Roman Voloshenko outscored every player not on Finland’s first line at the 2004 IIHF U18 World Championships. Even still, his 11 points placed him in a four-way tie for the tournament lead in scoring with Petteri Nokelainen, Lauri Tukonen, and Lauri Korpikoski. He scored the gold medal-winning goal over the United States, and his five goals and six assists in six games even outscored such Russian teammates Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Radulov. Despite these accomplishments, the 19-year-old Russian landed in Houston began 2005-06 under the radar screen of most.
Now, Voloshenko is creating a blip on the hockey world’s screen once again. The 2004 second round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild currently lies 10th in AHL rookie scoring with 24 goals and 14 assists in 41 games. Four of his goals came Oct. 21 in a 7-4 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins, one of the top teams in the AHL. Although his production has been aided by playing with veteran AHLers Erik Westrum and Kirby Law, one-two in AHL scoring, the Russian has acquitted himself well as one of the youngest players in the American League.
Voloshenko is no stranger to professional hockey though. He put up 16 goals and three assists in the Vysshaya Liga, Russian’s second highest league, with Krylja Sovetov last season and also skated for the team as a 17-year-old in 2003-04. As a 15 and 16-year-old, Voloshenko skated with Krylja’s second team in the Russian Third League.
Although he was born in Belarus towards the end of the Soviet Union, Voloshenko grew up in Moscow and has represented Team Russia at the 2004 U18’s and the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships. Despite putting up good numbers in the Russian Premier League (Vysshaya Liga) in 2004-05, Voloshenko had limited success in the 2005 World Junior Championships, only two goals in six games. This performance accounted for part of the reason the Minnesota prospect entered the season without a great deal of hype. His three goals in six games at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver was also underwhelming, but he’s still eligible for one more WJC.
Although he may again don the Russian jersey again in the future, Voloshenko’s long-term future lies not in Russia but in Minnesota. Hockey’s Future recently caught up to the Houston Aeros rookie and discussed his high-scoring Sovetov past, his desire to be a solid two-way NHLer in the future, and what he needs to work on to get there.
HF: You played the last two seasons in the Vysshaya Liga, how does the AHL compare to Russia’s second league?
RV: It’s so different here. It’s a much tougher game, it’s much faster. Maybe because of the small rink, in Russia it’s a big rink. More passes in Russia and more skill, but here, every game it’s so tough. I think here it’s much better.
HF: When did you leave Belarus to play in Russia and how did you end up in the Krylja Sovetov organiztion?
RV: I was born in Belarus when it was the U.S.S.R, but when I was six months my parents went to Moscow. Then the U.S.S.R. was done and stayed in Moscow and get Russian passport.
HF: How did you end up in the Krylja Sovetov organization?
RV: I started playing when I was five. Every season some team called me and said go to our team, but I always stayed with my Krylja team.
HF: Who were some of your favorite players growing up and why?
RV: I like Ilya Kovalchuk a lot, because he’s a great sniper, great shot, and a lot of skill. I like him.
HF: Is Kovalchuk one of the players you model your game after?
RV: No, he’s not really good at defense, I don’t want to be bad at defense.
HF: You tied for first at the 2004 U18’s in scoring, did playing pro in Russia in 2003-04 give you an advantage?
RV: Yeah, I think so, because on Under 18 I only played against guys 18 too, like me. In Russian Vysshaya League I play with men, 30-year-olds, it’s so different. I think it’s helped me a lot.
HF: What was your reaction when you learned Minnesota had drafted you in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft?
RV: I was happy, because being drafted is a very good thing, and I was at the draft. When Minnesota came up and said, ‘Roman Voloshenko,’ I was so happy.
HF: It seems like your transition to the AHL has been pretty smooth, you’ve put up a lot of points, what would you say has made it so easy for you?
RV: It’s not easy, because we work hard every day. I have a great team this season and my linemates, Erik Westrum and Kirby Law, help me a lot, on the ice and off the ice. We have good chemistry I think.
HF: Tell me a little bit more about the chemistry you have Westrum and Law.
RV: “Westy” has great hands and is a very smart player and makes a lot of great players to me. Kirby is captain, very good captain on our team. He’s very fast. To play with those guys it’s great, I think it’s the best pair in the AHL this season.
HF: What made you decide to leave Russia at such a young age?
RV: Because I want to play NHL, and the Minnesota Wild said, ‘If you want to go, we can sign a contract.’ So, I did, because it’s my dream to play in the NHL.
HF: What do you feel your strengths are?
RV: I think I’m good at my wrist shot. That’s my best I think, is my wrist shot.
HF: What are the areas you’re working on so that you can play in Minnesota?
RV: Skating. I’m not very fast. I need more defense and more skating. I need to be stronger, because here it’s very tough, a lot of contact, a lot of hits. I need more physical play in the corners.
HF: When you play in the NHL, what type of player do you want to be?
RV: I want to be a two-way player and a great goal scorer.
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