During the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, one of the biggest players to be picked was Oleg Sosunov (6’8″, 240-pounds). The Tampa Bay Lightning spent a sixth-round pick on him. Sosunov is a rugged defenseman who likes to use his size in the defensive zone and who is not afraid to drop the gloves. In this exclusive interview, The Hockey Writers and Sosunov discussed when he started playing hockey, how it felt to be drafted and he shed some light on himself.
First Steps in Hockey
The Hockey Writers: Hello Oleg. Where were you born? When did you start playing hockey?
Oleg Sosunov: I was born in Moscow. Later I and my family moved to Ryazan, where I started playing. I was nine when I started.
THW: And were you already the biggest kid on your team?
OS: Yeah, I already was the tallest player.
THW: Is it correct to think that your size is the main reason why you started playing on defense?
OS: Yes, that’s exact.
THW: You come from a sports family, as both your father and mother are both retired track-and-field, high-level athletes. Is this an advantage?
OS: Definitely, in my family, everyone is a professional athlete. My parents are always a good example for me that I try to follow. It was like that in my childhood and it keeps on being like that now.
THW: Didn’t they want you to become a track-and-field athlete as well?
OS: More no than yes. But in the end, I preferred playing hockey.
Oleg Sosunov, a lefty, had 12 pts in 39 games for Yaroslav last season. #NHLDraft
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 25, 2016
THW: You played in many teams in Russia. Now you’re satisfied with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl?
OS: Yes, I am. Lokomotiv has a great organization, with a very good structure. [Yaroslavl] is a true hockey city and has great conditions for athletes.
THW: What kind of contract do you have with Lokomotiv? Will it run out next April?
OS: No, last summer I signed a three-year deal.
Possible Move To North America
THW: Did you get any offer from the CHL?
OS: No, I did not.
THW: I am under the impression that you would have rejected them.
OS: That’s not entirely accurate. Since I don’t know what the conditions would be, then I can’t give an objective reply on the question if it was better to go there or stay at home. I would have considered an offer.
THW: Then you were drafted by the Lightning. Was it a surprise?
OS: It was a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect that the Lightning would draft me.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 26, 2016
THW: The Lightning are one of the teams with the most Russians. Do you follow them?
OS: Yes, I try to catch the highlights of their games.
THW: Do you know any of their Russian players in person?
OS: No, unfortunately I do not.
THW: Do the Lightning want you to cross the Atlantic as soon as possible or are they ready to wait?
OS: I am not ready to reply to this question.
Back To Russia
THW: Ok. You have just finished the regular season with the Loko team in the MHL. Are you ready for the playoffs?
OS: Of course, playing the playoffs is the scope of the entire season.
THW: In your statistics, there are always plenty of PIMs (Note: 79 PIMs in 32 regular season games). Did you have many fights?
OS: Yes. More than once I had to step up for myself and for my teammates.
Oleg Sosunov isn’t here. Probably a good thing, at 6-foot-8, 243 pounds, not sure if the interview podiums could contain him #tblightning
— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) June 25, 2016
THW: Did you often win?
OS: Of course you’re always trying to win, but judging isn’t my task.
THW: It looks like you’re always ready to punish players who act badly. Do you think that the worst is when opposition players get in contact with the goalie after the whistle?
OS: Yes, I fought most often with those guys which attacked our goalies.
THW: Do you attend boxing practices? Many players have them.
OS: Yes, earlier on I regularly attended box practices, but after I moved to Yaroslavl I stopped, for some reasons. I think this summer I’ll get back to boxing practices.
OS: A big, strong forward with a great puck control. He knows how to get advantage of his height. Playing against him is pretty hard.
THW: You also play with another very interesting player. One of the best 2000-born players from Russia, Grigori Denisenko. It has been said that he’s not much behind Andrei Svechnikov.
OS: He’s also a very good player. His puck control is at the highest level, and he’s always playing with his head up, he always sees his linemates.
THW: What are your plans for the future?
OS: Work on myself, grow as a player and trying do as much as I can to be successful in my hockey career.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso