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Author: Andrei Osadchenko (allhockey.ru)
Translated By: Alessandro Seren Rosso
Date: 08/08/2009
Maxim Goncharov (Phoenix Coyotes): I want to play for Phoenix

2010 Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)



A correspondent from Russian Hockey website allhockey.ru recently sat down with CSKA prospect and National Junior Team defenseman Maxim Goncharov (Phoenix Coyotes), to discuss everything from his first pro season to his vacation and even his thoughts on the new MHL junior league. The following is a translation of the interview in its entirety.

How would you rate last season’s performance, your first as a pro?

All went like I wanted to go. Yeah, there were negative moments, but generally speaking I'd say it was good.

What was the low point of last season?

The playoffs. The most negative moment was when Dynamo eliminated us. And obviously the WJC, where Canada beaten us just five seconds to the horn.

What is your number one goal right now- to become a first team regular on CKSA, to win the scoring title at the upcoming WJC, or to make the senior Russian National Team?

My priority now is to make CSKA's roster for the whole season. And surely being called in the National team too. WJC is important too, but the National team more.

What do you think was the highlight of last season?

The call for the national team. For the first time I played with such masters, it was a big plus for me and a big chance to earn experience.

CSKA struggled last season in the playoffs against Moscow Dynamo. What happened?

I don't know, it's hard to say. Maybe we lacked concentration. Losing a match 7-0... Both morally and physically, we weren’t ready.

Critics say that CSKA lacked the grit to beat Dynamo. Is this true?

I don't know. For what I can say, our physical side was okay. It's hard to understand what happened to the team.

Perhaps your team found it difficult to adapt to Dynamo’s style of play, especially after a hard fought series against Lada in the previous round?

Well, yes. The series with Lada was quite heavy. We played five matches. And right after it we faced Dynamo, who is a harder opponent than Lada. Maybe we weren't simply ready to this series.

/b>Is CSKA weak defensively, and do you think new GM/ head coach Sergei Nemchinov has improved the unit?

I can't say that we had serious problems regarding the defense. It's possible that we couldn't score right away. But we had a not bad defense.

If that’s the case, why did Nemchinov actively pursue Mikhail Pashnin (New York Rangers), Kirill Gromov and Nikita Zaitsev in the draft?

Maybe he simply feels that our team has a weak defense. It's hard for me to say why the coach acted that way.

You were paired with Pashnin on the Junior National Team. Do you think he’s a legitimate first overall draft pick?

Yes, it's like that. He's a very good d-man and it's not easy that a blue liner is picked as number one.

What are his strengths?

He acts very well in the defensive zone. It's really nice to play with him back there. He constantly keeps the right position. He won't have difficulties.

Do you think he'll play in the KHL next year?

I think that he'll consolidate himself already in the next season.

Do you think they’ll pair you two up together again?

Let's wait - we'll see! (laughs)

In the last WJC, many questioned coach Nemchinov’s roster and line decisions, including the use of Nikita Filatov (Columbus Blue Jackets), Evgeni Grachev (New York Rangers) and Sergei Andronov (St. Louis Blues) as Russia’s third forward line. Did you ever approach him and offer to change your style of play to help the team?

Nemchinov played us like it was needed. In any case he regarded Filatov's line the best one and we all saw that that was a good unit. And he played that unit against the opposition's weaker lines in order to attack more the crease. And the first and second lines played more conservatively.

Why did your team team get called for so many “too many men on the ice” penalties, particularly against Canada?

Lots of tension, it was hard to substain it. And as a result someone hit the ice too early. It was a semifinal, you need to control yourself ‘til the end. That's how it ended up.

You played a much more offensive style in the WJC than you do regularly in the KHL. Was that coach Nemchinov’s strategy, and how do you think you performed?

He didn't forbid me to do that, not like Vyacheslav Bykov in my club team. But afterall in the WJC you face your co-aged and you can do more than in the KHL, where you play against men and pay any error. There you have to give much attention to the defensive play.

You scored five goals in the WJC, including one against Canada. Which was your favourite?

I think exactly the one against Canada.

Is your offensive game expected to increase with the arrival of Nemchinov?

