After being chased by 17 different NHL teams (and paying about $500,000 to get out of his KHL contract), Sergei Plotnikov decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Russia-hockey.ru, the new Penguins forward talked about his workout in the offseason, his uniform number, and the negotiation with 17 NHL teams.
Plotnikov, 25, was born in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a city in the Russian Far East, and started playing pro hockey with Amur Khabarovsk, where he started his KHL career. After a few successful seasons as young player, Plotnikov has been signed by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, one of the top KHL teams. It was a great move for Plotnikov, who spent three years in Yaroslavl, scoring a total of 44 goals and 57 assists in 109 games. He is also a regular member of Team Russia and won a gold and a silver medal at the 2014 and 2015 IIHF WC, respectively. In 2014 he was included in the tournament All-Star team. Plotnikov twice skated at the KHL All-Star Game, in 2013 and 2015.
* For the original russia-hockey.ru interview, please click here.
Note: this interview has been originally taken in early July.
– Sergei, it has been a while we don’t read about you on the press. What are you up to now?
– I’m in my home town Khabarovsk now, I’m practicing in sight of the new season. I am working every day both on and off the ice. I’m feeling great.
– Judging by your voice it looks like you’re pumped up for the new season.
– Yes, I am. By the way, this summer I changed my off-season program. I’m working with a cross-fit program, which consists in doing exercises with minimal pauses between them. The sessions are scheduled in a way to work on the biggest possible number of muscles. We’ll see what kind of results I’ll get.
– Did you already talk with Penguins leader Evgeny Malkin?
– I gave Evgeny some questions, mostly about everyday details related to the life in Pittsburgh.
– Did Malkin tell you that Pittsburgh is the steel capital of the USA, pretty much the same thing as his native Magnitogorsk in Russia?
– No, he kept it as his secret! (Laughs.)
– In the Russian press there has been some buzz as you picked for yourself the number 61, and not your usual 16.
– It’s easy. The 16 jersey freed up not that long ago, and I already decided that I won’t be looking for that number. I chose the reverted number: 61. I’m already familiar with that number, I played as #61 for my home club Amur Khabarovsk.
– In Russia, the jersey #61 is linked with Maxim Afinogenov, who had a good career in the NHL. Are you trying to follow his steps?
– Maxim is a great player, but my choice has nothing to do with him.
– Do you know that the jersey #61 has been taken by Eric Fehr?
– I heard about it. Well, I’ll get to know Eric and the other guys soon, maybe we’ll discuss the jersey numbers topic.
– Your agent told the press that 17 NHL teams were chasing you. Is this good for your self-esteem?
– Of course it’s a very good thing that NHL teams were interested in me. But you know, the situation here was pretty obvious, I haven’t been drafted by any NHL team, therefore I could choose freely. I had offers from both the Eastern and Western Conference. At the end me and my agent preferred Pittsburgh, and we hope that our decision was the correct one.
– The “Malkin Factor” had his weight too?
– Of course.
– What are your goals for the upcoming season? Score 15-20 goals and get 50 points?
– My main goal is to test myself in the best league in the world, to grow as a hockey player. Then there is the national team, with the IIHF WC in Moscow and the World Cup in Toronto. There are many goals, the most important thing is to work hard.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso