Q&A with Evgeni Malkin

By Simon Richard





Alexander Ovechkin chats with HF at the WJC

The 2004 NHL second overall
draft selection Evgeni Malkin is playing in his second World Junior
Championships with the Russian team.

 

The 6’4 185-pound Penguin
pick is also playing for the second year for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the
Russian Superleague. He began to play with men in the Superleague at the age of
16, at the same age as his Team Russia teammate Alexander Ovechkin.
Magnitogorsk is in the south part of the Ural Mountains, far away from Moscow,
and Malkin was indeed born in that locality.

 

As an 18-year-old player, he
has 20 points (6-14) in 34 games played so far this year in the Russian’s top
league. This ranked him in the top 15 scorers of the league before he left for
the WJC. He has increased his production from last year’s 12 points (3-9) in 34
games.

 

Malkin is recognized as a
strong player and a fine passer. He helped Team Russia to win the gold medal
last April at the Under-18 World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.

 

He is having a good WJC
tournament so far in the U.S. He was named the Russian player of the game
against the Czech Republic in the round robin.

 

Playing with the undrafted
Sergei Shirokov and Nashville Predators 2004 selection Alexander Radulov,
Malkin’s production at the 2005 WJC is seven points (1-6) after four games played,
which is good enough to place him in the top ten scorers before the semifinals.

 

Comments from Mark Kelley

 

Pittsburgh
Penguins European scout Mark Kelley commented on Malkin to Hockey’s Future on
January 1 in the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

 

Asked how Malkin has improved
since last season, Kelley said "I think that he is a more mature player
now, he is stronger physically and his skating has also improved since last
year. He is also a more all-around player. I mean, we are ecstatic with our
choice. He is having a great season in the Superleague. He started the year
playing very well.

 

"Since a month or so
ago, he’s really started to become an offensive force there," commented
Kelley with great enthusiasm.

 

Kelley also stated that the
Pens like the fact that Malkin is competing very hard. "We also like the
fact that he is also having fun on the ice too."

 

According to Kelley, the Pens
have not signed Malkin after the draft for many reasons. "The first reason
is because of the lockout, the second is because there is no agreement with the
International Ice Hockey Federation."

Hockey’s Future met the Russian center in his hotel in Grand Forks on
Saturday while Russia was waiting to know their eventual opponent in the
semifinals.

HF: You have 20 points so far in 34 games in the Superleague, are you
satisfied of your season over there?

EM: I wish I had scored a little bit more goals, I get scoring
opportunities but I need to work. I work on myself and probably I’ll be scoring
more goals.

HF: What have you improved this year in your game?

EM: I think that I got stronger and perhaps a little faster. I play my
game, the same game I’m used to playing. It is a passing game. I play for my
partners.

HF: Do you share with the likes of NHLers Sergei Gonchar and Petr Sykora
who are playing with Magnitogorsk because of the lockout?

EM: I’m talking a lot with Sergei Gonchar about the NHL. He shares with
me how to train better and how to be well prepared to play in the NHL.

HF: Is it good for you to have all these NHLers playing in the
Superleague this year?

EM: Yes, it is great. It is fun to play against them
and also to watch them play and learn from them.

HF: Does it help you to become a better hockey player?

EM: Of course, it does. When you face a higher
competition, you improve yourself.

HF: It is your second World Junior, how is it so far compared to the
previous one?

EM: It is completely different this year. We are
playing much better. We finished in first place of our group so we are already
in the top four. We didn’t have a great tournament last year. This year’s
tournament is in the U.S. and the press is more present.

HF: Are you happy for having been drafted by Pittsburgh?

EM: First of all, I am very happy for being chosen in
the second position. I didn’t care who would draft me. I just wanted to be
selected and then have a chance to play in the NHL.

HF: Is it a dream for you to play in the NHL?

EM: Like any little boy, I have been dreaming of
playing in the NHL. I’m looking forward to play in this league one day and
being successful at it.

HF: Have you talked already about contract with Pittsburgh?

EM: My agent is keeping in touch with Craig Patrick.
They are talking here and there but nothing is settled yet due to the lockout.

HF: Is there any chance to see you in the NHL next season if the lockout
is over?

EM: Yes, I do think so.

HF: Even if you have signed a five-year contract with Magnitogorsk?

EM: It has been talked over. Magnitogorsk will let me
go if I want to play in Pittsburgh.

HF: Do you have a role model?

EM: I don’t have one particular player but I like
[Sergei] Fedorov, [Joe] Sakic and [Peter] Forsberg.

HF: Which are your main interests outside the hockey world?

EM: I go to the cinema, I play pool and I like to share
some time with my friends.

HF: How do you react with all these comparisons made with Ovechkin?

EM: I’m very happy to be
compared with one of the best hockey player in the world right now. We are two
different players, we have two different personalities. I love to play with
him. We have the same goal, winning the gold medal here.

HF: Would you like to play against Canada in the final game in Grand
Forks?

EM: At this point, it does
not matter. As long as we will get there, we will play against anybody.

 

 

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.