Editors Note: This article was published a day before the tragic plane crash that took the lives of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team.
Russian center Daniil Sobchenko is one of the players who gained notoriety from Team Russia‘s WJC triumph as he passed from being a rather obscure forward (even if he was a first line player) to a legitimate NHL prospect drafted by the San Jose Sharks during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Sobchenko recently skated in the Sharks’ rookie prospect camp.
"I had a whole schedule there. I had to get up at 6 AM as at 6:45 we had to go to the practices. There we had both breakfast and lunch. And I would get back to the hotel only at 6 PM. We had two ice sessions a day, some gym, and two or three summits every day", Sobchenko said in Russian, while training with his KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in sight of the upcoming 2011-12 KHL season.
"The practices were varied, there was always something new", Sobchenko explained. "I learned many new things. And I also want to add that the organization here, it’s truly superior [to the KHL]."
Other than on ice, Sobchenko had to also overcome other issues, such as the new language. "It’s when you don’t understand everything they say, but it was a little bit better day after day. But I always managed to do all the drills, I also could look at what other players were doing. Summits were hard, I had to sit there just listen for two to three hours per day."
Sobchenko, however, isn’t new to pro hockey as he already has two KHL seasons under his belt. During the 2010-11 season he played 16 regular season games, scoring one goal and adding one assist. The scarce number of games played is due to his long stints with the U20 national team for the WJC and the Subway Super Series. Sobchenko skated in 11 playoff games, with one assist. "I think the 2010-11 season was more or less successful. Some of my dreams came true, I am a World Champion now, and we even won the Super Series. I was drafted in the NHL and this is a big stimulus for me to accomplish even more. Concerning the season in the KHL, well, I can’t say it was too good, but we got a KHL bronze medal anyway."
Sobchenko, who describes himself as a "center with a good passing game", can play both center and winger, even if he prefers playing as a center, like his idol, Stanley Cup champion and former Detroit Red Wings star, Sergei Fedorov.
The 6’2, 195 lbs player also confirmed that he is truly interested in reporting to North America. "Playing in the NHL is my dream from my childhood, but you need to cross the ocean as a fully prepared player."
Playing the Subway Super Series and the WJC in North America, the Kiev, Ukraine native could feel the differences between the fanbases on both sides of the Atlantic. "Yes, there is a difference between fans in Russia and in North America. In North America they live hockey. There, even old people know who scored and who gave an assist in tonight’s game. Hockey is a show here."
It seems that Sobchenko’s schedule is less tight now that he is back in his home town of Yaroslavl after the rookie camp, where he moved from Kiev when he was in his early teens to play hockey in Russia after playing both soccer and hockey back in his childhood in Ukraine.
"Now I’m at home, but anyway I don’t have that much free time. There isn’t much because we’re always practicing! But if I have some free time then I would go to the cinema with my girlfriend. We also love going somewhere to eat something good if she didn’t cook herself at home", Sobchenko explained laughing. "We also like walking around the city, go shopping, these kind of things. I also spend a lot of time on the internet."
As is the case for many other Russian players of any age, Sobchenko’s ultimate dream is to win the Olympics. "It’s hard to say if I’d rather win the Stanley Cup or the Olympics Gold Medal. Both wins are huge accomplishments. But I think that I’d pick the Olympics Gold Medal. You know, the Olympic tournament is played only once every four years, and all the world’s top players compete there."
Getting on the roster for the 2014 Olympics in his home country won’t be easy for Daniil Sobchenko, even if he won a WJC Gold Medal playing on his team’s first line. But a couple of good seasons at home in Russia and a chance to play in the NHL would make it easier for him to get a chance to represent the Mother Land – and to try to win the Gold – at the 2014 Winter Games. But there is still plenty of time to accomplish this goal.