Lokomotiv's top prospect - about his JHL season and KHL debut.
The 2022/23 season was pretty busy for Daniil But. In the JHL, the Loko forward scored 26 (15+11) points in 26 regular-season games, and had four goals and five assists in seven playoff games. In the 2022/23 season, the forward managed to make his KHL debut with Lokomotiv and scored two goals against Avangard and Sochi. In the playoffs, Daniil joined the junior team to reach the Kharlamov Cup semifinals and become a bronze medalist of the OLIMPBET Junior Hockey League season.
In an interview with the official JHL website, Daniil But evaluated the season, shared his plans for the 2023/24 season, explained what Loko lacked in the series against Chaika, and talked about the way his father, Anton Bout, affects his career. Daniil But also shared his expectations of the 2023 NHL Draft.
– What is the most difficult part of playing for three teams in two leagues?
– Changing teams and being always on the move. You play every here and there. Plus, being with the main team, you don’t always get much ice time. There are times when you lose your game shape, then return to the JHL and things don’t work out the way they should. You get angry over it.
– Are you more comfortable being surrounded by guys of your age or by more experienced players?
– By more experienced players, when the competition is high.
– What was it like when you first entered Lokomotiv’s locker room?
– It had been my dream, and there I was, entering the locker room and looking at everyone. Even just sitting next to those guys was an indescribable experience, and what was more, I got to play with them. All the players were helping me. I was on speaking terms with everyone. My teammates were giving me pointers on what to do and how.
– Did you have to carry veterans’ gear bags or sticks? Did you bring coffee to Sergei Andronov in the morning?
– No, I didn’t (smiles). Those are not the done things in our team. Young players do pick up pucks. Sometimes they load the speaker onto the plane. That’s about it.
– What did you feel when making your KHL debut?
– I was the thirteenth forward in that game. I was sitting on the bench, following the game and looking at the stands cheering the teams. And then I heard Igor Valeryevich calling out my name. I jumped up in surprise and thought: I need to pull myself together, hit the ice and play as usual. And that was what I did.
– Didn’t you feel jittery on the ice?
– I did feel jittery, of course. Big crowd, KHL debut, growing excitement.
– Is it tough for a thirteenth forward to get into the swing of things when he gets to play?
– It is challenging. But emotions run high in the KHL, and even when you are the thirteenth forward, you hit the ice and the rest takes care of itself.
– What did you understand about the level of the KHL having played several games?
– I realized that there’s still so much work to be done in order for me to be able to perform well at the KHL level. I need to work on my skating, quick release shot and quick decision-making. In the KHL, the speeds are higher − you have to do everything faster.
– What did Igor Nikitin say about your performance?
– Igor Valeryevich gives some recommendations during games or after them. He offers a specialized focus on mentality. A true athlete never wants to lose, but always wants to win: in every game, in every situation, in every single battle. Such attitude is the key to success.
– What does a player need to do to gain Nikitin’s trust?
– Igor Valeryevich trusts all the players of our team. You just have to play hockey well. As in all teams. You have to play solid defense and score goals. Nothing is forbidden.
– Is nothing forbidden even for a young player?
– Absolutely. What’s wrong with that? What’s the point in forbidding something if things work out well? The most important thing is to do the right thigs while being creative.
– A few years ago, there were rumors that you could go to play in North America. Are you happy that you stayed with Lokomotiv to keep progressing?
– I had no intention of going anywhere. I don’t know where that story came from. Given that I have played quite a number of games in the KHL at the age of 17, I am surely happy with the way my career is developing in Russia.
– Is becoming a full-time player of Lokomotiv your goal for the next season?
– Yes. One hundred percent.
– Do you understand what you need to do in order to achieve it?
– I need to work on the skills that require improvement. I need to be mentally ready for the season. KHL schedule is a busy one, you need to be prepared. Sometimes five or six games are played every other day. Both conditioning and mentality are of top importance.
– How can you evaluate the 2022/23 season in the JHL?
– It was a reasonably good season. I scored quite a few points. Obviously, there is always room for improvement. I performed quite well in the playoffs. It is a pity that I couldn’t help my team in the series against Chaika because of illness. And as for the games I played, I think that I performed well.
– Do you think your team could turn the tables in the series against Chaika should you be able to play?
– Not only could, but we certainly would. I am sure about that.
– What did Loko lack in the series against Chaika?
– Many things can be named. We lacked scorer’s mentality, active plays, physicality, discipline. We allowed too many goals.
– Was the hockey Chaika played a surprise for you?
