26.02.2019 в 15:00


Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk forward Evgeny Babushkin scored over 20 goals this season in Junior Hockey League and recently got his chance to practice with Amur. In this interview Babushkin shared his impressions on practicing with the professional team and his personal goals on the eve of Russian Far East Rivalry.

- You just had your first practice with the pros. How did you like it?
- Obviously, I really enjoyed it. You step on the ice and you just can’t believe it. I never thought that I would play with them – and just like that you get a chance to practice with them. It’s every kid’s dream, I think. Moreover, it’s my hometown team.

I practiced on the line with Velichkin and Kuznetsov. They are great teammates and gave me advice. Coaches also gave me a lot of tips and pointed out when I was doing something wrong. What was the focus of the practice? I spent there just a few days, so I didn’t quite understand.

- What did your junior team coaches and teammates told you when you got called up?
- Coaches cheered me up and said ‘We’re going to come watch you. Prove yourself’. As for my teammates, they were happy for me. Although, maybe some of them were jealous (laughs). Sure, there were a few jokes but let’s keep it private.

- Did you expect to get called up this season?
- Not really. Before road trip to St. Petersburg our head-coach Andrei Kiselyov said that we needed to do well on the trip and score a lot of goals. But we didn’t do well on the road trip. After coming back to Khabarovsk, I was immediately called to coach’s office and Oleg Nikolayevich Filimonov told me: “Well, you finally did, didn’t you?!”. I thought, he was talking about my poor performance on the road and that got me worried. But he went on: “Alright, you got 4 hours to pack your bags. You’ve been called up”. 

- Do you remember anybody on Amur’s coaching staff as a player?
- I remember Alexander Gulyavtsev a little. He was a skilled forward. I think he played center. He scored a lot of goals when he played for Severstal, if I’m not mistaken. Obviously, I know Oleg Filimonov – he was a famous Amur goaltender back in a day. I don’t remember anybody else. I saw them work hard at practice. Alexander Gulyavtsev is very skilled when it comes to penalty shots. I made a few notes to myself. 

- Who are your hockey idols? Who do you follow?
- I follow Nikita Kucherov and, of course, Alexander Ovechkin very closely. Ovechkin has a special place he likes to score from. He’s got a very powerful shot and he works a lot on it. He hits his target perfectly. Is he going to bet Wayne Gretzky’s goal record? I don’t think so. It’s too difficult. Although, if you work hard, anything can happen. I don’t know if it’s one of his goals or not.


- You became a goal-scorer yourself this season. With 22 goals in this Junior Hockey League season you find yourself among Top-20 goal-scorers of the league. What’s your secret?
- It comes to me naturally. Whenever I get a chance, I do my best to make the most of it and help my team. Perhaps, that’s where the result comes from.

- Do you have a favorite move?
- No. I don’t have neither a special move, nor a special place to shoot from like Ovechkin does.

- You have a lot of moves up your sleeve. You top Amurskie Tigry in goals and points, you lead the team in converted shootout attempts and hits. What goals and roles in hockey do you like the most?
- I like taking a lot of shots. But I don’t really have a powerful shot. That’s why I like to dangle around everyone, skate in on a breakaway and beat the goaltender.

- Nikolai Stolyarenko currently hold the franchise record for single-season goals with 28. Amurskie Tigry have 8 games to play in this regular season. How many goals do you expect to finish with?
- I don’t focus on my individual statistics at all. Hockey is a team sport. It’s better if my team wins, even if I don’t score… Do you want a number? I would like to score 25 goals this season. I would even like to catch up and surpass everyone in that regard. I will do my best. We’ll see how it’s going to pan out.

- Do you have any individual drills in the off-season?
- Nothing special, I practice like everyone else just to stay in shape and be ready come the season start.

- You haven’t missed a single game this season. How does it feel to be the Iron Man on the most travelling JHL team?
- Coaches trust me and give me the chance to spend a lot of time on the ice. That’s why I haven’t missed a game. As for the injuries, I actually missed a few games because of a banged up wrist. Other than that, I’m always ready and do my best to stay in good shape.


