In this translated interview, originally appearing on the popular Russian website SovSport.ru, Kings prospect Alexander Dergachyov talked about KHL debut, NHL dream, and summer camp in Los Angeles.
* For the original sovsport.ru article by Konstantin Belyukov and Tatiana Kokorina, click here.
– Was it a surprise to you to debut in the KHL?
– I wouldn’t say so, I really wanted it and I was ready. I didn’t play the first couple of games, then I played against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. It wasn’t such a big deal, simply when I hit the ice for the first shift I thought something like “Wow, I’m really doing it!” I was very happy after the game, even if I didn’t do anything special.
– Who congratulated first with you for your KHL debut?
– My mama. She wrote that she loves me.
– You had your first KHL game at home, with a sold-out crowd. Did it help you?
– I already played in such kind of arenas at the WJC in Toronto, where we played in a 20,000 seats arena, sold out as well. Having such crowds gives me confidence. You shouldn’t disappoint your fans.
– Did you save anything from your first game?
– No, I only saved the puck of my first KHL goal.
– Now you play side to side with the reigning Gagarin Cup champions. How does it feel?
– At first I was walking through the locker room and thinking “Where am I ended up! What people is around me!” You want to get better just looking at them, you start asking yourself question as “What is hindering me to achieve as much as they did?” This gives you further motivation.
– Your coach is now Andrei Nazarov. Did you watch any NHL game with him on ice?
– Not yet, but I’m very interested in watching one. I really want it.
– Many look at players of your size as potential tough guys. Aren’t you going to fight?
– I prefer playing hockey! But of course, every hockey player should be able to stand up for himself and for his team mates. But that’s another thing.
– You lost your father at a very early age. How did you pass through those hard times?
– My mama and my brother Denis were always next to me, always on my side, and I don’t know what I would have been up to now without them. And I’m very grateful to them, they are a true example for me. My father got me playing hockey when I was four. I started skating and I couldn’t stay on my feet, I was falling down, getting tired. I don’t really remember much, but my parents told me that I was loving it. I was always happy when it was practice time. When I picked up some injuries, my grandma asked: “my dear, maybe you have enough?” She was feeling bad for myself. But I had a dream and my father wanted me to be a hockey player. And I need to do everything to get it true.
– Did you have a hard time at school because of sports?
– I was attending a sports classroom and traditionally they are the worst ones. They are always calling parents home and try to get us working more. There are a lot of memories from those times, it’s even a bit offensive to remember everything.
– Right after the KHL draft you told the press that you had a chance to get to the SKA main lineup. This is a pretty standard thing to say after the draft. Did you really believe it back then?
– I wanted to show that I’m a person sure of himself. Hardly anyone would tell “I’m not ready.” But I knew that I needed to actually show it, not just to speak.
– Was it hard for you to move from Almetyevsk to St. Petersburg?
– Yes, it has been very hard. I am a home boy, I love my mom’s cuisine, and then I had to leave home and live alone. I can’t describe with words how much did I miss home. But then my mom and brother joined me and I had their energy to support me.
– What did help you to familiarize with the new environment?
– I was drafted alongside Vladislav Valentsov, who now plays for SKA junior team, and we got to St. Petersburg together. Both of us were without a flat, and the club helped us to get one. Vlad isn’t from St. Petersburg, but he played the year before the draft in the local junior league, playing for HC Neva, therefore he know the city a little. We befriended and helped out each other.
– Last year you played at the WJC. Were your emotions sky-high?
– I really wanted to play for the national team, but the competition for a spot in the team was very high. Of course I knew that it would have been truly hard. During the Subway Super Series I started getting within the team’s schemes and mentality, I feel at home playing in that team. I need to thank our coach Valeri Bragin: he put me in a position to give my best.
– Did the WJC finals let you with mixed feelings? You lost, but at the same time you managed to get from 1-5 to 4-5.
– We managed to show the true Russian character. We did everything we could, but we lost, that has been tough to swallow. I still remind of that final game and talk with my team mates Dmitry Yudin and Igor Shesterkin. We really needed to start the game in a better way.
– Was it a surprise to you to get drafted by the Kings?
– There is the Draft Combine first, where you meet the teams and talk with their representatives. I talked with the Kings and it was a good conversation, we laughed a lot and understood well each other. It was better talking with them than to other teams.
– And then you attended the Kings development camp.
– Yes, people at SKA advised me to do so, to look around, to study. The level was very good. The practices are a little different, there is a lot of dry practicing, even with puck and stick, in Russia you have less of this. It was very interesting, even if I didn’t know the language. But we had two Russians there, Valentin Zykov and Damir Sharipzyanov, and they helped me a lot.
– Do you think you showed your skills in a good way there?
– I think so, yes. I’ve heard that they were happy about me.
– What would have you done should Valentin Zykov wasn’t next to you?
– I don’t even know. I didn’t even know how to get food. I literally had him to open and close the doors where I passed through. I would get lost, I wouldn’t know whom and what to ask. We were always together, where he was, then there was me too.
– Did you take any English lesson after it?
– I read a bit, but it’s hard to find time to get proper lessons. I would like to learn more, but I’m a bit lazy for that.
– Most of scouting outlets write about you that you’re going to spend this season in Russia, then we’ll see. Do you want to play in the NHL?
– I am under contract right now, all my thoughts are focused on playing for SKA.
– I don’t want to provoke you to a sensational reply, but most of the players set for themselves the goal to play in the NHL.
– Of course I dream about playing in the NHL, but I’m not going to tell anything more.