A native of Minsk, Belarus, Mikhail Stefanovich is a natural talent who’s having an extremely good season with the Remparts of Quebec in the QMJHL. Following a very good rookie campaign in the Q, he was later picked by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Thought of as second-round material, he slipped down to the fourth round because of some apparent consistency issues. But he has 49 goals in the season, a stat that means a third overall place in the goal-scoring race. His combination of scoring touch, size and skating skills makes him a very good prospect for Toronto for years to come.
Hockey’s Future talked with Stefanovich about his season, his future and his passion for hockey.
HF: How would you assess your personal season so far?
MS: Until now everything has been going well for me personally and for my team.
HF: Do you think that the Remparts have what it takes to go far in the playoffs?
MS: Yes. Our team is strong, we have three equally strong trios and thus we can go far in the playoff.
HF: From November to January you had a streak of 10 games with at least a point, collecting 19 in total. Was that from a psychological effect or did you or your team play differently?
MS: No, nothing special. As ups and downs happen to everybody, so my team and me.
HF: People often question your consistency and your effort on ice, but this season you are replying back with very good performances and with the third place in the QMJHL scoring list. Do you think you are improved in these areas?
MS: Yes, I am getting used to the North American hockey and I am definitely more confident on the ice.
HF: Do you think the next year you will play in the AHL with the Marlies?
MS: I will do my best to find myself in the AHL and to play for the Marlies.
HF: The KHL might be an option for the future?
MS: If I don’t play in NHL, to play in KHL could be also a possibility.
HF: How is playing with Dmitry Kugryshev? Do you communicate with each other in Russian?
MS: We speak Russian for sure. We usually don’t play in the same trio, just sometimes in the power play. Yes, we spend a lot of time together, it’s nice to have a friend who speaks your language and shares your interests.
HF: Can you tell a bit about your career prior of crossing the ocean?
MS: When I was 16 I ended up in the Gomel team, and a couple of months later I proved myself as a good player and a leader of the team, the older players respected me.
HF: Why did you decide to jump overseas?
MS: My dream was to play in NHL, so when I was invited in the Remparts I was thrilled, you know. It was the year of my draft as well.
HF: How do you fit yourself in Quebec? Do you like the city, the atmosphere?
MS: Quebec is a wonderful city. Very nice people live here.
HF: Was it easy to adjust to the local lifestyle?
MS: Yes, it was difficult at first. I didn’t speak any of the language, no friends, unusual food. The first part of the season was my adaptation for everything.
HF: What do you miss more of your native country?
MS: Mostly I miss my family, my friends and Russian food.
HF: What about the food in Quebec?
MS: People here often eat in the fast-food restaurants and it differs from what I am used to.
HF: Have you managed to maintain the same weight over the course of the season?
MS: I was not overeating and taking care of myself.
HF: Why did you choose hockey when you were a kid?
MS: My father was a hockey player. That’s why I think.
HF: What was the most beautiful goal you scored in your career so far?
MS: I believe there were a lot and hopefully there will be more in the future.
HF: What was the hardest moment in your career, or a moment in which you were down on yourself?
MS: Sometimes I think I had some bad luck. Nothing seemed to work but I forced myself to work even harder to perform better and my teammates always supported me at the times.
HF: What do you like to do in your spare time?
MS: I like watching movies, listening to music and chatting with my friends.
HF: A quick thought about Alexei Cherepanov‘s tragedy?
MS: It came out of blue and it was truly shocking news. I believe it’s a huge loss for Russian hockey and for the Rangers as well.