After a great start of the season, Nikita Gusev was traded from Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk to SKA St. Petersburg, one of the KHL top teams and the current Gagarin Cup champion. Moreover, he got the first call to the Russian national team to represent his country in the recent Karjala Cup in Finland. This season so far he has seven goals and fifteen points in 25 games. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Sportsdaily.ru, Lightning prospect Nikita Gusev talked about his move to SKA, his call to the national team, and confirmed that he is very interested in playing in the NHL to join his friend Nikita Kucherov. The dynamic duo often played together in junior hockey and back at home in Russia.
* For the original Sportsdaily.ru article by Yulia Grigorievskaya, click here.
– Nikita, recently you have been traded from Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk to SKA St. Petersburg. What do you think when they call you “the new Panarin“?
– All is good. I play on the same position as Artemy.
– And in the same line too. Do you already feel some chemistry with Evgeny Dadonov and Vadim Shipachyov?
– Well, I played only a couple of games with the guys, and it was a bit hard. But I’ll try to get used to them and quickly find common language.
– Can you say now that you’re progressing playing for SKA?
– I try progressing step by step.
– You started the season very well, scoring many goals. Then you lost some momentum. Was it because you already knew you’d be signing with SKA?
– No, simply I picked up a little injury. I spent a couple of days at the hospital, and it has been hard to get back at the level I was before.
– How did you know that you were called up to the national team?
– At our office they gave me a paper showing that I was invited to play for the national team. That’s all. The first to congratulate me were my parents and my wife, then my friends started writing me too. I still can’t think of myself as a national team player, but I can say that I enjoy work with [Team Russia head coach] Oleg Znarok.
– You changed team not in the most pleasant moment: SKA just fired head coach Andrei Nazarov. Did you think about it when you had to move to SKA?
– Not at all. I moved with a positive mood and I was very intrigued to move to such a good team. When I got here I noted that the locker room had a great environment, there were no bad things going around due to the hard situation.
– Did you get acquainted in St. Petersburg?
– Not yet, I spent only one day there, I arrived from Yugra, I had a practice with the team then we departed for an away games series. I had good impressions from the practice, they assigned me right away to the first line with Dadonov and Shipachyov and then after a bit to the fourth line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alexander Kadeikin.
– Just as any other young and promising player, probably you are thinking about playing in the NHL.
– Of course I have such plans. My best friend Nikita Kucherov, with whom I talk every day, wants me to join him overseas, but earlier I could not. He tells me that [in North America] there is a completely different environment and hockey also is not the same. But every player has his own goals and destiny. Nikita is doing great there, and I’m very happy for him.
– Don’t you envy him?
– No, I don’t, I hope that he can score and achieve even more. Basically, I try following each Russian player who plays in the NHL. It’s very interesting to follow how the different careers develop there. But more than everyone, of course, I follow Kucherov.
[Related: Nikita Gusev Not Thinking About The NHL Yet]