Radel Fazleev had a solid World Junior Championship, where he won the silver medal with Team Russia. He had three points in the tournament, but his performance was much better than what the stats are telling. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Business-Online, Flyers prospect Radel Fazleev talked about his WJC experience and expressed how impressed he is by the Flyers franchise.
* For the original Business-Online article by Dzhaudat Abdullin and Marsel Magizov, click here [source has since been removed].
– Radel, did you know you would get included in the WJC Team Russia final roster earlier?
– Yes, about a couple of days before the official final roster announcement. Our team leader called me as he needed to organize some details, buy tickets. So it was clear that I was going to fly to Finland. Well, they still had to cut another player, but then Denis Guryanov earned a game-misconduct penalty in the exhibition game against Team Denmark.
– You won that game with a good score, yet Bragin was expecting a different game in the quarterfinals. Last year, it was also hard for Team Russia to defeat Team Denmark.
– Our coaches knew everything about them, they told us that it would have been a hard game, and if that we underrated them, then we’ll have problems. I can’t say that we played bad, just we didn’t finish our chances. I was sure that we would score when we were down 2-1. So it happened, we tied the game, but they scored another fast goal. So there was a little panic. Alexander Dergachyov told me: “How could I look my mama into her eyes if we’re going to lose?” Probably we wouldn’t even get out of the arena if we lost, but I was sure that we were going to win anyway.
– What was the hardest game in the round robin?
– I think it was against Team Czech Republic, because it was the first game. I couldn’t really understand that I was playing at the WJC until the third period. We were all nervous before the game. I didn’t sleep well and I dreamed about playing. Everything was set for our successfull performance. So we had to work a bit to relax, because we were all trying to do only one thing: to win. So I went to the autobus and listened to some music, but I didn’t manage to distract myself. All this had a big impact on our first game. We were thinking that we were at the World Championship, that all our parents were watching us, so was the whole country. We had to sort things on our head first, and the Czechs were tenacious opponents.
– Wasn’t it hard to play against the Finns in the round robin?
– It was a great game. They were up 3-1 and we had 13 thousand people cheering against us. We couldn’t even hear Russian fans. When I scored, there was absolutely no reaction, and I thought that the puck didn’t cross the line. So I watched the ref, he was signalling a goal, and the arena was completely silent. But that was only when we scored, in all other situations it was all very loud and it was a great atmosphere. When you play with such an atmosphere it’s even easier to recover.
– Alexander Dergachyov took the defeat in a very emotional way.
– Yes, of course. We became close friends during the tournament. It was the common memories what helped us, due to the hot games we played against Almetievsk, where Dergachyov was playing at times. Playing against Nizhnekamsk, where Damir Sharipzyanov was playing, was quieter. Normal games. But against Almetievsk it was a whole other story, we had a lot of fights. We remembered that once a guy broke a stick on another kid’s head in three pieces. We had some of these memories to share, of course nowadays it’s all different.
– Ron Wilson declared that TSN puts too much pressure on Team Canada during the WJC.
– This is just empty talking. North American guys are all well used to this kind of pressure. Before the WJC, I was envying the Canadians for the kind of attention and following they have on junior hockey. But then I understood that in Russia it can be no less than that, and that there can be a lot of attention on our team too. I am so proud for our team and our country. We can be at the same organization level as North American teams, and regarding play, we can say that we are pretty much at the same level and can be even get better, this is the most important thing.
– This year, the WJC team had only nine representatives from the same team at the U18 WJC. The Czechs, for example, had 17 players. Why all this rotation?
– Well, a lot of things are due to the different coaches, I think. At the U18s, we were coached by Pavel Baulin, now by Bragin, and they have another conception of hockey. And then, players grow. Someone grows, and not only in a physical way, and becomes better. I regularly played with Team Russia 96, but I saw Alexander Polunin only at the WJC. Kraskovsky and Korshkov weren’t leaders on the U18 team, now they play very well and they play on the same line in the KHL. Alexander Georgiev now plays in Finland. I asked him how he got there. He told me that no one needed him in Yaroslavl, he was cut from the team, so he was helped by Fredrik Norrena to get a spot playing for TPS junior team. His parents were great, they rented a flat for him in order to get him playing there, and then he started playing and grew until he reached the national junior level team as the starting goaltender.
– So, you were thinking about the national team. Now, of course, you’re focused on playing for the Hitmen. And what about the Flyers?
– Once again I have to say that I am positively shocked about the level of organization of the franchise. At the WJC, there was the GM Ron Hextall, plus a guy who had the task of following all of their prospects, including me and Ivan Provorov. The manager for players development gave me his impressions after each game. After the game against Team Slovakia, he told me that Hextall was very satisfied about my game and that they count on me for the future. I understand that I have to play in the AHL first, but this is before the Flyers have a careful attitude regarding their prospects and they want players to have a smooth adaptation.
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A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso