2009 prospects: Nikolai Suslo

By Alessandro Seren Rosso

Nikolai Suslo from Gomel, Belarus was ranked as his country’s No. 1 skater in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings and in the mid-terms as the No. 46 European skater.

Suslo represented Belarus with the national junior team, including the 2008 World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Camrose where Belarus lost the bronze medal match against Canada East.

In the Belarusian Elite Division, he has scored four goals and two assists in 35 matches with his HK Gomel home club.

HF: Have you read, that you have been ranked by NHL Central Scouting as Belarus’ No. 1 skater for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft? What do you think about it?
NS: I’ve learned this from you. Of course, it’s a pleasure when your work pays off and it’s being noticed and moreover positively estimated by experts. It means I’m heading into the right direction.

HF: How would you describe your game to our readers?
NS: I like fast, aggressive and combinational hockey.

HF: How are you liking it in Gomel? Are you satisfied about your ice time? On what line are you playing? Do you think you are improving playing with the first team, or you would prefer to play in some junior league, where you surely would have a bigger role?
NS: I like it in Gomel. The coaches trust me. We don’t have a nominal first line so any player can go on the ice and play with any other player, it’s up to the coach to decide,  according to his game plan. And, of course, having got into the main team I’ve got opportunities to learn something from more experienced partners. I think the progress here will be faster than if I had played with my coequals.

HF: Where were you born? What was your first team? And why did you choose hockey?

NS: I was born in Gomel and a friend of mine started playing hockey. I looked at him and decided to start hockey too as I enjoyed the game. I’ve always played for Gomel in different teams. Gradually I’ve reached the farm team and then I’ve got a spot on the main team.

HF: Growing up, who was your idol in hockey?
NS: I didn’t have any idols, but I liked some players. But I’m not them and thus I have to train to become better and achieve something. But you can take something good from them.

HF: What are your plans for the near future? Do you think you would like to try your fortunes in the CHL or you’d prefer to play in Belarus?
NS: At this moment I want a regular spot on the main team.

HF: Could it be an option for you to play in the Russian KHL?

NS: Yes, I would like to try myself in other stronger leagues.

HF: Did you anticipate being on the Belarus team for the WJC Division 1?
NS: Yes, I was expecting to be called and eventually I’ve been called up but then the older guys from the KHL and Canadian leagues arrived and I had to follow the WJC from my home.

HF: Hockey has grown in popularity in Belarus. What’s your opinion on the matter?

NS: There are changes and they are big. First of all a lot of new arenas have been built. Second there are more hockey schools and more good players. The Belorussian teams plays in the KHL, so young guys have something to aspire for.

HF: Is there any one thing in particular you are most trying to improve in your game?
NS: I should work on my physical play. Also my techniques needs to be improved as senior hockey is different to junior. Altogether I should constantly improve.

HF: Outside of the rink, what do you do for fun? What kind of guy are you off the ice?
NS: To be honest I haven’t got much spare time, that’s why I want to spend some time at home with my relatives. I’m a sociable person and I like to hang out with my friends.

HF: How do you prepare before the game?

NS: I would like to keep it secret, because it’s individual for every player.

HF: Have you heard people making comparisons of you and current NHL or KHL players?

NS: Honestly, no.

HF: Who is your favorite player?

NS: I’m impressed by the game of (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Alexander) Ovechkin.

HF: What is your favorite NHL and KHL team?

NS: Detroit Red Wings and SKA St. Petersburg.

HF: What would you have liked to have been, if not a hockey player?
NS: To tell you the truth, I don’t know.

HF: Where do you see yourself in five years?

NS: Time will show!