Voloshenko turns some heads

By Simon Richard

With all the attention placed on Russian prospects Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin at the 2004 NHL Draft, some notable prospects, including other Russians, may have missed out on some well deserved recognition.

Roman Voloshenko, a 6’1’’, 189-pound left winger could be one of them. He was born on May 12th of 1986 in the town of Brest in Belarus (not in Minsk as some sources are referring to). “My parents moved in Russia when I was 6-months-old,” said Voloshenko to Hockey’s Future in the Montreal Bell Center on November 23rd.

Voloshenko was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the second round of the 2004 NHL Draft (42nd overall). That made him the fourth Russian selected overall.

He made his name at the 2004 Under-18 World Junior Championship that was held last April in his native country. In the most important tournament of the year for this age group, he ranked first in tournament scoring, tied with three Finns, and three points ahead of his highly touted teammate Malkin.

At this tournament, Voloshenko was playing on the Russians second line with Alexander Radulov ( 2004, Nashville, 15th overall) and Mikhail Yunkov (2004, Washington, 62nd overall).

He has improved his speed

Minnesota Wild Assistant General Manager Tom Thompson gave a very good assessment of Voloshenko before the second game of the Russians’ tour in Canada. “He is a good strong player, very intelligent and a highly skilled hockey player.”

“He is a great offensive player but has awareness at the other end of the rink too”, continued Thompson. “In each of the three different championships we saw him in last year, he either won the scoring championship or tied for first place.”

Voloshenko’s speed has been questioned, but it seems he has worked on that part of his game. “From what I saw in the game in Quebec City on November 22nd, Voloshenko has improved his acceleration and his skating,” commented Thompson.

“There has been some big improvement that way.”

Voloshenko plays for the Russian High League Soviet Wings. With 11 points in 19 games played so far, he ranks second among the team leaders which is very good for a 18-year-old player.

“He plays on power play units and has a lot of playing time over there, so we are very pleased with his development,” said Thompson.

The young forward keeps a low profile about his record with the Soviet Wings. “It is OK, I’m satisfied”, said a modest Voloshenko.

A new Russian troika?

For the first two games of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge in the Province of Quebec, Voloshenko was reunited with Radulov and Yunkov.

The Russian troika combined for seven of the team’s eight points in the first game in Quebec City, and four of the seven points in the second game in Montreal. They recorded a third of the Russian Selects shots on goal in those two games.

“The whole line played very well in Quebec City; they are the best players on the Russian team,” said Thompson to Hockey’s Future in the Bell Center.

“That line played together in three different tournaments I saw last year. They are used to playing together, and they are used to getting a great number of goals,” added Thompson.

Russian Selects head-coach Sergei Gersonsky coached the U-18 gold-medal winners in Belarus. Of the troika, he said to HF in Montreal, “They know what to do on the ice and they are very confident.”

After the second game in Montreal won 4-3 by his team, Voloshenko had a large smile on his face. “I’m very happy for being reunited with Alexander and Mikhail. We had success playing together in the past and did so again in those two games against the Quebec players.”

“It is just too bad that Alexander (who is playing for Quebec Remparts) can’t play all the tour with us”, lamented Voloshenko. “He is a very fast player, he has a good technical (game), is strong on one-to-one, can pass and score goals. Well, he can do everything on the ice.”

“Mikhail is very good too, he can set great passes, plays well in both sides of the rink and is hot in the crucial moments.”

On Team Russia’s roster in North Dakota?

Voloshenko is visiting Canada for the first time.

“The game is quite different than in Europe,” he said to HF. “There are much more hits in the small North American rinks and the game is faster.”

“However, it is not that difficult to get adapted,” Voloshenko added, referring to the first two games he had already played against the QMJHL players.

The young, 18 year-old-player has traveled a lot this year. He already has played across Russia in the High League and represented his country in Finland, in Sweden, in Belarus and now in Canada.

Will North Dakota, USA be added next December to this list? Russian head coach Gersonsky declined to confirm it.

This writer asked Thompson if he was confident of Voloshenko’s chances of playing for Team Russia at the WJC.

“Well, I guess what is more important than us being confident is the fact that Russian people are confident from what they have said,” said Thompson with a slight smile.

“I think that he will be on that team and that he will play very well,” stated Thompson.

Thompson also was asked by HF if playing in the WJC was crucial to Voloshenko’s development.

“This experience is a bonus for the players, giving them the chance to get exposed to a high level of competition. On the other hand, some of the guys don’t get a chance to live this experience and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.”

“I don’t know if I will be selected for the WJC,” shrugged Voloshenko. “If so, it would be for sure the main event of the year for me and I would be more than happy to play for my country.”

And next year?

“At the end of the last season, Roman signed a two-year contract with the Soviet Wings, so our understanding is that he is still under contract with them for the next season,” said Thompson.

“We will sit down at the end of the season and review every player of the organization and make plans at that time. Right now, our focus is on trying to get the team back on the ice playing.”

Voloshenko doesn’t yet know where he will spend the next season. “I will try to go to the Minnesota Wild camp and I’ll try making the team. It is my dream to play in the NHL.”

Is the CHL an option for 2005-06? “No, it is better for me to play in Russia than in the CHL.”

According to Thompson, the CHL option is not a must for the Wild organization prospects. “That is a lifestyle matter. As long as a player is showing improvement in his development, we don’t care where he is.”

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.