16.05.2023 в 14:00

“Maybe I will be able to play in the KHL together with my brother.” Ivan Demidov – about being named MPV and his breakthrough season

The forward of SKA-1946 was named the most valuable player of the season and has no intention of remaining complacent.

Ivan Demidov quickly became a SKA-1946 leader. In his first JHL season, young forward scored 64 (19+45) points in 44 regular season games, 13 (5+8) points in ten playoff games and became the JHL’s all-time assists leader among players under 17. He was recognized as the most valuable player of the OLIMPBET Junior Hockey League season.

In an exclusive interview with the official JHL website, Demidov talked about his breakthrough season, being eliminated from the playoffs in the semifinals, Michkov’s lacrosse-style goals and coaching prospects.

“It’s nice that the JHL makes such progress and does all that is necessary to ensure young players’ development”

– How did you feel about being named the most valuable player of the season?
– I was very pleased that it was me who was recognized as the JHL’s most valuable player. To be honest, it was not something I expected to happen, because there had been times when I hadn’t performed too well, but the season in general was pretty solid. Probably, that was the reason for me to pick up the award. It is a pity that I wasn’t at the Closing Ceremony, I was not able to attend it because of a surgery and my brother’s wedding.

– But did you follow the Ceremony?
– Yes, I watched it live. It was a great event celebrating young players’ honor. It’s nice that the JHL makes such progress and does all that is necessary to ensure young players’ development.

– What can you say about the other two nominees, Loko goalie Sergei Murashov and Omskie Yastreby forward Vyacheslav Malov?
– Sergei Murashov is a very good goalie, I know him from playing for the Russian national team, he is a tough goalie to score on. I do not know Slava Malov well, but he is also a deserving nominee. Their line with Gleb Trikozov and Nikolai Khvorov played well, but I didn’t follow them closely.

– Kirill Pukelo thanked those who didn’t believe in him, and his speech went viral online. Did you see it?
– Yes, I did. I can’t say the same is true for me. But if those people who turned away from him served a useful end, why not mention it? Perhaps it motivated him to work harder and there was what he came up with.

– Were you disappointed that you were a few points away from becoming the top scorer of the season?
– I was disappointed, but just a little, since I was mainly focusing on the upcoming playoffs. I hadn’t played as many games as Pukelo had, I had played six less games. I guess, had I played those games, I would have overcome Pukelo’s lead, but history has no subjunctive mood. It’s a pity that I didn’t manage to become the top scorer, but it is what it is.

– You did not attend the Closing Ceremony, but how do you feel about the stage and public speaking?
– I am not the kind to prepare a speech. I believe, I would venture outside the box, just like I do on the ice (smiles). I would have come on the stage and improvised.

– If we indulge in fantasies for a while, who would you like to see as a presenter for your award?
– It would be cool if the KHL MVP would present the JHL award. But we don’t know who is the KHL MVP yet, so it’s impossible.

“In the series against Omsk, we lacked coolheadedness”

– Why didn’t your team manage to advance further in the playoffs?
– The fact that we started the semifinal on the road backfired on us. To be honest, I don’t think there should be shootout in the playoffs, elimination games shouldn’t be decided by a lottery. The better team must win. We suffered a shootout loss in Omsk and managed to win only one game in our barn in St. Petersburg in front of our fans. In the second home game, just like in the entire series, we couldn’t overcome lack of scoring and discipline – we had too many bad penalties.

– It’s the second consecutive season for SKA-1946 to suffer shootout losses. What is the reason for that?
– I don’t have the answer to this question. We work on this component during practices, but still can’t succeed. It means, we need to keep sharpening our skills, that’s the only way for us to win.

– Could there be a lack of focus in the semifinal, since you swept the opponents and didn’t lose a single game in the first two rounds?
– Quite the contrary, the guys were highly motivated, because Omsk is a principled rival for us. That was why we lacked coolheadedness in some of the decisive moments. We had so many chances. We could have won both away games and another home game. But we didn’t convert on our chances and were made to pay for that.

