Ilya Lyubushkin Ready for the Coyotes

Recently, Russian defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin signed with the Arizona Coyotes. The 24-year-old player has signed a one-year contract for $925,000. In this translated interview, Lyubushkin talked about his move to Arizona, his last season in the KHL and his prospects in North America.

Ilya Lyubushkin
Ilya Lyubushkin during a 2017-18 KHL game (Yaroslav and Yulia Neyelov, HC Lokomotiv)

* You can enjoy the original article by Marat Safin in the Russian language here. *

Ilya Lyubushkin Moving to America

Marat Safin: What about your move to Arizona?

Ilya Lyubushkin: The Coyotes dealt with me quite for a long time, I have talked a lot with their scouts. I have been contacted with a concrete offer just recently, but we talked for the whole season. As far as I know, the Coyotes were interested in me for the latest two years.

MS: Are you going there just for a consolidated spot on the roster? Situations can be very different.

IL: Yes, I agree, there can be many different situations. But I also know that Arizona wants to see me on their roster, and a lot depends on me. I need to show that I am worth a spot on the roster.

MS: Last year wasn’t a good season for many Russian defensemen. Andrei Mironov got back to Russia, so did Alexei Bereglazov and Yaroslav Dyblenko. Also, Viktor Antipin didn’t have his best season. Aren’t you scared about it?

IL: Everyone has his own path. I don’t think that these things should scare me if I want to play in the best league in the world.

MS: Maybe you won’t get included on the roster right away.

IL: I am ready (for) all. Difficult circumstances shouldn’t stop me.

MS: Did you follow Arizona games?

IL: I didn’t have time for that, but I often watched highlights. More than everyone I was impressed by [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson. But so far it’s not clear if he’ll sign a new contract with the team.

Ilya Lyubushkin’s Latest Season at Home

MS: When did you decide to leave?

IL: A lot of time has passed, but I took the final decision more or less in January. I told the Lokomotiv board right away, so that everything would be done in an honest way. They offered me to stay, but then they understood my position and wished me good luck.

MS: Your season wasn’t an easy one. Right before the Olympics you picked up an injury and didn’t make the tournament. How did you move on?

IL: The first day, when I was just injured, was very hard. But then I had more of a philosophical approach. Not everything in this life depends exclusively on us. Maybe it was what I needed.

Ilya Lyubushkin
Ilya Lyubushkin during a 2017-18 KHL game Yaroslav and Yulia Neyelov, HC Lokomotiv)

MS: When did you understand that your injury was a serious one?

IL: Pretty much right away. I simply could not get up from the ice. It was the first time in my career that I was seriously injured and I hope that it will stay the only time.

MS: What do you think, why you didn’t play at the recent IIHF World Championship?

IL: I finished the season with an injury. I still had problems with my leg during the playoffs. After the season, I needed to rest and thus I couldn’t help the national team. Of course, I have watched all the games at both the Olympics and the World Championship. I’m really glad for the guys and for our country that we won the gold medal at the Olympics. I think the guys also played very well at the World Championship. The team was very young, with many young players. I think that they deserved to win the game against Team Canada.

MS: Does your friend Vladislav Gavrikov try to follow your example?

IL: I don’t know, you should ask him. Maybe once his contract with SKA will run out (next April) he’ll think about it.

MS: Did you study the way defensemen play in the NHL?

IL: I think that I should orient myself better there, in the end the ice is smaller. I think that I need to improve in any component of the game. I intend to play a long career there.