2018 YEARBOOK. DMITRY YUSHKEVICH

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13.09.2018 в 15:00

2018 YEARBOOK. DMITRY YUSHKEVICH

Even though Dmitry Yushkevich Jr. admits that so far his career hasn’t been as successful as his father’s, the defenseman still gained priceless experience in the years he spent in junior hockey. In this interview to Junior Hockey League media relations department, Yushkevich shares how he used to play with Sebastian Aho, practiced with Ivan Provorov, talked to Nikita Gusev and also compares Western and Eastern JHL conferences.

“I was born in Toronto. My father used to play in the NHL back then,” reminiscences Yushkevich. “We moved around quite a bit. We used to live in Philadelphia and California, too. I moved to Russia only when I was 10 years old. So you can say that I lived half of my life overseas. And that’s where I began playing hockey, too. I didn’t have much of a choice. They just gave me a hockey stick, a pair of skates and off I went. My father tells me that at first I was shooting with my left hand but then switched it to my right. Now I shoot the same way my dad used to. My first sports school was in Anaheim, California. There is a movie called The Mighty Ducks. I that’s who I played for when I was a kid – the Mighty Ducks.”

- Did you go to a lot of NHL games as a kid?
- Yes, my entire family would come to my father’s games. I was very young back then so I don’t remember much. My mom once told me that I fell asleep at a Philadelphia Flyers game. As I grew older, I became more interested my father’s games. I tried to follow him. These days I look for his old NHL game videos on the Internet. I want to know better his style of hockey and have a better understanding of what kind of player he was.

- How did you like your move to Russia?
- I began playing hockey in Yaroslavl. I was on Andrei Nikolayevich Emelin’s team. Later on he worked with my father on Ugra. On the team I had a great relationship with Ivan Provorov. Since I came to Russia we were on the same Lokomotiv junior hockey school team for three years with him. Then Vanya went to America. He chose the perfect time to try himself across the ocean. Ever since junior hockey school, I’ve had a good relationship with Kolya Kovalenko as well, even though he was two years younger. He’s a very positive and talkative guy. We almost never see each other. Only late in the season in Yaroslavl.

- Nevertheless, you go back to America from time to time?
- I have a Canadian citizenship, but I went to Canada just one time in all these years. In 2013 I was getting ready for the season over there. It was new to me. I met there a lot of friends and relatives. They all changed a lot in 10 years.

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- You move around a fair bit and now play in Khanty-Mansiysk. What city would you call home?
- Yaroslavl. That’s where my friends live and I have lived there since I was 10 years old. It’s a town I love to come back to. After season ends, I always go home to rest and get ready for new season.

- Lokomotiv drafted you in 2014. Why didn’t you stay in Yaroslavl after you graduated from junior hockey school?
- In my graduation year I played a few games for Loko-Yunior coached by Andrei Vladimirovich Kapranov. We won silver medals that year. Even though, I didn’t play a lot of games for that team, I still got my silver medal. So they saw me as a candidate for Loko, but then my father and I decided that moving to Europe would give a boost to my development. That’s how I ended up in Finland playing for Kärpät Oulu.

- You father finished his career Kärpät as well.
- It just so happens that he and I often move to the team. For example, in the 2008-09 season he went to play for Sibir. He was afraid to leave me home because I had problems with discipline back then so I followed him to Novosibirsk. We lived together and practiced on their junior team. I went to all of his games. He was a captain back then I was really excited to follow him. As for Kärpät, I joined the team later – after I graduated from junior hockey school in 2014.

- What do you remember about the time you spent on Kärpät?
- There some really great defensemen on the team with excellent skating and hockey sense. Finnish school of defense is very progressive. In Russia they really know how develop forwards, while the Finns are specialists when it comes to defensemen. At first I was really trailing behind them. I spent a whole year over there playing with Sebastian Aho, who now plays for Carolina. I also played with Jesse Puljarvi, who is now on the Edmonton Oilers, and Markus Nutivaara, who is now on the Columbus Blue Jackets. I was getting a lot of ice-time. After our first junior team got eliminated from the playoffs, I joined the second junior team and we won the championship with them. As for the first team, we were only called up a few times to practice with them. Joonas Donskoi, who later moved to San Jose, played for the first team then.

- You father must have helped you with practices and physical conditioning?
- My father has coached me my whole life. We spent every summer together. We would get up early, dissect a few games and then would practice twice or even three times a day. The summer before this season was the first one when I practiced without him. He’s got a lot of work at CSKA right now. I spent the entire pre-season working with Vyacheslav Tukhtin. He’s from Rybinsk but lives in USA these days. Among others, he works with Artyom Anisimov.

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- But you father still comes to watch your games, doesn’t he?
- Last game that he saw from the stands was when Zvezda Chekhov faced Rubin. I played for Rubin. He didn’t tell me he would come but I could feel it. Before the game I saw my father in the stands. I got nervous and nothing was going right for me. Nevertheless, I scored my first career VHL goal in the game. It’s great that my father was there to see that. After the game he was smiling and congratulated me. Other than that, he watches my games on video, because he’s got a lot of work as it is. However, we call each other everyday. He always finds the right words and gives advice if needed. Even if he’s far away, he’s still with me.

- Many sons and grandsons of great players say that carrying that last name on the back adds extra responsibility.
- I’m proud to be the son of such a great player, coach and man. He’s be the example for me my entire life. At my age, he already was a world and Olympic champion. So I want to be, at least, not worse than him. I tried to analyze his game. I know that he played tough and was fearless. I try to play the same brand of hockey.

- You made your KHL debut last season.
- Even though, I played just four games, I had a chance to play under two coaches. Igor Zakharkin gave me my first chance. Under his command, I had one of the best pre-seasons. I played in almost every game of a pre-season tournament. We lost to Spartak 6-2 and the coaching staff decided to send me to Rubin to gain some game experience. I played just six games in the VHL but it was great experience. It was Anatoly Emelin who called me up back to Ugra. Under his command I played three games. I did alright but we lost to Lada in one game and we got shutout on top of it as well. After that game I was sent down to Junior Hockey League. It was a tough time, when it was really important to not break down psychologically. I went on a few road trips with Ugra after that. I was waiting to get another chance but in the end I watched all of the games from the stands. In that situation I had to persevere and show character.

- Nevertheless, this season, when Ugra was relegated to VHL, you still stayed on the team.
- I spent this pre-season with Lokomotiv but then decided to go back to Khanty-Mansiysk. Ugra made me a perfect offer. I have to gain experience in VHL now and gradually develop step-by-step.

- One of the most famous former Ugra players in Nikita Gusev. Do you know him personally?
- I came to Khanty-Mansiysk in 2015 with my father. I was about to go to Kärpät then and my father offered me to attend Ugra camp before moving to Finland. It was at that pre-season that I met Gusev, before he got really famous. When I was about to go to Finland we spent about an hour talking to him in front of the rink. I remember him as a very talkative and open kind of guy.

- In Junior Hockey League you played for Almaz and Mamonty Yugry. How would you compare East to West?
- I spent two years in Western Conference. It looked like the players were more skilled in the conference. They play faster, tougher and more intense. I think it has to do something with the fact that Western Conference players are called up to KHL teams more often. Then they go back to JHL and increase the general level of play there.

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- Perhaps, last Junior Hockey League season everything was a bit special for you. After all, that was your last season in the league.
- We unexpectedly lost to Reaktor Nizhnekamsk in the playoffs. After the last game of the season I went down on one knee next to the net. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just looked at the scoreboard and the stands. Everybody on our team had gone to the dressing-room already, there was nobody in the stands either and they even dimmed the lights at the rink. But I was still there, realizing that my journey in junior hockey came to an end and there was a new life ahead of me. Although, that elimination with Mamonty Yugry still wasn’t as tough as the one with Almaz in 2017 when we lost to Reaktor as well. We beat Loko and SKA-1946 in the first rounds and the emotions were very high at that time. I even thought we would go all the way and win Kharlamov Cup. We had a great team – Daniil Vovchenko, Vadim Kudako, Alexei Artamkin, Igor Geraskin… They all now play for Severstal in KHL. We were a true family. That season was really special for me.

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