About the League
Sibirskie Snaipery finished their 2017-18 season as they got eliminated in the opening round of Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. That was third Junior Hockey League season for Novosibirsk forward Nikita Shashkov. He was also called up to U18 Team Russia in 2017. In this conversation with JHL media relations department Nikita Shashkov shared how he moved from Novokuznetsk to Novosibirsk, what’s it like to work with Nikolai Zavarukhin and thoughts on upcoming U18 IIHF World Championship.
- What brought you to junior hockey school?
- Even though, my grandfather, Veniamin Popov, used to be a core Metallurg Novokuznetsk player for some time, I wasn’t that much into hockey when I was a kid. Actually, I played soccer at first. There’s a soccer club in Novokuznetsk also called Metallurg. Soccer and hockey arenas are literally 100 meters away from each other. However, one day I went to a hockey game with my dad and they announced a draft for 1999 year born boys to their junior hockey school. I got enrolled the very next day.
- When you were 12 years old you moved to Novosibirsk.
- My first coach Igor Yurievich Nikolayev advised me to continue my hockey career within Sibir system. He told me that their 1999 team was coached by a talented man Yuri Dmitrievich Krivomazov. I went to a try-out and made the team. I stayed at my acquaintance’s at first. They lived close to the rink. A year later my parents sold their condo in Novokuznetsk and moved to Novosibirsk. I’m used to the city now. It’s more fun to live in Novosibirsk. It’s a beautiful city, it’s big and right next to taiga. But we have to fly every time we go on the road. You can’t bus anywhere from here.
- You made your Junior Hockey League debut in 2015.
- At first we were just practicing with Sibirskie Snaipery. After those practices I was invited to a camp in Belarus. I made my JHL debut in the second game of the season. Nikolai Nikolayevich Zavarukhin coached Sibirskie Snaipery back then. Although, I worked with him for just six months. Late in 2015 Vladimir Krikunov invited him to be his assistant at Neftekhimik. They still work together but they coach Avtomobilist now.
- Had you known Sibirskie Snaipery coach Yaroslav Lyuzenkov before he got the job?
- I’ve known him since Sibir junior hockey school. He coached the 1998 team. When somebody was injured on that team, they’d call me up. I played and practiced with them.
- You played 35 games in your rookie JHL season, scoring just two goals. In your sophomore season you played 51 games and scored four goals. That’s not a lot for a forward.
- Obviously, I didn’t play on the top line in my rookie season. Younger players usually play on the 4th
line and they don’t get too much ice-time. Although, I vividly remember my first career JHL goal. I scored it on Olimpiya Kirovo-Chepetsk. I kept the puck.
- How is your relationship with KHL team?
- There’s always somebody from Sibir coaching staff at Sibirskie Snaipery games. They called up almost two 5-man units earlier this season to practice with KHL team. They told us they followed us and that we had to earn the right to be called up to play for KHL team. I talk to Alexei Krasikov from that team. We have a good relationship. This year I began going more often to Sibir games. I used to go there as a fan but now I do my best to give personal attention to all players, trying to familiarize myself with their style.
- Before this season, you had two Kharlamov Cup runs but they were cut short both times.
- In 2016 I was given very little ice-time as a rookie, so I picked up just one assist in ten games. In 2017 I was getting ready for U18 IIHF World Championship as a member of Team Russia. That’s why I couldn’t help Sibirskie Snaipery in conference semifinals.
- That U18 IIHF World Championship was held in Slovakia, while this year Russia will host the tournament.
- It’s going to be easier for the guys, than it was for us. They will be supported by their fans. When we faced Team Slovakia in the quarterfinal of that tournament, they drew a soldout crowd and everybody was cheering for Slovakia. It turned out to be a very difficult game. We were trailing behind at first but then forced overtime and won. We gained a priceless experience, having gone through such psychological pressure.
- Recently Team Slovakia beat Team Olympic Athlete Of Russia at the Olympics and finished 2nd in round robin.
- Their team made a huge step forward. I can see it even in their junior team. Slovaks were very serious opponents.
- You scored one goal at that U18 IIHF World Championship.
- I scored it in round robin in the game against Team Czech Republic. We won 5-4 in overtime and I scored the third goal. I had some unfortunate misses. With five minutes left to play in the 3rd period of a semifinal game against Team Finland we were tied 1-1. I took a shot and hit the post. Had I scored then, we could have made the finals. But we finished 3rd instead.
- Had you followed U18 IIHF World Championships before?
- I first saw the tournament when 1998 Team Russia participated. There was a doping scandal and Russia sent my peers to that tournament. I was in Sweden with Team Russia at the time. We played at Four Nation Tournament and watched broadcasts from USA in our spare time.
- 2023 World Juniors will be held in Novosibirsk.
- And the city is very happy about it. People over here love their hockey. Sibir games are always packed and even Sibirskie Snaipery draw large crowds. But most importantly they will build a new arena now. They already look for a site to begin construction.
- You’d played at Ivan Hlinka Memorial before U18 IIHF World Championship. Some players believe it’s one of the most prestigious tournaments.
- That’s why all the best players come there. Ivan Hlinka Memorial is a pre-season tournament, while many teams can’t release their players for U18 IIHF World Championship because they’re still in the playoffs. For example, Michael DiPietro, who is a Vancouver Canucks prospect, played for Team Canada at Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He’s Rick DiPietro’s namesake and he’s widely considered to have great potential. Our team also had a few guys, who play overseas – Andrei Svechnikov, Ivan Chekhovich, Mark Rubinchik and Dmitry Samorukov. Even back then you could see that they had spent a few months in America. Hockey is a little different over there and they thought a bit faster. Everybody made a progress since they went to America.
- What went wrong for your team in the series against Belye Medvedi Chelyabinsk?
- We battled hard in every game but luck wasn’t on our side. We lost two games in overtime. We had a terrible 1st
period of play in Game 2 and allowed four goals. We ran out of time, trying to get back even.
- What happened in your dressing-room after Game 3?
- Coaches thanked us for battling, praised for a decent regular season and congratulated with the end of the season. We’re going to rest till the end of March and we’re going to start getting ready for new season as early as this April.