Armands Berzins was a fifth round draft pick of the
Minnesota Wild in 2002. After two years
in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes, he started his pro career with
Minnesota ECHL affiliate Louisiana IceGators this season. His current contract is with the IceGators,
but Minnesota holds his rights until this summer.
With Arturs Irbe called up, Berzins is the only Latvian
player in the ECHL, and having turned 20 in December is also the youngest
player in the league. The 6’3”
227-pound centerman spoke to Hockey’s Future after a tough 2-1 loss to the
HF: How do you think your season is going so far?
AB: I had a tough start after the Minnesota training
camp. I arrived here and it was my
first pro season so it was kind of tough in the beginning to adjust to the
level of play, it’s definitely better than junior. I think nine goals I’m definitely more confident. I’m not showing
the best game right now, but since the beginning of the season I feel
HF: What is it exactly that’s been the biggest adjustment
AB: I think it’s just the guys are stronger and the game
itself is faster. That’s about it.
HF: Is it tough being the youngest player on the team?
AB: [laughs] No, it’s alright, it’s not that bad. It was worse in junior when I was a
rookie. Here the veterans are really
nice to rookies, helping us on the ice and off the ice.
HF: How many rookies are on the team?
AB: We had about seven or eight rookies at the beginning but
now I think it’s less. We have five or
HF: Do you live with a veteran player?
AB: I live with a veteran but he’s only two years older than
me. [Ukrainian] Alex Materukhin.
HF: You were with different linemates tonight than usual,
AB: Yes, our team has a really short bench right now because
a lot of guys are injured. For a couple
of them, their seasons are probably over.
A couple weeks ago I was playing with other players but it happened that
they got injured. Now I’m playing with
HF: How do you think it went with Bennett and Hamilton
AB: It wasn’t that bad I think for the first game. Of course it was a little different playing
with those guys.
HF: Looking at your stats, you seem to be more of a goal
scorer than a playmaker, would you agree with that?
AB: That’s a tough question, actually. I don’t know, people say I’m more of a
playmaker, but I’m something in the middle probably. Chip in some goals and make some plays too. This year I have only nine goals this
season, but in junior I was playing with guys who were more playmakers than me,
so that’s probably why finished with more goals.
HF: It took you a really long time to score your first
goal in the ECHL, what was going on there?
AB: I don’t know, it was the first time in my life for
something like that. It took me like
two months, the middle of December to get my first goal. I don’t know what was going on, I had so
many chances to score, but the puck just didn’t go in. When I got that first one, it felt like a
really big relief. After that, the
pucks kind of started to go in.
HF: What do you think you need to work on to make it to the
AB: Oh, definitely everything. I can’t tell you just one thing I have to work on. Everything, starting from faceoffs,
defensive zone play, improve my speed and strength.
HF: How did the Minnesota camp go for you, was it a good
AB: Yeah, definitely it was a good experience. That was my second camp and I felt better in
the camp. I stayed longer too, I played
one exhibition game and that was a really good experience for me. I think I could have done better
HF: Did they give you any instructions about what to work
AB: Not really.
After they cut me, they didn’t say anything specific about what to work
on. They just told me where they wanted
me to go and that’s about it.
HF: Your contract is just with Louisiana, correct?
AB: Right. I didn’t
sign with Minnesota, but they still have my rights and time to sign me until
June 1st or something like that.
So I’m still property of Minnesota.
HF: Since you played in the Q, you must have gotten
pretty good with French.
AB: No, not at all, I can’t speak French at all. I lived there for two years and I can’t
speak it. I can understand just a
little. I can’t speak it at all.
HF: But you lived with a French family didn’t you?
AB: Yeah, for sure it was a French family but they spoke
English too. It was more like I helped
them improve their English.
HF: So did your coach speak English?
AB: The head coach didn’t speak English much. He was talking French to us when he was
mad. But the assistant coach did. So at least somebody spoke English.
HF: So you got most of your coaching through the assistant?
AB: Yeah, exactly.
The head coach would explain the drill, then the assistant would explain
it to me and the other European guy.
HF: What do you miss about Latvia?
AB: Sure I miss home, but not that much because I want to
play hockey and back home the hockey’s not good so I have to be here to improve
my game and get to the next level. I
miss my family, I miss my friends of course, but not that bad.
HF: There’s not a food that you miss, or something like
AB: I like the food in Louisiana, so no, not really
HF: What do you think would make this a successful season
AB: I think just finishing the season strong. Doing well in the playoffs. I think we have
a good chance in the playoffs [Louisiana is leading its division]. If I can
show up really good, I think that would be a successful season for me.