Interview with U-18 Team Russia Coach Valeri Bragin

By Grigory Orekhovsky

Valeri Bragin started his hockey career playing for Spartak (Moscow) in 1978-79 season. He played forward for Spartak for three seasons, and then returned to Voskresensk Khimik, where he played until 1988-89, when he retired and turned to coaching. He is now leading the Russian Under-18 National Team in the tournament taking place in Minsk, Russia.

Hockey’s Future spoke with Coach Bragin on Tuesday.

HF: In the first four games the leading scorer of Team Russia is Roman Voloshenko. In these four games he has 7 points (3 goals + 4 assists). Is he the best forward of your team?

VB: Voloshenko always was a scorer. In all tournaments that we played he was one of our best forwards. He is not a flashy player, but he drives to the net and has a very, very good wrist shot. Voloshenko can play a ood passing game and is creative. He is one of the best players on our team.

HF: Who is the leader of Team Russia on this U-18 World Junior Championship?

VB: It is our captain Evgeny Malkin.

HF: He was ranked second among the best European prospects for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. What do you think about it?

VB: Do you mean it is too much for him? I don’t think so. He didn’t play two months because of concussion and now he is not ready at 100 percent yet. Before the World Championship he was training by individual scheme and because of that he don’t still play consistent but he is getting better each game. For example, tonight he scored a tying goal in the game with Slovakia and was named the best player of the game on our team.

HF: Malkin is wearing jersey with number “17”, the same number wore in junior team another very good Russian player Ilya Kovalchuk. Can you compare these two players?

VB: The first name I remember when I hear about jersey with number “17” is Valeri Kharlamov. It is our tradition, that the leader of our junior team wears the jersey with this number. I can’t compare Kovalchuk and Malkin because they are two different players. Kovalchuk is a winger like Ovechkin and Malkin is a center. It is a big difference. But I think Malkin is a franchise player. He can dominate too.

HF: Some scouts said that Malkin has shown signs of being power forward. Do you agree with them?

VB: I think he is a very skilled player but not the all finesse. He can play very good physical game too. When we played in the tournament in Finland he was simply the best player. No one could compare with him. He dominated. And he initiated so much contact there. But now we said him to be very careful after his injury. He has very bright future and we have to keep him healthy.

HF: At this tournament forward Denis Parshin is playing well. How good is he?

VB: He plays in the Russian senior league with men and plays well. He needs to be stronger and I think that he will be good in that area. Sergey Makarov and Vladimir Krutov weren’t big guys but they played very well and were the leaders of Team USSR. He is some years away from being that kind of player but he’s talented enough. He has great speed and soft hands. He has good potential.

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