Bogdan Yakimov had a busy season, playing full-time in the KHL, representing Russia at the WJC in Sweden and, finally, signing an entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him last year in the third round. In this translated interview given to Roman Soloviev of rsports.ru the Nizhnekamsk, Russia native confirmed that he’s ready to play in the AHL.
– Bogdan, if I recall correctly, you’re now practicing in Pennsylvania, where you had a camp last year too.
– Yes, it’s the second time. I liked it last year and I decided to get back, since I was in good shape already at the start of the season. Now I’m practicing with Vyacheslav Tukhtin, mostly on ice. I need to do some on-ice work before the rookie camp in Edmonton. I’m working with Pavel Buchnevich, Nikita Tryamkin and Zakhar Arzamastsev, and while dry-practicing with some guys from Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
– What were your emotions when you get to Edmonton’s camp?
– Last year it was my first time in Edmonton. I loved like the city lives hockey; it’s the sport number one. Every fellow there knows everything about the players. It will be interesting to see the guys against whom I’ll be competing for a spot in the team and see what they are about. I want to get there as soon as possible and show that I’m ready to fight for a spot in the team from the start.
– Did they recognize you on the street?
– Yes, they recognized even me! They know the young players, they greet them and at the practices there were like two-thousand people in the stands who went just to see the newly drafted players.
– Did you have any communication issue?
– I was helped by Daniil Zharkov, the Oilers drafted him one year before me. The guys were kind and helped me a lot. I think that I’ll need just a little more time, then I’ll be able to speak English fluently.
– How did you talk with the Oilers during the season?
– I talked many times with scouts during the season and they made me understand that they were waiting for me and considering me useful for the team. This was important in taking my decision. They were satisfied about my progresses in skating. I know that I need to work on hits because in Russia they don’t teach you much about it, I hope I’ll be able to do that here. I’ll work so that it won’t be my weak side.
– As far as I know, you talked many times with former player now scout Frantisek Musil.
– Yes, and sometimes he gave me some good pieces of advice in how to properly play.
– How would you judge last season, where you had your debut in the KHL and skated at the WJC?
– Well, the season was, let’s say, average. It had good and bad moments. It was good that we had a coach like Vladimir Krikunov, he didn’t give any privilege to any player. No matter how old you are, if you can play, you’re in. They trusted me and I felt the trust of the coaches. I think my season in the KHL was good. At the WJC we wanted another medal, we could have reached it. If I count how many times I didn’t score myself… Too bad that I won’t have another chance, now I can play only for the senior national team. But now I should just go on.
– Was it hard to take the decision to cross the Ocean and sign with the Oilers?
– Neftekhimik gave me a good offer, they asked me to stay. After all, it’s my home club and my home town. The KHL is a good league and becomes stronger each season; the level of play gets higher and higher. But when I started playing there was nothing like that, there was the NHL only and I started dreaming playing there, that’s why I decided to go. I thought about it with my family and agent for a long time, it’s still the other end of the world… it has been a serious decision, we thought over it for a long time, but my family supported me. I’ll do whatever I can to play in the NHL, I have good chances, and then we’ll see.
– What feelings did you have leaving your home?
– Of course it has been sad. But going away wasn’t a problem, because I was anyway used to go away to play in the VHL, in Izhevsk, in Penza. With the team there were no problems, I know everyone and everyone knows me. It’s good to still have good ties, they told me that they will wait for my return and that the doors are always open for me.
– It will be good to get to the NHL right away, are you ready to be sent down to the AHL in Oklahoma City?
– I’ll do whatever I can to play in the NHL right away, I know I have a good chance. Of course, if I’ll play in the AHL I’ll show that it’s not a problem to me. Maybe I’ll need some time to adapt to North American hockey. I do have some weak points and I need to work on them. Maybe in the AHL I’ll have enough ice time and I think that it can be good to me and that I’ll be able to improve these parts of my game the Oilers wouldn’t be satisfied about.
– Maybe Valeri Nichushkin gave you good advice when you visited him during the playoffs in Dallas?
– At that time I already decided to get here, but I wasn’t sure at the hundred percent. But when I went to the Dallas – Anaheim game I abandoned any doubt and I really understood that I want to play here, in this league. In that game Valeri [Nichushkin] scored his first goal in the playoffs and I was happy as I scored myself (laughs). I talk with him every day and if I’ll need some advice, I’ll definitely ask him.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso