About the League
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl forward Kirill Slepets shared his Junior Hockey League memories. The alumnus shared what had gotten in the way of him becoming a 3-time Kharlamov Cup champion, what was going on in the dressing-room after Loko clinched their third championship title and explained his productivity in Team Russia games.
- Your final JHL appearance was in the 2019 Kharlamov Cup Finals Game 7 against Avto Yekaterinburg. Did you realize after the final buzzer that your time in JHL had come to an end or were you too emotional because of winning the cup?
- During the playoffs there was no time to think about the fact that it was my final Junior Hockey League season. I can’t go back to playing junior hockey anymore. I can only move forward.
- How did it happen that there was no champagne in your dressing-room after Loko won their third championship title?
- Perhaps, they decided not to buy it beforehand as not to jinx it. I mean, some people said that Avto began celebrating a few minutes before the end of the third period in Game 6. They thought they’d won the cup but everything turned upside down in those final two minutes and we were the ones who needed the champagne after all.
- What was Loko’s secret for success?
- We had a pretty skilled team. We had a lot of leaders, who could lead by example and decide the fate of the game on their own. Many pundits have pointed out that Loko’s core was built around a very successful junior hockey school class. Almost everyone on the team was called up to play for Team Russia of different ages, along with getting some KHL and VHL experience. It’s evident that this is the direction Yaroslavl is going in. There are a lot of Lokomotiv junior hockey school alumni on Team Russia in various competitions. These are solid reinforcements for Loko.
- Many of your teammates will remain on Loko. What results should one expect of them in the upcoming season?
- Sometimes reigning champions ‘draw back’ after the departure of their leaders, but Loko should avoid serious slump. There are still plenty of strong players on Yaroslavl major junior team. Many of the players have played a few seasons in JHL. I think, they can compete for another Kharlamov Cup. As for Loko’s new head-coach, Igor Viktorovich Melyakov, I no very little of him. I played just one game under his command for Loko-Yunior in the 2017-18 season.
- Do you have any regrets after four seasons in Junior Hockey League?
- Winning two cups in four seasons is a great result, so I don’t know if I have anything to regret. In the 2015-16 season I made my JHL debut. I was on U18 Team Russia back then. Had I played for Loko then, I could have been a 3-time Kharlamov Cup champion and a JHL Supercup champion, because Loko beat Gornyak in 2016. On the other hand, I was just 17 years old, while Loko had no players who were born in 1999. At the same time, I gained a lot of experience on U18 Team Russia, which really helped in my development.
- You scored more points for Team Russia than for Loko throughout your career. For instance, you scored 7 points in 7 games at the 2019 World Juniors, while you had just 10 points in 17 Kharlamov Cup games.
- To be honest with you, I can understand that either. Perhaps, Team Russia coaches used me a little differently or perhaps I just converted on my chances better. Moreover, my success with Team Russia overlapped my club performance. I became more confident after the World Juniors, so had I converted on my scoring chances as well as I did on Team Russia, my numbers would have been much better.
- Dmitry Krasotkin was promoted to Lokomotiv along with you.
- It’s great to see your coach rise up the club vertical along with you. It’s easier to talk to him and sometimes you can even butt in a joke or two. Besides, Dmitry Ivanovich is one of Lokomotiv’s Russian-speaking coaches. We work in groups at practices because there are a lot of players at the camp. Dmitry Ivanovich is in charge of one of the groups. Which is good, because head-coach Craig MacTavish added a lot of new drills to our practices.