A 2014 sixth rounder of the Philadelphia Flyers, two-way center Radel Fazleev is currently a key cog for an undefeated Team Russia heading into the quarterfinal round of the playoffs against an upstart Denmark squad at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Currently in the midst of his third and most successful season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Fazleev is representing his nation for the first time at a WJC. As the playoffs approach, he shared some thoughts about the tournament and hockey life in general.
Hockey’s Future: You and your team have gone undefeated in the preliminary round. There were some close games, but you guys always got the job done. How are you guys feeling about this tournament?
Radel Fazleev: We’re where we want to be. We know we have a good team and we are prepared well for our games. We know what we can do and we’ve done that.
HF: Have you been happy with your own play?
RF: I have my role in the team and it suits me. I’ve enjoyed the hockey here and work well with my linemates and teammates. We’ve gotten the results, but there’s surely room for improvement and I’ll keep looking to get better and better with every game as we try to win the whole tournament.
HF: You currently play junior hockey in Canada. What have been the challenges of leaving that team mid-season and flying half way around the world for this big tournament?
RF: There was some jetlag and there is the adjustment to the different ice surface. The game is also a bit different as there’s more room to move, but the opponents are very fast and, in this group, playing a different style of game than what I’m used to in the WHL. But I’ve played internationally before and knew about these challenges.
HF: This is your third season in the WHL. You had a tough year the first season, a very solid sophomore season, and now you have 42 points and a +10 rating in your third season. What has been the difference over the years?
RF: Well, the first season was one of adjustment. It was very hard at times – sometimes more than I expected. There was the new country and the new language, but also a totally different style of play and big expectations. I had made a lot of adjustments by year two and really started to find my game and understand the league a lot better. Now I’m one of the older guys and have a new role of leadership and am expected to produce. I’ve been able to grow into this role.
HF: You were drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014. Then you saw your Team Russia teammate Ivan Provorov also drafted by Philadelphia. Have you talked about it much, that the two of you may be playing together with the Flyers one day?
RF: Sure we have. And I was excited to see him get drafted by Philadelphia. We’ve thought about the possibilities and discussed the organization and our experiences. Of course, there’s no guarantee that we’ll make the NHL. That’s a long ways away and a lot of hard work to do before that could be a possibility. But naturally, we hope to one day to play together for the Flyers in the NHL.
HF: Speaking of Philadelphia, what have they told you to improve on and what do they expect of you in the future?
RF: I need to bulk up and continue to prepare myself physically. I’m only average in size and I need to get myself stronger for the competition I will face in the future. Also, I’ve worked a lot on my two-way game. The team and I myself see me as a two-way player who contributes with effort in all three zones. This is a facet of the game I have to perfect to get to the NHL. I have to do that here for Team Russia and back in juniors. I can improve in all parts of the game, but this will be my calling card.
HF: Finally, do you have a favorite player out there who you like to model your game after?
RF: Yes, it’s Pavel Datsyuk. Everything he does simply has rhyme and reason. He can play effectively anywhere on the ice while also being extremely creative and dangerous in all situations.
HF: He’s your countryman. Have you ever had the opportunity to meet him?
RF: I did and it was one of the best moments in my childhood. During the lockout back in the day, he played for the team in my hometown. Watching him regularly was just incredible. He had a huge impact on me back then. At a special event he attended that had to do with kids hockey, I got to shake his hand and he shared some words with me. It was a really special thing as a kid and absolutely inspiring.
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