– Omskie Yastreby managed to cover many of the SKA-1946 leaders, but not you (0+4 in four games), what is your secret?
– I was just playing my game. We have a strong line with Semyon Demidov and Daniil Lazutin, good chemistry is there. We knew and understood one another well, perhaps it was what helped me to perform well. I can't say that my brother underperformed in the semifinal. Yes, he didn’t manage to score, but the amount of work he did was worth a lot - checks and hits, he was sort of a grinder in that round. If we look at cold hard facts, I feel bad that I have four points in that series, and he has less. But if we compare the total amount of work done on the ice, I definitely compare poorly to Semyon. Dima Buchelnikov and Yegor Gurzanov also did much, they just didn’t manage to score goals. I can’t say that the opponent covered us, we just ran into tough luck.

– Do you agree that the further you advance in the playoffs, the more of a defense-first team you become?
– Yes, teams do start playing defense first, I’ve seen many teams that just play a tight game and take few chances. The playoff games have their own beauty. For example, I like seeing redirected goals scored. It’s like in soccer: when a player runs upfield, kicks the ball towards an opponent, it ricochets to the corner and everyone starts clapping their hands. That’s what happens in hockey: you bank the puck or block a shot, and everyone at the bench is applauding the efforts, the fans support and cheer. These efforts also need to be considered, because they are of great importance in elimination games, although they are not so spectacular. The game becomes less beautiful, but that’s what the playoffs are about (smiles).

– The East won the Challenge Cup, two Eastern Conference teams played in the playoffs final. Why wasn’t the West that good?
– A valid answer to this question cannot be given, at some point it was a game of chance. To be honest, I don’t vividly remember the Challenge Cup scenario. As for the playoffs, luck played a large part. It is true for both Omskie Yastreby vs. SKA-1946 and Chaika vs. Loko series. I think that the result should have been different, but it is what it is.

– During the triumphant playoffs, some of the SKA-1946 players noted that opponents were “hunting” for the leaders. Did you feel the same?
– I can’t say anyone was focused on me in particular. I only noticed that in the semifinals Omsk often matched their top-pairing defensemen to our line. I’d say, Moscow Dynamo players tried to get under our skin in the second round, but this was not the case with Omskie Yastreby.

– Did you root for Chaika in the final or remain neutral?
– I was neutral, I can’t say I rooted for any team in particular. I have many friends playing for Omsk, I wanted those guys to do well, but I didn’t root for a particular team.

“I can’t say that lacrosse-style goals come natural to me”

– The new generation is going to join SKA-1946 in the offseason, young players will treat you as an experienced leader. Are you ready for that?
– Of course, I understand it and I am ready to be a leader of my team. I’ve demonstrated some leadership skills this season. I believe it will be partly up to me to give some pointers to young guys.

– And what about giving motivational speeches? Yegor Gurzanov, Semyon Demidov and Yegor Zelenov were the main speakers in the locker room, but they all leave the team.
– I can’t really answer this question right now. You just need to feel what the team wants to hear from you. Maybe you will yell at someone, but it will do no good and he will shrink into himself. You need to feel that fine line, which I am not too good at yet. We still have much time left before the season, we are to play some preseason games, I will try my hand at it and we’ll see how it goes.

– Experts compare you with Matvei Michkov, what was it like to play against him and Kapitan in the first round of the playoffs?
– It was fun. I would like to thank Matvei and Kapitan for a good series. We didn’t have any issues on the ice, especially since SKA-1946 is not about one player, we play a team game. A player doesn’t enter into a trial of strength with an opposing player, as the coach would say: “What are you doing? Stick to the system!” (smiles). I did not pollute my head, followed the game plan and tried to be a little creative at some point.

Top goalscorer of the season Alexander Morozov said that he likes your style of play, because you have worked a lot on yourself. How much time do you devote to this during and after the season?
– Our team usually has a 3-1 schedule, meaning three days of work and one day off. We have team practices, workouts in the gym, I also come to the rink in the evening to workout in the gym and work on shooting off the ice. During the season, I have one additional ice practice. Sometimes I skip gym and go with ice and shooting.

– Your older brother Semyon noted that the most important thing for a young player is to avoid going about with his head in the air after a successful season. Aren’t you afraid of letting stardom go to your head?
– No, I just acknowledged my success and moved to a new level. I understand that opponents in the JHL will treat me in a different way and maybe they will analyze me from every angle before games. I have to keep working hard, I can’t be satisfied with little and be complacent.

– How will it be to play without your brother?
– Of course, I will miss him, but my plan is to show myself to the best advantage. After all, he doesn’t leave the club, maybe I will be able to play in the VHL or the KHL together with my brother, every cloud has a silver lining.

– Did you try to do Michkov’s move and score a lacrosse-style goal at practices?
– Yes, I tried, but not the move he did in the final, just a regular lacrosse-style goal. It is tough for me to do it. I held Matvei’s stick in my hands – the blade is not a typical one, it is easier to scoop the puck up on his blade and score a lacrosse-style goal. He works a lot on this move, while I don’t focus on it that much. If I have some time during practice, I do give it a try, but I can’t say that lacrosse-style goals come natural to me. There are many other components that I need to work on.

– Having made your KHL debut, do you feel that all the SKA teams play similar hockey?
– Yes, everything is the same, except for your role on the ice. Being with SKA-1946, I was getting a lot of minutes. Even though I was getting enough ice time and even played on the powerplay for the main team, my role was still different. You are a leader for one team and a rookie for the other. These are different things. But the playing system is identical for all the SKA teams.

“I think that a coach needs to be a good communicator, I do not believe in yelling as a coaching method”

– What do you do in the offseason?
– I get rested, go to the swimming pool and the sauna, get massage. I try to switch my mind off hockey. I walk around St. Petersburg, explore it and experience new places, but hockey still haunts me (laughs). Sometimes I stay awake at night, can’t fall asleep, take my tablet PC and watch SKA-1946 games. I believe, I have rewatched our last game against Omskie Yastreby five times during this period.

– How did you like your brother’s wedding?
– It was a family-only wedding, not a big one. I am very happy for him. It was pretty unexpected, but it’s his life, I will always support my brother’s decisions. I wish him nothing but the best and a fun-filled future together with his beloved one.

– Do you have any hobby beside hockey and studying?
– I don’t actually have any hobby. I like going for a walk in the city, or visiting an amusement park or a water park, going to sauna or a swimming pool. I am focused on preparing for the exams.

– How are your studies going?
– Not bad in general. I already got my high school diploma, and now I am preparing for Unified State Exams. I hope to pass them (smiles).

– Did you perform well at school?
– I was more of a B-student. I only have a couple of C’s.

– You plan to enter the Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health to study to be a coach. Whose coaching approach do you like the most?
– We need to bear in mind that each coach has his own approach. If we talk about me as a future coach, I believe I would combine my former coaches’ approaches into one. I think that a coach needs to be a good communicator, he should be calm. I do not believe in yelling as a coaching method, it’s way better to explain everything to a person. If he doesn't understand, then why on earth is he here? (smiles) If a player is explained everything in the simplest terms, there is no way for him to misunderstand.

– Who was the calmest coach in your career?
– Back in those days when I played in Podolsk, Andrei Aleksandrovich Krasilnikov coached us. I never heard him yell at me or any of my teammates. He was calm and even-tempered.

– You mentioned that Kobe Bryant's approach to life and sport appeals to you. Many young hockey players name him as the most inspiring athlete. What do you personally like about him?
– For me personally, Kobe Bryant’s behavior in important game situations is one-of-the-kind. He did have a killer instinct. He would always win the ball and pass it to his teammates or make the basket at the right moment. His game intelligence makes you wonder if you are doing everything right. Should someone outrun him or steal the ball, he would not finish the game until he beats that player, Kobe Bryant wanted to be the best at everything. I like his approach to sport, the way he worked hard all his life, it is worth much. He had a wild daily regimen: he used to get up at four in the morning and go to the gym. When others would get there by eight o'clock, he was already preparing for another workout. His legacy is profound indeed.

– If you could meet any person, past or present, who would it be and what would you ask?
– I will name three athletes: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Cristiano Ronaldo. I would love to meet them, to gain insight into their work and training process. Media coverage is wider in basketball and soccer compared to hockey. Players’ individual training plans are put out in the open. That is why I have no hockey idols with regard to commitment to work. I simply don’t know who does what.

Demidov Ivan Alekseevich
Born on December 10, 2005 in Sergiev Posad
2013-2019 – Dmitrov HC, Dmitrov
2019 – Lokomotiv, Yaroslavl
2019-2021 – Vityaz, Moscow Region
From 2021 – SKA, Saint Petersburg
2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup winner
2022 Challenge Cup participant
2022 KHL All-Star Game participant
2022/23 JHL most valuable player