Going Back Home Not an Option for Abramov

A talented player with plenty of potential, Vitaly Abramov had a busy first part of the season. First he was the subject of different rumors regarding the continuation of his career, and more recently he was traded from the Gatineau Olympiques to the Victoriaville Tigres. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website championat.com, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Vitaly Abramov discussed his trade, talked about his prospects with the Columbus Blue Jackets and explained that he doesn’t intend to get back home.

Vitaly Abramov
Vitaly Abramov (Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

* You can enjoy the original article in the Russian language by Darya Tuboltseva here *

Trade to Victoriaville

Darya Tuboltseva: Were you shocked by your recent trade?

Vitaly Abramov: There were some rumors, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then, during a game of the Canada-Russia series, some Canadian players told me that I was traded. Then I read about it on the internet later.

DT: Didn’t you get distracted during the game?

VA: I didn’t really think about it during the game. I thought the Canadians were joking. It’s not a usual thing to get traded during a game, of course.

DT: You’re walking in the footsteps of Matt Duchene.

VA: Yes (laughs). Maybe it’s a bit better that I got traded during a Team Russia game, and not while playing for Gatineau, but I still had a strange feeling.

DT: Was it hard to leave Gatineau?

VA: Of course! I spent two and a half seasons there and felt at home. But the trade to Victoriaville is a good thing for me, a new challenge, we can fight for the Cup.

Team Russia and WJC

DT: How do you judge the latest Canada-Russia series?

VA: It was a great experience both for me and for the team. The first game against the QMJHL All-Stars was a bit unlucky, we lost, and we simply had to win the next game. We leveraged on our character and scored in the last minutes of the game. And then we lost on the shootout. I think that luck had some influence there, but hopefully we’ll have more at the WJC.

DT: Why you didn’t win the first game against the QMJHL All-Stars?

VA: The other guys were a bit tired and we, the QMJHL players, didn’t have our best game. At least we could win the next game.

DT: Was it a pity not to win the series?

VA: It was a pity when my shootout attempt hit the crossbar. I think that if we could get the lead, we would have won.

DT: Do you think you won yourself a WJC spot with your game?

VA: I gave my hundred percent and play without even trying to save energy. I’m just waiting for the coaches’ decision. [Team Russia head coach Valeri] Bragin supported all the guys after the game and told us where we need to work on.

DT: Last year you played at the Canada-Russia series, but you didn’t score any points and as a result didn’t have a WJC spot. Maybe you were still too young or were there other reasons?

VA: It was a hard start to the season. I think that I had a good preseason, but I started playing well only in December, and I already have lost the train. And probably I didn’t have enough experience to play at such a level.

DT: When Team Russia won the WJC last, you were only 12. Do you remember that tournament?

VA: Of course, I watched the tournament and I remember it. I think that all the Russian fans remember it. It was an incredible game against Canada, I frankly watch the highlight of that game pretty often.

Vitaly Abramov and the NHL

DT: Who was your favorite player in your childhood?

VA: Evgeny Kuznetsov, as we are both from Chelyabinsk. I always admired his game. I know Evgeny, I can’t say that we are big friends, but we greet each other when we meet. He even gave me some advice.

Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals
Evgeny Kuznetsov (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DT: Artemi Panarin also was playing that tournament, and this summer you practiced with him. What were your feelings?

VA: It was incredible. Artemi is a fantastic player and he gave me a lot of invaluable advice. I also asked him so many things. I had exactly that feeling that you should have when you’re next to a great player.

DT: Do you dream about playing with him on the same line?

VA: We played on the same powerplay line in one regular season game. I really want to play a regular season game with him. I need to work and my dream can come true. I have good chances, but I need to work.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

DT: Last year you were the QMJHL top scorer and MVP. Don’t you feel like you overgrow the league?

VA: I wouldn’t say so. There are many NHL prospects in this league.

DT: This year you want to repeat last year’s success?

VA: At least. But it’s not my main goal, my first goal is to win with the team.

DT: Alexander Radulov scored 152 points in a season. Last year you had 104, the second all-time result for a Russian in the QMJHL. Is beating Radulov’s record a possibility?

VA: 152 points is something unreal (laughs). But you never know what can happen. Radulov was at his second year there, and his team won the Cup.

DT: How long are you going to wait your chance in Columbus? This year? Next season? Are you discussing any time with them?

VA: No, not really. I signed my contract only last year and I really want to play there. I will wait as much as needed. But of course, I hope that it will happen soon.

DT: After the camp with the Blue Jackets did you have a chance only to go to Gatineau? Didn’t you want to get back to Russia?

VA: Of course I had different thoughts and feelings. But there is an agreement between the CHL and the NHL, according to which every player under 20 can only go there. And I couldn’t really get back to Russia with a valid NHL contract.

DT: Do you miss Yakov Trenin? Probably was good to have as a teammate not only a Russian, but a player from Chelyabinsk.

VA: Of course I do miss him. We’re constantly in touch. He really helped me at first, when I didn’t know any English. He helped me a lot, he walked me everywhere, showed me everything. I’m truly grateful to him.

DT: Eeli Tolvanen is one year younger than you but he constantly plays on Jokerit’s second line. Can you imagine that happening in Russian teams? Maybe that’s why many Russian players move to the Canadian junior leagues?

World Junior Evaluation Camp
Sioux City Muskateers forward Eeli Tolvanen. Photo courtesy Sioux City Muskateers

VA: It really depends on the single case. Many young players are given a chance, many others are not. The coaches trust Tolvanen and he has good chances to showcase himself. Probably, KHL teams need to give more chances to young players.

DT: How many times you were told that you’re going nowhere with your size?

VA: Many, many times (laughs). I’ve been constantly told this. But I try to show with my game that it’s just words, and that I can play as well as bigger guys do.

DT: Now the NHL is more of an offensive league and for the smaller guys it’s easier. Do you think this helps you in having more chances?

VA: Yes, of course. In the NHL there are more and more smaller, more agile players. You look at them and understand that you can do it too. This motivates me in working even more.

DT: You’re already at your third season in North America. Don’t you regret to have moved that early?

VA: No, why? I can’t chance the past. I’m having a good time and I like hockey. I only need to go on this way.

DT: Did you ever thought about getting back to Russia?

VA: Maybe the first year, at the end of the season. I was really missing home and my friends.

DT: Do you still have contacts with the Traktor Chelyabinsk organization?

VA: Of course, it’s my home club. When I get to Chelyabinsk I meet the guys and the coaches. We’re constantly in touch and have good ties.

DT: If Traktor would contact you now offering a contract and a full-time spot in the lineup, what would you say?

VA: It can’t really be. I am under contract with Columbus. It’s not like I can get back home just because.