2004 Prospects: Q&A with Roman Tesliuk

By Aaron Vickers

He came to this country without speaking a word of English. His vocabulary simply consisted of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. A relatively quiet young man, Roman Tesliuk of the Kamloops Blazers is making noise, only without opening his mouth. The native of Murmansk, Russia made the trip across the pond late in the summer of 2003 in order to prepare for his season with the Kamloops Blazers. His flight was long, but it was just the beginning of a larger, longer journey.

Tesliuk, selected 38th overall by the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League via the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, previously played in Victor Tikhonov’s famed HC CSKA Moscow’s program. Tesliuk, who spent the strong majority of his time in with HC CSKA 2, the clubs junior team, saw some time with the main squad, and under the tutelage of Tikhonov, widely regarded as the best coach in Russian hockey history.

Though, if you were to ask Roman about his adventures playing under the famed Tikhonov, or in the Russian hockey system in general, you will get few words, some of which negative. Despite excelling in HC CSKA Moscow’s junior program, registering 30 points (10-20-30) in 55 games as a defenseman, Tesliuk much prefers where he is playing hockey today. You can tell by the smile on his face, even after a simple question, such as if he’s enjoying himself on North American ice.

Despite not producing at the same level in the Western Hockey League as he did in the RUS Jr, Tesliuk is enjoying playing hockey in Kamloops. Despite registering only 9 points (3-6-9) and a –6 rating through 56 games played this season, Tesliuk is easily improving as each game goes by, becoming more accustomed to communicating with his teammates, and opponents alike. It’s clear to see Tesliuk is coming closer and closer to being in a comfort zone, logging more and more amounts of ice as the coaching staff, consisting of Head Coach Dean Clark and Associate Coach Mark Ferner, continues to show strong confidence in the now 18 year old rookie from Murmansk.

It is clearly evident that not a lot of opponents like to drive hard and park themselves in front of netminders Geoff McIntosh or Devan Dubnyk, both of which tend the pipes for the Blazers. Known for his physical and chippy nature, Tesliuk makes sure the front of the net is clear. That is, if the opponents get that far. Tesliuk, who claims his idol is Darius Kasparaitis, plays much of a similar mold, with tough checks that often send opponents to the ice before gaining a strong presence in the offensive zone.

Tesliuk is aware that his game will continue to improve as the comfort zone of his surrounding environment improves. It is understandably a difficult adjustment to make, leaving one culture, and everything you’ve known, for another, not knowing what to expect. With the help of his Blazer teammates and host family, Roman is making an admirable adjustment.

Hockey’s Future spoke to Roman, albeit briefly, after a recent overtime victory over the Calgary Hitmen.

HF: This year marked a move from Russia to Canada. How has the adjustment been for you?
RT: It’s pretty good.

HF: Has there been a lot to overcome, with the language and cultural barriers?
RT: Yeah, language is better now that I go to Kamloops, before I know no English.

HF: Have your billets helped you out with the transition?
RT: Billets have been very helpful, helpful with my English.

HF: Are you in school right now as well?
RT: Yes. I have school two times in a week; English.

HF: Last season you played in the Russian junior league. How does that compare to, say, the Western Hockey League?
RT: It’s different hockey. Very different. I’m liking Canadian hockey. Lots of hitting.

HF: In an article about you, it was said that your style of play would get you in trouble back in Russia. Would you be able to elaborate on that at all?
RT: I don’t know.

HF: Is there anything in particular that would make you say that?
RT: It’s a lot less physical in Russia. Russia, you go to hit after a penalty, have to sit on the bench and the coach will tell you ‘no physical’.

HF: So you’re big on the physical aspects of the game?
RT: I very much like physical games. I mean, that’s why I’m here. Go to Canada. Here there is better hockey.

HF: What would you describe your style of play as? Would you say you’re a very physical, stay-at-home defenseman, or much more of a rounded defenseman, with offense and defense?
RT: I play defense, offense.

HF: Talking about the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft, you’re ranked very high, 22nd among North American skaters. Do you have any expectations for an event like this? Is there any added pressure on you?
RT: Yeah, I have the draft this year. I’m not nervous at all, no stress. I’m confident. I was talking to the New York Rangers before you came, just a few minutes ago, and they said they saw what they liked in practice and in the game, and they like my game.

HF: You were in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects Game. What were your reactions to an event like that?
RT: It was my first big game. I played not so good, but not so bad. There were lots of scouts there. 200 scouts or so were at the game.