over there.

– Have you spoken to Columbus executives? What do they say?
– I mean, we don’t talk much these days. But when I was at the camp in Finland with Salavat Yulaev, they came out there to see me. I told them that I have two more years with Ufa and I’m certainly going to stay here for these tow years. And then we’ll see what’s going to happen.

Working with father

– How often do you get compared to Andrei Vasilevsky?
– I don’t anybody compares me to him. If you copy anybody, you have to understand that any copy is going to be worse than original. That’s why I try to play my game. Obviously, you take a thing or two from somebody else and learn their best moves. And then you try to do the same thing at practices.

– But obviously you wouldn’t mind following Vasilevsky’s footsteps?
– Of course, I wouldn’t. I think every goaltender dreams of that.

– What other goaltenders do you like?
– Among Russians, it’s obviously Andrei Vasilevsky and Sergei Bobrovsky. As for foreign players, I like Carey Price.

– But you biggest idol is probably still your dad – Salavat Yulaev goaltending coach Vadim Tarasov?
– Obviously, no doubt (laughs).

– Was it his influence that you became a goalie?
– No, not at all. I was three years old when I put the skates on for the first time and I wanted to play in net right then and there. On the contrary, he told me I should learn to skate first. So I played defense until I was seven. I became a goalie only after we moved to Ufa. I just always wanted to be a goalie.

– Because of your father?
– I really don’t know. I just enjoyed it for some reason. Although, it probably had something to do with the fact that my dad was a goalie.

– How involved your father is in your career?
– It’s a constant dialogue between us. On the ice I’m a player and he’s my coach. At home I’m his son and he’s my father. Obviously, we talk about hockey more often at work. We talked about my mistakes and discuss certain aspects of the game. As a family we have other things to talk about.

– Does he scold you when you have a bad game?
– He always gives me some time to ‘cool off’ after games. We don’t talk about my mistakes right after the game. We watch videos the next day because it’s better that way.

– Does it bother you that your father coaches the same team you play for? Do other players give you the look because of that?
- Maybe only when I was a kid. I got used to it by now. There’s no nepotism on the ice, obviously.

Smaller ice is more fun

– Where do goaltenders feel more comfortable – European sized rinks or North American sized rinks?
– Personally, I prefer North American rinks. There are more shots, the pace of the game is faster and it keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t all the time at European sized rinks. Sometimes the play is in one zone throughout the game and have to keep yourself focused because you don’t face any shots. Then all of a sudden you’re up against two scoring chances and you have to be sharp to keep the score level. In North America you face shots all the time and they could come from anywhere – from the far end, from behind the net and so on.

– It’s obvious you want to play in North America.
– Yes, of course. Although, I believe you shouldn’t go there just to get the feel of it but go there with a mindset to crack the NHL. Many players actually go there just to see what’s it like and quite often go back home after that. For example, the very same Andrei Vasilevsky. He didn’t get the job right off the bar but he had that goal in mind. His will and motivation brought him to where he is now. Some people have this stereotype that if you go there young, you will get drafted. But they’ve got a very different system over there. For example, their goaltending training is very different. They don’t practice like we do here. They learn everything from game experience. Besides, NHL scouts work all over the world. They even come here to Ufa to scout players. If you play for your national team, you’ll get more attention.

– How difficult it is to adjust from North American sized rinks to European sized rinks?
– I wouldn’t say it’s all that difficult. There are a few differences – the corners are smaller, sometimes you have to help your defense to start the rush, use your stick more often and things like that. But two practices are enough to get used to it. For instance, I played in Detroit once with Team Russia. American goalie was nifty at making a stretch pass to the far blue line and they got three breakaways because of that. And what do we have? You stop the puck, wait for your defenseman to pick it up and start the rush. It takes so much time, that everybody change on the fly and you miss the opportunity.

– As far as I understand, you like a fast-paced and dynamic hockey.
– Yes, obviously.

I’m ready for Salavat Yulaev

– You spent the pre-season with Salavat Yulaev. What’s your take on the Finnish coaching staff?
- It was a very different pre-season comparing to Russian coaches. Before the off-season everybody received a to-do list for the summer. So we knew in what condition we should report to the training camp. As for the drills, they were more teamwork and physical conditions oriented. We didn’t have an extremely difficult pre-season. We didn’t run marathons and worked with heavy weights. It was very exciting. They have a special guy for everything in their staff. European style.

– There seems to be a tendency with Ufa players, in terms of transitioning from junior to pro hockey. Why do you think that happens?
- I don’t think it’s some local problem that just we have. I believe it’s a common problem. Some players are cut from JHL teams and some can’t crack KHL. Every player has his limit and professional hockey is just not for everyone.

– What do Salavat Yulaev coaches tell you?
– I missed a whole year, so it’s a little early for me to be on KHL team. I gain game experience with Tolpar. They told me they would start playing me on Toros little by little. Sometimes I would practice with KHL team.

– They say you’re not big on giving interviews. Why?
– My creed is that deeds speak volumes.

– What do you usually do in your spare time? You must have something in your life aside from hockey.
– I like to spend time at home. I spent the first three months at home while I was injured. When I was given the green light, I went to the gym all the time and practiced little by little, while keeping in touch with the guys.

– This is exactly what you have in common with Vasilevsky. He hates nightclubs, too.
– I’m not interested in nightclubs and things like that at all. Hockey is my main priority and that’s about it for now.

– What are your goals for the season?
– The most important thing is to get back on the same level. This year counts for two for my because I missed a whole year. This is why I have to everything it takes to get back on track.

– When are you’re going to make your debut for Salavat Yulaev?
– It’s a tough question. I’m going to make my debut when the coaches think I’m ready. I just practice everyday and wait for the opportunity.

– Are you going to be surprised if they’re going to dress you for a KHL game tomorrow?
– It would be surprising, of course, but I’m getting ready for it.

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