Evegyni Artukhin adjusts to the AHL

By Ailyn Diaz

Coach Paul Fixter couldn’t maintain focus. His mind raced thinking about left wing Evegyni Artukhin’s penalty against the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins: “I’ve seen bad calls…then I see calls like that… that one infuriates me.”

Twenty-year-old Artukhin, a Tampa Bay prospect, is a repeat offender. In the past twenty-one games, he acquired two suspensions for game misconduct. On November 19th, Artukhin squabbled with Albany Rat defenseman Alex Brooks. Linesman Jim Harper attempted to pull Artukhin away from the Rats quarrel, but as he managed to free himself he made contact with the Artukhin’s wailing arms.

According to the referee, Artukhin violated AHL Rule 76 (a) Category 3 for physical abuse of an official. Unfortunately, this violation carries an automatic three-game suspension. On further review, the violation was reduced to game misconduct by the AHL with the penalty of one game suspension. Artukhin apologized to the linesman with help of a translator.

Then on November 30th, Artukhin elbows and crunches Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguin Alexandre Roleau against the boards. He received a 16 minute penalty and the AHL rules it another game misconduct against him with a game suspension.

Paul Fixter thinks differently: “Arthukin doesn’t deserve to get a penalty every time he hits somebody in this league. I’m sorry he is a big man. You know the league hasn’t seen many six-foot-six, two hundred fifty pound men…I’m sorry that their player got hurt. But you know what? It is a physical game.”

It truly is a physical game full of checks and pushes similar to wrestling for Evegyni Artukhin. Evegyni’s father is a famous Greco-Roman wrestler in Russia. Physical play runs in the family and Artukhin knows how to use it to battle for the puck and seize it on a dynamic power play. This summer Artukhin signed a three-year contract with the Tampa Bay who sent their 2001 third round pick down to the AHL Hershey Bears to improve on his playmaking skills.

So far, Coach Fixter is impressed with his exceptional skills as a skater. He maintains a great sense of balance despite his size. Presently, Artukhin is working on gaining foot speed and practicing a quicker release on his shot which at times appears heavy.

During practices, he is not afraid to ask for advice from his teammates who are willing to help him improve on his skills. His greatest challenge is on the defensive zone which posed a threat to his development earlier this season. Artukhin was a healthy scratch for the first five games and Tampa Bay entertained the thought of sending him to the Pensacola Ice Pilots of the ECHL. But Artukhin found a way to battle for a spot working on his game taking Paul Fixter’s advice of watching and learning.

Despite his gruesome appearance banging players against the boards, Artukhin maintains a quiet respectable demeanor off the ice. He is usually the first player to appear at team sponsored functions and is known for his great attitude during practices. With this work ethic, Evegyni Artukhin should be bidding for a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster in less than two seasons. In the meantime, he will continue to be tough to defend.