Maxim Goncharov is a big defenseman, who has impressed scouts with his control of the puck and strong play along the boards. A good skater for his size, Goncharov was a key man along the blueline for Russia in the country’s recent U-18 WJC victory. Ranked ninth among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Goncharov was happy to be invited attend the NHL Combine earlier this month. The Combine was his second trip this year to North America; he played in the World Junior A Championships in Yorkton, Saskatchewan this past winter, where he first came to the attention of several North American scouts.
"Max" Goncharov is a very engaging, friendly player, who speaks English very well and did not need an interpreter when Hockey’s Future caught up with him at the Combine earlier this month.
HF: When and where did you start playing hockey as a youngster? What is your home town?
MG: I started to play when I was 5 years old. My father brought me to the local rink in Moscow and I just started to play. I have always played in Moscow, where I am living. For many years I have played in the CSKA organization; now I play with them in the Elite league.
HF: Was your father a big influence on your hockey career?
MG: Although my father never played hockey, he really liked it. It seemed to me that he watched it all the time. And he passed that on to me, the love of hockey.
HF: What is the strongest part of your hockey game?
MG: I am a defenseman and the strongest part of my game is that I like to hit. I like to play along the boards and in the corners. It makes me very happy to be fighting for pucks there.
HF: Do you feel that your skating is an asset too?
MG: I am a really good skater. I have to be to play once I get the puck. I have to be able to skate to get to the offense.
HF: What on-ice skills will you be working on over the next year or two?
MG: I need to play quicker with the puck, to make decisions faster once I have the puck. I have been working to do that and I will continue to be quicker.
HF: When you played in the World Junior A championships this past winter in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, did you get a feeling as to how you would adjust to North American play?
MG: I really liked it, the smaller rink was great for me. The game is lot faster and I was very happy with that.
HF: How much longer do you have on your contract in Russia?
MG: I have two more years on my contract with CSKA in Moscow.
HF: Are you planning to come to North America to play after that?
MG: I want to very much. I am practicing my hockey and my English for that.
HF: When you came over to North America for the Combine, who did you come over with?
MG: I came over with the other invited Russian players. We have all played together on the national team for two years, so we know each other well.
HF: In the current rankings you are probably a second or third round selection. Are you aware of that?
MG: I don’t pay attention to the rankings. I just play and do well. I hope the team chooses me.
HF: How many interviews do you have here at the Combine?
MG: In all I have 17 interviews at the Combine, many days of interviews.
HF: How have the interviews gone, and what are they like for you? [For the explanation of the question and to be sure to give an answer that in no way revealed which team he was speaking of, Goncharov used an interpreter to answer.]
MG: The interviews have been mixed so far. Some of them have been very serious and some have been a lot of fun. The people at one particularly fun interview were laughing and trying to put me at ease, so it was enjoyable for me. I understand though that in the interviews and the mental testing that we are going through, the teams are trying to see whether I am tough enough and a team person to play for them.
HF: What kinds of things do you like to do off the ice?
MG: I really like to play basketball with friends, and I really enjoy listening to music.
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