Viktor Tikhonov is a 20-year-old Russian forward who may be taken in the second round in this weekend’s draft. Despite going undrafted in the last two years, Tikhonov has a good chance to be drafted fairly high for a number of reasons, mainly his hockey intelligence and improved skating.
He comes off a very good RSL season with 13 points in 51 games, but the highlight was the “Best Forward” award he got at the last World Junior Championships, where he posted seven points in as many matches, with five goals. His last two markers were game winners.
Hockey’s Future had the chance to talk with Tikhonov while he’s relaxing in California before the NHL draft.
HF: You recently participated in the Draft Combine. What can you tell us about it? How many teams did you talk to? And were the tests different from the ones you had in Russia?
VT: It was an unbelievable atmosphere. There were so many players, all the teams. It was just great. I had interviews with 21 teams. The tests are different from the ones I did in Russia, but I knew this because I was already at the Combine two years ago, in 2006.
HF: You talked with a high number of teams, what aspects of your play attracted them?
VT: I think that they were attracted by my hockey sense and the way I read the game. I also believe they liked my hard-working mentality and my playmaking skills.
HF: What can you tell us about your development in the last two or three seasons? What was the most useful thing?
VT: In the last season I had the chance to skate for the whole year in the Russian Superleague, with Severstal Cherepovets, and it was a big step forwards for me and my development. The experience I gained in the RSL has been the most useful one in my career path so far.
HF: While teams can really appreciate your hockey sense and reading of the play, they could think that your skating could need some work.
VT: It was like this two years ago, but now it’s way better. I strengthened my skating now, making many exercises, squats, and everything that could be useful to work on it.
HF: How good it is to be part of a hockey family?
VT: It’s great. Really, my family plays, and always played, a very big role. You know, my first present was a pair of hockey skates. I even used to go to sleep with them.
HF: How do you regard your chances in the NHL?
VT: I want to play in the National Hockey League. If not this year, the year after. For me it would be okay to play on the farm team for one season.
HF: In Russia, your contract status is something similar to the NHL’s Restricted Free Agent. What do you plan to do if you don’t play in North America next season?
VT: I’m still not sure. I will make a decision only after the draft. I want to see which teams will make me an offer. There are many things to consider.
HF: Do you feel any pressure because of your fairly high ranking in almost all pre-draft publications?
VT: No, not really.
HF: In the next season, the Russian Superleague will be substituted by the brand-new Kontinental Hockey League, an ambitious project to be the best league in Europe. What do you think about it?
VT: It’s indeed a good thing. Many good players are arriving in Russia, and others will arrive too. The new league will surely be interesting.
HF: You must have followed Team Russia’s win in the recent world championship in Quebec and Halifax, the first victory in the last 15 years. What are your opinions about it?
VT: It was great! Great for all the players and the coaches of the team. Our triumph was very good for Russia and Russian hockey.
HF: Do you think that also the Junior national team can finally win a gold medal at the WJC?
VT: Well, that’s the plan. In the last few years we’ve been unlucky, but the next step must be the conquering of the gold medal.