Anton Babchuk was one of the top defenseman available in the 2002 NHL Entry
Draft. He has a great combination of towering size, strength and skill. Prior
to the draft, expectations were for him to get selected within the first 10 overall
picks. However, things did not go as expected and Anton’s name was finally
called by the Chicago Blackhawks 22nd overall. Anton attended Chicago’s
rookie camp and impressed the Blackhawks so much, that they signed him to a three
year deal this summer. Currently Anton is playing for Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian
Super League. Eugene Belashchenko had a chance to interview Anton a few days before
and during the second day of the draft.
EB: First of all, could you talk about where you were born and how
you ended up in hockey?
A. Babchuk: I was born in Kiev. I started to play in Kiev. At three I started
to learn hockey. When I was thirteen, we traveled to a peewee tournament in
Quebec. After the tournament we were invited to play in Elektrostal, where I
have played the last four years.
EB: Who brought you into hockey and to which school?
A. Babchuk: My father brought me to Kiev Sokol’s school.
EB: Were you playing as a defenseman from the beginning?
A. Babchuk: Yes. That is where I was placed and that is where I played.
EB: Who had the biggest influence on you becoming a hockey player?
A. Babchuk: I think my parents and the coaches. – More my parents of
EB: Who was your first coach?
A. Babchuk: Krovov, Yuri Dmitrievich
EB: Did he have a strong influence on you?
A. Babchuk: Yeah, he taught me the first steps in hockey.
EB: How would you describe your game to readers who know little about
A. Babchuk: I think I am a good player (laughing). I make a solid go ahead
pass. I play a physical game in my own zone. I have a good shot.
EB: Do you have a hero? Someone in hockey you strive to be like and
A. Babchuk: No, I never strived to emulate anyone’s style or be like
anyone out there. I want to be my own player. I want to stand out as Anton Babchuk.
However, I very much respect the game of Robert Blake, Al McInnis.
Thanks very much for your time and good luck at the draft.
EB: At the beginning of the season, did you set any goals for your
self? Do you think you achieved those goals?
A. Babchuk: With the National Team, we did not play badly at the [U18 –
EB] World Championships. We earned second place. We wanted to, of course, take
the first place, but it did not work out. Also, this whole season most of the
’84 National Team played in Elektrostal – we were putting together
a roster. We were able to establish a roster, but still did not reach our primary
goal to earn first place. So far, it has not been bad.
EB: What kind of role did you hold in Elektrostal? Did you get a lot
of playing time on the power play? Shorthanded?
A. Babchuk: Yeah, I played in practically all the games, except those in which
I was injured. I constantly played on the power play and shorthanded. So, I
earned a lot of ice time.
EB: Did you play on a pairing with someone, or did the pairings change
A. Babchuk: For the most part, I played with Kostyuk – with whom I play
in Elektrostal. We had a constant line – with Shevjev and Shkot playing
EB: Are you friends with anyone on the team in Elektrostal.
A. Babchuk: Yeah.
EB: Who are you friends, and what do you guys do in Elektrostal?
A. Babchuk: There is nothing to do in Elektrostal except to just hang out and
do nothing. There is absolutely nothing to do.
EB: Regarding the World Junior Championships, could you share your
insights regarding all the games and then regarding the final game against the
US? What happened there, why did you guys barely did not have enough?
A. Babchuk: The Championships were memorable. The level of hockey was high
at the Championships. Regarding the last game, we, of course wanted to win it.
The one goal deficit, the possibility of losing by one goal may have had a psychological
impact. We attacked less and moved in closer on our own net and in the end let
in two goals.
EB: What role did you have on the team?
A. Babchuk: I had the same role as with the club [Elemash Elektrostal –
EB]. I got a lot of minutes.
EB: You are currently in Toronto?
A. Babchuk: Yes
EB: Is this your first visit to North America?
A. Babchuk: No, it’s not my first visit – I am Canada for the third
EB: Third time? Why were you in Canada before?
A. Babchuk: The first I visited Canada for a peewee tournament. The second
time was a year and a half ago for the All Hockey Challenge tournament and now
is the third time.
EB: What are you doing there [in Toronto – EB] besides hockey?
A. Babchuk: Besides hockey, I go to the gym and work out. I don’t really
play much hockey here. Go to the downtown sometimes.
EB: Is this your first visit to Toronto, or have you already been there?
A. Babchuk: No, it’s my first visit to Toronto.
EB: And how do you like it?
A. Babchuk: It’s great, great. It’s a big city – beautiful.
EB: In your opinion, which characteristics of the game do you have
more to work on?
A. Babchuk: Well, I need to work on all the characteristics. I am working on
everything. —To be bigger, stronger. Here, I saw NHL hockey, saw junior
hockey. I really liked it – all the guys are big. To play in the NHL,
you need to be bigger.
EB: Do you follow hockey here?
A. Babchuk: No, I am simply always interested in hockey over here. I am interested
in all North American hockey – NHL, junior leagues.
EB: How do you think the style differs between NHL and Russia?
A. Babchuk: I think that players are stronger and more physically gifted [in
North America – EB]. Higher speeds – the game is of course more
EB: In Toronto, what tests are you currently undergoing?
A. Babchuk: None really – there simply were some NHL tests and that’s
it. Besides that, for the most part, I go to the gym, check out the city, and
EB: And the tests they conducted, did they differ significantly from
what you did during the practices with Elektrostal.
A. Babchuk: Yes, of course – granted there may be some physical [work
out – EB] exercises are there, but the European players are not really
taught to this exercise. For many it was a difficult task, unlike for the Americans
EB: This year you have been invited to the NHL Entry Draft which will
held in Toronto. The Central Scouting Bureau considers you seventh amongst European
players – which gives you a great chance to get drafted very early in
the draft. What are your feelings about this? Do you feel any kind of pressure?
A. Babchuk: No, there really isn’t any pressure. Simply, I am awaiting
the draft, and that’s it. There, whatever happens, happens. There is not
way I can influence the outcome – I already played out the season and
have taken all the tests. So now…
EB: As I understand it, you took part in NHL interviews. What kind
of a process was it?
A. Babchuk: You walk into a hotel room. There, at a table sit, for some teams
a couple of scouts, for some 10 scouts, and for Florida even, Mike Keenan was
there. Whoever wants you, sends for you, and you walk in and there are about
20 minutes of questions and that’s it. Then you leave and that’s
the whole process.
EB: What are your plans for next year?
A. Babchuk: I don’t know, we will see. Right now I have a contract with
- Eugene Belashchenko