Never drafted in the NHL, Sergey Tolchinsky garnered attention from the big league after a good career with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL. The winger hasn’t had a real chance in the NHL yet, but he has very good numbers in the AHL and will maybe get another call-up later in the season.
In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website championat.com, Tolchinsky talked about his season, his chance with the Carolina Hurricanes and his plans for the future.
* You can enjoy the original interview by Maxim Zamyatin here *
Maxim Zamyatin: Your latest game in the AHL is dated March 13. Were you injured?
Sergey Tolchinsky: Yes, I had a lower-body injury but now all is good. I feel great, I’m trying to get in shape and getting ready for the playoffs.
MZ: The Charlotte Checkers will get to the playoffs and you’re scoring more than last year. How would you judge your season?
ST: You always want to play better. It was a hard season as I lost many games due to an injury. I’m not satisfied with my stats but if we consider my ice time, then the numbers aren’t bad.
MZ: April 7 will be one year since you were last called up to Carolina. What were you told by the Hurricanes?
ST: Frankly, I haven’t been told anything special. At the deadline, some NHL teams were interested in me but the Hurricanes rejected the offers as they said that they were interested themselves. However, I haven’t been called up yet.
— Hurricanes Report (@canes_fanly) April 7, 2017
MZ: It sounds strange, especially considering that your contract with the Hurricanes will run out soon.
ST: Yes, you’re right. But I’m not thinking about it. I’m under contract and I need to honor it in whatever case.
MZ: Maybe this situation is because the Hurricanes changed some things on their board?
ST: It happened after the deadline. It wasn’t the first time that I have been linked to a trade but the Hurricanes always rejected it, last year it was the same.
MZ: In the meantime, Valentin Zykov is playing very well.
ST: He’s great. He found his team, he is really in his place with the Hurricanes and he’s a very good player. I can say that he was lucky to end up in Carolina.
MZ: Each year you have a good training camp and it looks like it’s finally your season. But in the end, you were again sent down to the AHL. Why?
ST: When I was called up to the NHL, I played very well, I had two assists in four games. After each game, the GM and the coach told me that I played very well.
MZ: In Russia, the AHL is not very popular and there is such a stereotype that it’s a league for second-tier players who play in the typical, simple North American style. What can you say about it?
ST: [In the AHL] there are many good players. But not all of the players manage to live up to the mental pressure. It’s hard when you have good numbers and you don’t get called up. On the other hand, the hockey is very different. Many say that playing in the NHL is easier. The hockey is at a higher level. A lot depends on your partners.
MZ: Not long ago there were some rumors that you are thinking about returning to Russia. Is it true?
ST: Frankly speaking, I’m not sure how such a rumor appeared, since I am not thinking about going back to Russia and I haven’t told anyone anything similar. That’s why I was very surprised when I read such news. I am fully focused on getting ready for the playoffs, thus it’s too early to think about transfers.
Moreover, it’s still possible that I will get traded. I haven’t thought about going back to Russia yet but I can’t exclude this option. The KHL is a great league. I am following CSKA, I watch games pretty often, including the playoffs.
MZ: There are still 10 games to go in the NHL regular season. You still have time to get called up.
ST: Yes, in the last two seasons I was called up close to the end of the season. Hopefully, it will be like that this year too.
MZ: During an interview with championat.com, CSKA president Igor Esmantovich said that the team is interested in all their alumni.
ST: Yes, I read it and it was very pleasant.
MZ: Sometimes, going back to Russia is psychologically hard and not each player manages to do it successfully. Aren’t you worried about it?
ST: I’m sure about myself. However, I want to repeat that I’m not thinking about going back to Russia. I’m now fully focused on the interests of the team with whom I am under contract.
MZ: Your career path wasn’t ordinary. You moved to the OHL then, without being drafted, got picked up by the Hurricanes and you even got to debut in the NHL.
ST: Yes, nothing kind of went as planned. I had my ups and downs, but that happens to any player. You can’t always move forward in a straight line. You need to fight through the difficulties and prove wrong those who didn’t believe in you.
MZ: How hard is it psychologically?
ST: I won’t give up, that’s for sure. I’m 23. I’m still young and many players become stars much later. Quite the opposite, it gives you more stimuli. I’m sure that I haven’t shown yet what I can do. As I said earlier, there were other NHL teams interested in me. Many who change teams manage to move on to another level and showcase their best game. There are plenty of examples like this, so we’ll see what happens this summer.
MZ: If you get called up to the Hurricanes, won’t this prevent you from successfully playing for the Checkers in the playoffs?
ST: It wouldn’t prevent me from anything, quite the opposite, it would give me more confidence. If I am given a chance I will be very happy and will try to show my best game. Talking about the AHL playoffs, we have a good team and a good chance to go far. But our opponents will be good as well.