Anton Khudobin, 19, is one of only two CHL players in the Russian lineup at the 2006 WJC, providing a reliable backstop for one of the teams favored to medal. Khudobin brings experience to the mix, appearing in his second consecutive WJC.
A member of the Saskatoon Blades (WHL), Khudobin is a popular player in Saskatchewan’s city of bridges. According to Khudobin, Blades boss Lorne Molleken, who has experience at both the junior and professional level as both a goaltender and a coach, has been a very helpful and stabilizing force.
In comparison to some of the bigger netminders at the 2006 WJC, Khudobin measures in at 5’10, 175 pounds. He relies on positioning and quick reflexes to keep pucks in front of him. Since the 2001-02 season, Khudobin has represented Russia at 13 international competitions. Recently, he joined the national junior team for the ADT/Russia Challenge games in Saskatoon and Regina against the WHL all-stars. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, Khudobin attended the team’s rookie camp in Traverse City.
At first glance, Khudobin comes across as a cocky youngster, lending credence to the adage that goaltenders are perhaps a breed of their own. More likely is the reality that Khudobin has worked hard to become one of Russia’s prominent elite goaltenders, an accomplishment worthy of some swagger and most certainly a measure of self-confidence.
HF: How do you feel about your performance tonight against Sweden? (Sweden outshot Russia, 33-25.) You made some big saves in the second period.
AK: It was tough in the second period as the Swedes were very good. I had no choice. I had to stand up for my team and keep the puck out of our goal. Of course I am happy because it is important for us to win the first game of the tournament.
HF: What are your expectations at the WJC? Do you see any differences in how you are approaching this year after playing last year’s WJC?
AK: Of course the expectations are very high for me, because this is my last tournament at the World Junior level. But last year was much more difficult than this year. Last year, I was one of the youngest guys on the team playing with great players like Evgeni Malkin (PIT) and Alexander Ovechkin (WAS). There were many good veteran players on the Canada and USA teams as well. This year I am more confident, mostly because I have been able to play in Canada before this tournament.
HF: How has your play improved in the past year?
AK: I am a more confident player now. The things that weren’t my good side in the past are now becoming stronger. As far as what I am working on to improve, I think it is important that I improve in all areas and that is what I hope to do.
HF: How have you adjusted to playing in the WHL? What do you see as the major difference in the game over here?
AK: It has been a dream of mine to come to Canada and I think I have adjusted well and I am very comfortable now. The biggest difference I see is that there are so many more shots in the game here.
HF: How has your relationship with Lorne Molleken had an impact on your career so far?
AK: I am very happy to play for him. He has been a great help to me because in the beginning it was very difficult for me to adjust to the style of hockey. He came personally to help me and to work with me. He is a goalie, too. He talks about specific times during games and how I can approach things.
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