One of the biggest surprises of the last spring was Nikita Soshnikov move from the KHL to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a very good season in the KHL, Soshnikov decided to cross the Ocean for his chance to play in the best league in the world. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Russia-hockey.ru, Maple Leafs prospect Nikita Soshnikov talked about the Leafs training camp, shared his impression after his first impact with the NHL, and declared that he’s ready to play in the AHL.
– Nikita, can you tell us about how did you spend the camp with the Maple Leafs?
– Everything happened very fast. First the rookie camp, then the camp with the main team. The competition is very tight, there are three teams of four lines plus the goalies. That means about seventy players for 25 spots in the final roster. It’s something like a contest, six men for one spot, if you count youngsters too.
– You did skate for the Leafs in one of the pre-season games, against Montreal.
– Yes, I’ve been given the chance to play on the first line. I had about 17 minutes on ice. I played with Peter Holland as center and Darryl Boyce on the right. We won. How did I play? Only Babcock can reply to this question. I had more shot than anyone else in that game. I didn’t feel out of place.
– What can you tell us about your opponents?
– Montreal played without Subban and Pacioretty. I noticed Alexei Emelin, he played very tough on defense. I also liked how Price played on the crease, he looked very quiet and calm.
– Why didn’t you play in other games for the Leafs?
– I repeat once again, there were about seventy players on the camp, they needed to have a look at everyone.
– What impressions did that game give you?
– A very fast-paced game, a lot of physical play. No one can allow himself to play a relaxed game, there is pressure everywhere. The different ice surface forces the game to be played that way.
– What are the main differences with the KHL?
– You don’t even have the time to raise your head. There is very little free ice. It’s hard to come up with anything.
– Most of the people in Toronto talk well about you, mostly because you are one of these players who can come up with something unexpected.
– Yes, after that game we had a little meeting and I managed to talk with Babcock and our GM Lou Lamoriello.
– What did they say?
– I was very happy about what Babcock told me. “Sosh, don’t change anything in your style, I like your game, I like how you give your heart out there.” Lamoriello told pretty much the same. I am grateful to them for these words.
– But they sent you to the AHL anyway…
– I was ready for this. They are rebuilding in Toronto, but there are still a lot of players with one-way contracts. Therefore most of the younger players were assigned down to the AHL or the junior leagues.
– What are your impressions from working with Mike Babcock?
– An interesting man, an excellent psychologist and a great coach.
– Which of your teammates gave you the best impression?
– They are all very good players. Not only in my team, but in the whole league, the competition is very high.
– Well, try telling us some names anyway.
– Did you manage to see other teams?
– Just a bit. Detroit plays very well, especially with the first two lines. In Buffalo I really like the rookie Jake Eichel. I’ve heard that he’s the top candidate for the Calder Trophy.
– What are your goals now that you were assigned down to the Marlies?
– Many young players were sent down with me to the AHL. Many say that playing in the farm team is harder than playing with the big guys. Maybe in the AHL everyone is trying to play in a way that allow the scout or the staff of their teams to consider them worth of a call-up, maybe there is more individual play, while in the NHL there is much more team play.
– Will you survive to the AHL test?
– I’ll play hard and do my best to show that I am worth playing in the NHL. And I’ll be waiting for my chance.
Related: Who Is Nikita Soshnikov?
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso