Developed in the famous school of the Moscow Dynamo, Alexander Ovechkin was the first overall selection at the 2004 Entry Draft.
In this lockout season, he is playing for the Moscow Dynamo in the Superleague. Before leaving for the 2005 WJC, he ranked seventh in scoring among Superleague leaders with 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points in 31 games.
Ovechkin was the youngest player to ever make the Russia national team and the youngest one to score a goal for the team.
He is now playing in his third World Junior Championship. In 2003, he made a huge debut in his first game ever played at the WJC, scoring three goals in Nova Scotia against USA in 5-1 Russia win.
With three games played, he has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) and ranks eighth of the WJC scoring race. In the 4-5 defeat against USA on December 25th, he was named the best player for Russia.
On December 29th, the Russian team was attentive spectators in the Ralph Arena in Thief River Falls, Minn., for the classical match-up between Finland and Sweden.
During the second intermission, Hockey’s Future caught up with the Russian team captain Alexander Ovechkin.
HF: Can you comment on the level of the game this year in the Superleague, has it increased with the influx of all the NHLers?
AO: Yes, the level of the game has increased in Russia this year with all those NHL superstars coming in. The game is faster. We have to move very quickly on the ice.
HF: Is it good for you to have all these NHLers in the league?
AO: Oh yes, it is. There are more emotions, you know. These are superstars and we are thinking about how we can play with them.
HF: With whom are you playing with Dynamo this season?
AO: My linemates are Alexei Shupin and Pavel Rosa, the best scorer right now in the Russian Superleague. We’ve played together for three months. We understand each other well and have good chemistry so far.
HF: There are great NHL names in the Moscow Dynamo roster, Pavel Datsyuk and Martin Havlat for example, do they share their thoughts with you on their NHL experience?
AO: Sure, I’m always talking about the NHL with them. They say that it is the best league in the world and if you have a chance to make it, you must take it because the NHL is really the best.
HF: If the lockout ends this year, will you come in Washington for the remaining of this season?
AO: Yes, I think so.
HF: Have you talked yet with the Caps organization?
AO: Yes, George McPhee came in Moscow. We didn’t talk about hockey or about contract. We talked about life. He is a very good man. He told me there are very good people living in Washington waiting for me.
HF: In the present negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, both sides seem to agree on one point – the salary for the entry level players must be reduced. It seems it may be around $850,000. Would it matter for you?
AO: You know, right now, I don’t think about it. I really don’t think about it. I just want to play hockey.
HF: Are you a better hockey player this year?
AO: I think that I feel more confident here at the World Junior and also in the Superleague. Having played in the World Senior Championship and in the World Cup last September gave me a lot of confidence. It helped me a lot playing with the best Russian stars.
HF: Talking about the 2004 World Cup, how was it for you?
AO: It was wonderful. We had a great team. The atmosphere was fantastic, everything was exceptional.
HF: Which is your best moment so far in your career?
AO: The most exciting moment so far was my first game played at the World Cup against Slovakia. We won 5-2 and I scored my first goal.
HF: How were the emotions for the first game of this World Juniors against USA?
AO: It was an excellent feeling. When I was on the ice, I was a little bit nervous.
HF: What happened at the end of that game when you missed a great chance to score and tight the game with a few seconds left?
AO: Dimitri Pestunov set a great pass for me but the ice was not really good and I missed it.
HF: Are you confident to win this tournament?
AO: Yes, it is my dream, right now. We have a good team, a better one than last year. We are not in the first place of our group right now and it is a little problem for us [Russia would have to play the quarterfinals].
HF: Finally, what do you think about the Canadian team?
AO: You know, Canada’s team is Canada’s team. If we play against them, we must play our hockey, Russian hockey. If we meet them, we can beat them.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.