After a successful rookie season in North America playing for the Regina Pats of the WHL, Sergey Zborovskiy was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Winners agency website, Zborovskiy talked about his first year in Canada, North American hockey and being drafted by the Rangers.
* For the original interview by Alexander Grebennikov, click here.
– Sergey, one year ago you moved from Russia to North America. How different is the play, the tactics, the level of the leagues?
– Of course the game is much different, it’s a whole different style. Everything depends on the size of the rink, since in Russia the rinks are bigger, then there is much more time for thinking. It’s easier. Here in Canada, the rinks are smaller, you have to make decisions twice as fast and you always are under physical pressure from your opponents. I think that here in Canada hockey is played at a higher level, players here work very hard and it shows.
– How do you like North American hockey?
– I like it a lot. I like everything: the atmosphere on and off the ice, fans, pre-game shows, the games themselves. Here [in Canada] there are constant scoring changes, a lot of puck battles, you always have to be ready because they hit hard. Here playing is more interesting and I think it’s more developed. I think I fit this kind of hockey better than European hockey.
– Did you have any difficulty in every-day life?
– Of course, at first it was hard, in the first few months I had many problems with the language. But then the team got Pavel Padakin and he helped me a lot in everything. I don’t even know what it would have been like without him. When I had a hard time understanding, he was there to translate for me. He simply took me under his wing, after all he was a veteran in the CHL. Of course, I tried learning the language by myself and to talk to my teammates. They often laughed, but they also saw that I was trying hard, therefore they helped me a lot and I’m very thankful.
– Did you manage to fully immerse yourself in North American life?
– At first you have to understand their culture and their lifestyle. You have to be quiet, to be a simple guy. Regina is a small, quiet town, while I am from Moscow, a huge metropolis with a population of about half of all of Canada. You need to be well-educated and always give back to the good things you get.
– How are you doing with the English language?
– Now it’s much better. I am planning to attend a college or university as soon as I get back to Regina in order to study English. The team was willing to help me learn the language last year, but I decided to focus on practices and I think I made the right choice. On the other hand, knowing the language is very important. I had a lot of spare time, therefore I could use it and do something to improve my language skills. Now I know my teammates, I know the town, that’s why I am more motivated to study the language. I now understand everything better, including what I have to do to immerse myself in American life.
– How successful was the 2014-15 season for you?
– It was a good season. I can’t say it was very good but I think I can say that it was a positive one. Of course, I could have played better and scored more points. It was very good to feel the coaches’ trust, they helped me a lot. When I made mistakes they were patient with me. I had a lot of ice time and I am very grateful to them for that and I tried to pay back their trust by playing as best I could. They told me that the true work has just started and I understand this myself.
– One of the surprises of the draft has been your team-mate Colby Williams, drafted by the Capitals.
– It hasn’t been a surprise for me. I played a lot with him, therefore I do know how good he is, he really deserved it. I think that many guys should take him as a good example because he shows that no one should give up even at 20: the draft can bring a lot of surprises.
– Because of visa issues you couldn’t attend the draft and the combine. What NHL teams were interested in you during the season?
– I couldn’t attend the combine anyway because my ranking wasn’t high enough. I tried not to think about it and kept working hard. I think that about sixteen teams were interested in me during the season. My agent told me that many Canadian teams were interested, but for me the most important thing was being drafted; that was my main goal. Before the draft I visited Chicago for a few days, they invited me to practices, have some tests, and to talk with scouts. Then they wished me good luck and I went to Calgary.
– Were you nervous?
– I spent the whole season thinking about the draft. I couldn’t stay still for a minute in the last week before the selections. I kept on reading the news, following the events and seeing who was traded and where, or draft forecasts. The draft is a very important event for any player. It’s hard to explain it in words, you have to live it to fully understand.
– Did you have any preference for an NHL team?
– The Blackhawks were expressly interested, but as I said my first goal was to get drafted, no matter the team.
– Were you surprised to get drafted by the New York Rangers?
– It was a pleasant surprise! The Rangers are my favorite team in the NHL. Moreover, we never had any contact during the season, or before the draft.
– Do you know any New York Rangers legend?
– Of course I know that it is a great team. The legendary Mark Messier played there. And also some Russian legends, Kovalev, Kamensky. It’s a great team in a great city.
– Did you already talk to Glen Sather or Alain Vigneault about your future?
– I haven’t talked to them, I talked with Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ Director of Player Personnel, and to Vladislav Lutchenko, the Rangers’ scout in Russia. Clark is a good friend of John Paddock, my coach in Regina. He said that they followed me for the whole season, that they were very happy with my progresses and that they were waiting for me to go to camp in September.
– Who is your favorite NHL defenseman?
– Of course the captain of the New York Rangers, Ryan McDonagh! And Marc Staal. My style of play is very similar to theirs and I try to learn from them and to get the best from their game.