- What stops you from winning more often? It can’t be just because you spend a lot of time travelling?
- Actually, that’s exactly the problem. These long 7-8 hour flights have a lot to do with that. It’s not easy for everyone. Changing time zones also affect the result. We live in our time zone in Khabarovsk but it’s minus-7 hours in Moscow. Because of that it’s more difficult for us to play on the road, rather than at home. We try to adjust but still. One guy can’t adjust – the whole team caves in.

- Who would you say are the three players that Amurskie Tigry can’t do without?
- (laughs) Well, that’s a tricky question! Whoever I’ll leave out is going to hold grudge against me. Everyone is a leader on our team. Some are trusted more and they get more ice-time like our line with Andrei Misko and Nikita Linnik. If I had to name three players, I would name our line. We scored more goals than anybody this season. We are the Top-3 players who have to lead the team.

- Were you frustrated in January when you didn’t get invited to JHL Challenge Cup? Or were you rather happy not having to do with extra pressure?
- No. I was positive on the whole thing. I was happy for my teammate Nikita Linnik. I didn’t think about the fact that I wasn’t invited. Nikita did well early in the season. Right now he’s less lucky. Perhaps, sometimes it’s the pressure that he can’t deal with. He wants to score badly but he can’t (Nikita Linnik scored his 1st goal in 2019 off Evgeny Babushkin’s assist in the very next game).

- It happens too often – players do their best but it’s not enough. Why do Amurskie Tigry struggle offensively?
- We probably need to improve our conversion rate to even out the statistics. Our powerplay unit is a huge problem. Perhaps, we don’t spend enough time at practices on that and it shows later in games.

- Despite missing the playoffs this year, Amurskie Tigry did better than a season ago, while individually you scored more points. Would you say you’re satisfied with the season on the whole?
- We did play better this season but we were unable to achieve our goal as we still missed the playoffs. We didn’t go over the bar we’d set for ourselves. We played different opponents and they were all more or less alike with their own special features.

- Perhaps, players have trouble adjusting to Junior Hockey League level? Amur junior hockey school competes against Siberian teams and they have to play against top Moscow and North-West schools alumni?
- I think that’s the reason. The level of hockey in Moscow is higher than in Russian Far East and Siberia. When we played in Siberia there were five teams tops who could play at our level. Obviously, we would do better if we competed against Moscow teams, who are used to more competition. But it’s impossible.


- Late in the season you were called up to Amur and got the taste of professional hockey. How did you like it?
- It’s a different brand of hockey. It’s obvious that the pace of the game is faster and everything else is just very different. I will do my best to match the level. I will work hard. You can get to that level only through hard work.

- Let’s imagine that you get the chance to play for Amur. Who would like to be lined up with? Whose style is similar to yours?
- I don’t know. I don’t care – everybody on the team is a strong player. I like the way the Ushenin brothers play. I think I would like to play with them. Their biggest asset is that they’ve played with each other since they were kids. They have a great chemistry going on.

- What is more precious for you – 100 JHL goals or 1 KHL goal?
- 100 JHL goals, I think… and then one in the KHL (laughs).

- Have you ever imagined what it would feel like playing in front of 7,000 people?
- Of course, I did. I think, I would feel nervous at first but then it would grow on me and I would get used to it. After all, I have never experienced anything like that.

- This season Amurskie Tigry got a little bit of a different vide at their home games because of the fan-sector. Do you hear their chants?
- It’s great to see the fan-sector and that people come to the game and cheer. Khabarovsk has always been known for their fans, not just this season. Sometimes you hear their chants but you don’t pay much attention to it because your head is in the game.

- You’ve got a personal fan-sector in the stands. It’s one of the biggest on the team. Who comes to every game to support you?
- The guy in my jersey is my nephew. He always comes to the rink and hasn’t missed a game yet. My girlfriend is also there. My brother gives me advice after every game. Same goes for my father. My family provides me with the greatest support… Does it affect my game? I don’t think so. After all, it’s me who steps onto the ice and whatever I do there is completely up to me.

- If you met a person who has never been to a hockey game, how would you persuade him to come to Amurskie Tigry games?
- If the person has never been to a hockey game, wouldn’t it be a good idea to come to one and support his hometown team? Everyone on our team knows he plays for Khabarovsk and for the whole region. After all, it’s the only big sports school and the only team that plays at the highest national level. We all represent Khabarovsk Region.