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Author: Yevgeniy BelashchenkoDate: 06/11/2002
Anton Babchuk's First North American Interview

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 course.

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 you?

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 have followed?

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 constantly?

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 offense.

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 time.

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 intense.

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 that’s it.

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 and Canadians.

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 Ak Bars.

- Eugene Belashchenko

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