– For me personally, it wasn’t. They played fast-paced hockey, as they usually do. I guess, we failed to be ready for that. That was why we lost the series.
– Why didn’t you manage to win at least one game?
– We had a lead in all games, but failed to hold it. We didn’t play as strong as we should. We should have played tougher and faster.
– Being in your second JHL season, was it easier for you to play or did opponents already know that you pose a threat and need to be covered?
– On the one hand, yes, it was easier, since I improve my game year after year. I felt that I had gained more confidence, strength and power. On the other hand, you are right, defensemen and goalies already know me. Sometimes it makes it harder for me to play.
– Was it easy for you to get adjusted to the KHL tactics after the JHL?
– Everything is way more complicated in the KHL, various X’s and O’s. When you move from the JHL to the main team, you need to keep so many things in mind, stay focused, listen carefully to coach’s instructions. I mean, these are the things you also do in the JHL, but they are easier in the junior team.
– Was your mind compact of a vast amount of information after the first tactical meeting with Lokomotiv?
– Not really, because I started the preseason with the main team and everything was explained to us step by step. There was a training camp held for young players, so that we practice and get adjusted. It is not that tough, you just need to stay focused, attentive, and always listen to the coach.
– You were born into a hockey family. Was following in your father's footsteps the only option for you?
– No, why? My dad put no pressure on me and didn’t push me to start playing hockey. It was my mom who brought me to my first practice in St. Petersburg.
– Do you remember the day you skated for the first time?
– No, I don’t. I was only four years old.
– Did you get to like playing hockey right away or later when things started to work out well?
– Things started to work out well right away and I got to like playing hockey right from the start.
– When did your father begin to cultivate your hockey skills with as much effort and determination as possible?
– When he retired. I don’t remember how old I was. But that was when he started to devote much attention to me.
– Was your father overprotective?
– My dad used to be a hockey player too, and he understands how things work. He would give me some pointers at home, but I was coached by the team coach. There was nothing unusual, everything was as it should be for any other guy.
– How often was hockey on TV at your place?
– When I was a kid, I did not really like to watch hockey. I enjoyed playing it way more. But I always watched my dad’s games. When he retired, watching hockey on TV became less interesting for me. But I loved playing hockey and still do.
– What is your brightest success at the minor level?
– Winning the main kids’ hockey tournament, Gazprom Neft Cup.
– And scoring a hat trick in front of your dad?
– Yes, it did happen (smiles).
– Do you think you were the most dominant player at that level?
– I don’t know. It’s not for me to decide. I just remember feeling nervous. A crowd of seven thousand people was watching the game. And we were 11-year-old kids. It was a great experience.
– What way are you and your father alike in terms of playing hockey?
– Skating. Both of us are far from being great skaters. And we both shoot right.
– How do you plan to improve your skating?
– In the offseason, two weeks before the training camp, I will start working with a coach on skating, balance and coordination.
– There is no point in inviting your dad to these practices, since skating seems to run in the family, or is there?
– Well, he can give some pointers and actionable advice (smiles).
– Does your dad attend all your games in Yaroslavl?
– Yes, he does. He attends all home games.
– Do you discuss games with him?
– Yes sure. As a rule, we are of the same opinion. If I underperform, I understand it. And if I play well, my dad tells me that everything is fine. He often gives me a word of advice and wants me to play better.
– Do you often skate together?
– Very seldom. I don’t even remember when was the last time for us to skate together.
– Do you look forward to the NHL Draft?
– I’m getting ready for it. I do interviews and talk to scouts. I’m working on my U.S. visa, it’s not that easy to get it these days.
– Interviewers like asking tricky questions. Have you been asked any?
– Yes, I have. I hear such questions pretty often.
– Do you already know how to answer them in order to make a good impression?
– I don’t try to leave some impression, I just answer all questions honestly. I speak my mind and that’s it.
– How often do you talk to scouts? Does your phone ring off the hook?
– You could say that. I talk to them almost every day.
– Do you follow prospect rankings?
– Not really. All rankings are just estimates and assumptions. The draft itself is an unpredictable thing. All the rankings can change before the draft, and the choices will be different.
– Why is it important for you to attend the ceremony?
– It is important to be an early-round pick. When you come to America, you expect to be picked earlier. You get an opportunity to have conversations in person with scouts and general managers.
But Daniil Antonovich
Born on February 15, 2005 in Yaroslavl
From 2013 – Lokomotiv, Yaroslavl
Bronze medalist at European Youth Olympic Festival, 2021/22 season
Hlinka Gretzky Cup winner, 2021/22 season
Bronze medalist of 2022/23 JHL season