One of the top surprises for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, Russian forward Nikita Soshnikov showed that he has a future in the NHL not only because of his offensive skills, but also thanks to his heart and fearless play. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website sovsport.ru, Maple Leafs forward Nikita Soshnikov talked about emotions in the NHL, his move to Toronto, and English lessons.
* For the original Dmitry Malinovsky article on sovsport.ru, click here.
– Recently, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spent some good words on you. You don’t hear such words from him all the time.
– I don’t know what to say (smiles). I try to do what should be done. Maybe I need to work even harder. In the game against Ottawa I was minus-3. You can’t really relax playing [in the NHL]. You need to work hard in each and all games. Even more so considering that you get to play every other day. Sometimes even twice in 24 hours. You get tired, you try to rest. This is why you need to use your mind more.
– I watched that game against Ottawa and I counted how many times the announcer said the word “Soshnikov”. My count reached 22. And even Don Cherry talked about you. Doesn’t all this attention bother you?
– Well, what do they say?
– They mostly praise you. That is, Cherry a part, of course.
– Generally speaking, I don’t give this much attention. My work is to get to the ice, play, and show my best. And I don’t speak English very well. I think the analysts should keep on talking, after all they do this for the fans, right?
– Everyone noticed your will to play hard. In the game against the Senators you weren’t scared to have an argument with Erik Karlsson and Brad Richards. Isn’t authority on ice important in those cases?
– That is not my role on ice. My role is to find the best moment to have a good scoring chance. But when you manage to get your opposition out of the game, then it’s good for your team. The more emotions there are during a game, the better it is.
– Evgeny Namestnikov, one of your coaches in the KHL and a scout for the Maple Leafs gave Toronto a tip about you. How did he convince you to move to the NHL?
– Last year, when we had about 15 games to play, Namestnikov told me: “You have to choice what you want to achieve in your life. Go [to North America] and play against the best players in the world or stay here [in Russia]. It’s up to you. But if you want to play in the NHL, you have to show your best game.” I tried hard, and was even called to Team Russia. Everything went well.
– Taking English language classes was your decision or a request from the team?
– The Toronto Marlies General Manager Kyle Dubas asked me if I wanted to take English lessons with a tutor. That’s why Mike Babcock told me that if I wanted to play in the NHL I had to improve my language skills. I really had no choice. But I wanted it myself, it’s interesting. I’m studying, but I still can’t really speak English yet. Leo Komarov translates for me during interviews.
– Everyone says that Jaromir Jagr practices on nights. But I have been told that you have the same attitude and that in the AHL they even had to tell you to practice less.
– I don’t practice on nights. I stay after the practice if I feel that I have to work on something. I’m still young. Frankly speaking, I am not really sure what I really need to work on. Right now let’s say that I’m searching for the perfect way to practice and play.
– Do you have a nickname in the locker room?
– Yes, the guys call me “Soshki”.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso