08.06.2023 в 14:00

Mikhail Gulyayev: “Atanasov and Vinogradov are the same kind of guys as everyone else, from this same planet. It’s just that they were more experienced”

The Omsk defenseman played in four leagues in one season.

Mikhail Gulyayev was born in Novosibirsk and played there until the 2019/20 season. Having joined Avangard franchise, Mikhail continued to perform well with both the club and the national team, he became the winner of the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games and the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Gulyayev’s first season in the JHL was productive: being a 16-year-old player, he scored 40 (7+33) points in 67 games. Mikhail spent the 2022/23 season in three leagues at once, he played in the JHL, VHL and KHL. After his team being eliminated by Chaika in the final, he jumped in to help the U18 Omsk team.

In an interview with the official JHL website, Mikhail Gulyayev talked about the tough loss in the final, best KHLers, his readiness to fight at the adult level, and the importance of mentality in hockey.

– What can you say summing up individual and team results of the season?
– It was a good season. Too bad that we didn’t manage to win the Kharlamov Cup, but we will build on the positives and negatives to improve our game. We will do our best to win the cup next season. It was not a bad season for me, I played in all possible leagues in Russia, gained valuable experience. I have a goal to pursue – to play a full season in the KHL.

– How tough is it for a defenseman to play against Vasily Atanasov and Yegor Vinogradov?
– Atanasov and Vinogradov are the same kind of guys as everyone else, from this same planet, there is nothing supernatural about them. It’s just that they were more experienced and it allowed them to make faster decisions. Playing against them was tough, but there will be no progress without games against such opponents.

– Is losing in the final the worst feeling in hockey?
– Yes, it was really frustrating, but failure teaches success. So goes the world, things happen: today you win, and tomorrow you lose. You just have to keep going and never give up. It was sad, many of the guys were crying, I think this is normal. We will mend our ways.

“I play for Avangard, every team of the franchise is important to me, regardless of the league it competes in”

– Experts say that you have good speed, excellent gap control and skating skills, but at the same time they notice that you need to play more physically. Do you agree?
– I do agree that this is what needs to be improved. It is very important to use your size in hockey. I do not try to avoid battles or physical plays, but I try to win some episodes by means of my skating and stickhandling skills. I am to keep working hard and gaining weight, everything has its time.

– Scout Grant McCagg says that you look like the Russian Makar. How do you feel about such comparisons and high expectations?
– I try to take no notice of them, there’s still a long way for me to go to be able to play like Cale Makar. But he is my idol, I do follow him, watch highlights. It’s too early to call me some kind of super-duper player, I am to keep working very hard.

– And who, in your opinion, is the super-defenseman in the KHL?
– Alexander Nikishin from SKA. I like the way he plays and he is not too old (smiles), so I pick him.

– In the KHL, you were following Kevin Dallman, who became a ‘Golden Lineup’ member and was named one of the best players in the history of the KHL. Do you agree with this choice?
– Yes, he is simply the best. I was still a little kid when he would come to Novosibirsk to play games. I was following him, my father also liked the way he played and kept telling me to take Dallman’s style for a model.

– Alexander Yeryomenko, Ilya Nikulin, Danis Zaripov, Sergei Mozyakin and Ilya Kovalchuk also made the all-star team. Would you change anything?
– I would probably make some changes to the forward line – I would replace Kovalchuk (no offense intended, he is a great player) with Jan Kovar as a center, and Zaripov and Mozyakin as wingers.

– In you 13 games in the KHL, you never happened to face Ak Bars, even though you wanted to play against Alexander Radulov and Vadim Shipachyov. Is it disappointing?
– It is a little dream of mine, my best days lie ahead. I am grateful to the coaching staff for being able to play those 13 games, it was a valuable experience for me. It is disappointing that I didn’t get a chance to play against Ak Bars, but that was the coaches’ decision, I cannot go against it.

– You said that you would not be afraid to fight in the KHL. Is your confidence backed up with some fighting skills?
– I don’t actually have any fighting skills, I don’t box, I just workout with a punching bag once in a while (smiles). I believe, a true man is always ready to drop the gloves and fight to the bitter, regardless of the outcome of the fight.

– During the regular season, you often moved among the KHL, VHL and JHL. Didn’t it backfire on your game shape?
– Quite on the contrary, it was doing me good. JHL allows some room for mistakes, well not much, because mistakes flatter no player. You have to get used to the constant change of leagues and understand that there are different coaches, and each of them has his own requirements. You have to be ready for this and be able to play any style of hockey. I play for Avangard, and every team of the franchise is important to me, regardless of the league it competes in.

– In North America, defensemen are taught to join rush from a young age, while in our country less than all coaches look with favour on such a style. Do you think this needs to be changed?
– I think today many coaches in Russia allow defensemen to join rush. In any case, each coach has his own style, some specialists are for it, while others are not. I can’t pass judgement upon those who forbid defensemen to join rush, because such style can also produce results. A player needs to be able to play any style of hockey. If a defenseman knows how to help generate offense, it is a big plus. I think it makes things easier for forwards if they have a fourth player behind them to create more offense.

“I try not to give the draft a lot of thought or make guesses at which NHL team might pick me”

– You planned to go to Turkey for vacation, has your plan changed?
– I did want to go to Turkey with my girlfriend and friends, but it didn't work out that way, because the season was a bit longer than expected. And in a few days’ time I need to go get my visa, so there is hardly any chance to go on vacation. I hope to be able to do it next year.

– In the previous offseason, you started practicing in Novosibirsk in June, how are you spending this summer?
– I will also practice in Novosibirsk, we have training camps here. There is also the draft I am to attend, and I will have some time to skate and workout before that.

– What are your expectations of the 2023 NHL Draft?
– I try not to give the draft a lot of thought or make guesses at which NHL team might pick me.

– Is your jersey number linked with your birthdate?
– It actually isn’t. Back in those days when I was a kid, we were to pick jersey numbers during the training camp, I came last and there weren’t many options left. I chose 84, I liked it the most.

– Do you have a hobby?
– There’s hardly any time for entertainment during a season. I like going for a walk with my friends and teammates, chatting and discussing some hockey stuff. In the summer I prefer outdoor activities: sometimes I help my dad build our country house, I like riding a quad bike through the forest, it always helps me to have a good night's sleep after. That’s about it. I don’t play any computer games, there are just a couple of mobile games that I can play every once in a while, let’s say, when I am on the plane.

– When the World Junior Championship was cancelled, you said that you were to set other goals and come up with new dreams, what are they now?
– I do believe in Russia and our Ice Hockey Federation, I hope it will finally ensure our national team’s international appearance. We all want to participate in prestigious tournaments. I hope things will work out. I won’t jump ahead of myself with setting goals. For now, I want to spend a full season with the KHL team, score points and only then I will think about new goals.

– If you could meet any person, past or present, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
– I will name the legendary Soviet coach Anatoly Tarasov. I would like to find out how he managed to create such a good style of play that provided results and helped to get success back then. It would be interesting to hear how to raise professional players who are still idols for many kids.

Gulyayev Mikhail Alexandrovich
Born on April 26, 2005 in Novosibirsk
2013-2020 – Sibir, Novosibirsk
From 2020 – Avangard, Omsk
Hlinka Gretzky Cup winner, 2021/22 season
Bronze medalist of 2021/22 JHL season
Silver medalist of 2022/23 JHL season