No. Once again, KHL's level is higher and I don't want to risk to allow a goal. Here you pay a lot for your errors. Thus I don't think that I'll attack more than the last season. Surely I'll try to improve my game.

With such an exuberant Canadian crowd, was it hard to stay calm with all that pressure?

I don't know, as much as it was pressuring it was hard morally. When you are at five seconds to the end, and your team is winning, you are going to think that it's done, that you've won already. And then, a goal. It's devastating. You haven't lost the game, but they tied it up. It was surely really hard.

Has anyone spoken to defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (Florida Panthers) about “what happened” (when he didn't intercept the puck in front of the goalie for the 5-5 goal by Canada five seconds to the horn - RP)?

No, no one. There were good ties among the team. Everyone understood everything about their errors. And no one thought to talk that way. Everyone made some mistake.

During the shoot-out at the last WJC, did coach Nemchinov talk with the team about who should shoot for Russia, or did he pick Pavel Chernov and Dmitri Kugryshev himself?

No one talked to me about this, I'm a defenseman. But I think that he only talked with his assistants.

Did you like the atmoshere in the arena, and would you like to play there again?

I'd really like to play there. And the fans in Canada are very good! You can't talk when the stadium has 20.000 seats and it's full even in the ordinary matches. Even at the group stage, when Canada is not playing, the stadium is at least half-full. It's very pleasant to play in such an atmosphere.

You were drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL. Is the NHL in your future plans?

Of course. I'd like to play in the NHL, in Phoenix.

When do you think would be the right time to try the NHL?

I don't know. Now I'm under contract with CSKA and I'll remain here for a year. I will think about it once it runs out. And I think that it would be good at any age.

Would you be willing to start off in the American Hockey League (AHL), the farm system for the NHL?

I'd agree. It's different hockey anyway. It's necessary to get some experience. It's not KHL, it's AHL. And earning such experience is a big advantage.

With the future of the Phoenix franchise still up in the air, it remains unclear whether you’ll be playng in Glendale (Arizona) or in Canada. Which would you prefer?

Regarding the fans, I think in Canada. Arenas are always full. Regarding the city and the atmosphere, I've never been to Hamilton, but I liked Phoenix (Goncharov went to Phoenix for the 2008 development camp - RP). It's always hot in there. It's a good city (smiles).

How, and when did you know that the senior Russian National team were interested in you?

I've been approached by an administrator, a person who works both with CSKA and on the national team and told me that I needed to give the passport to them. That's how I knew that I would go to the national team.

How did the senior camp in Novogorsk differ from the junior ones you have attended?

At first you see such players who, when you were younger, constantly seen in the RSL, someone in the NHL. I've always dreamt about playing with such people. And I had a chance. With them in the same locker room, in the same rink. It's great. Yes, I already knew many of them, thus it was easy to adapt.

Many fans believe that the players selected for the National Team in the Euro Hockey Tour are chosen because of their ties with CSKA, and not based on their talent and skill level. Do you believe CSKA and Team Russia head coach Vyacheslav Bykov is playing favourites, by choosing players he is familiar with?

It's hard to say. In any case the guys called for the national team are high level. I can't tell that someone was outright not good enough. All the players were National Team caliber.

In Sweden, you seemed to play a very safe, cautious game. Why was that?

I played simpler and I didn't try, maybe, to join the rush superfluously. I am a defender, my task is not let opposition pass. I was also a bit emotioned, after all it was the first time I was playing for the national team.

Was Bykov satisfied with your play, and did he talk to you after the tournament?

All the guys were constantly cheering up, it was good. No one said that it was bad. Also the coach was constantly encouraging. There were no valutations. In the end they picked all the young kids: myself, Evgeni Dadonov (Florida Panthers) and Igor Makarov (Chicago Blackhawks) and told us to get a feel of the National Team, showed us what to work on in the future and what level of play we should be thriving to achieve.

What do you think of the departure of Bykov and his assistant Igor Zakharkin to Ufa?

I don't see anything wrong with it. I don't see any reason to condemn them, they made a lot for CSKA. And maybe they chose the better path.

Have either one of them contacted you since their departure?

No.

What do you think about CSKA's new players?

I know that a Canadian (Mark Hartigan - RP) and an American (Niko Dimitrakos - RP) arrived to our team. I don't know a thing about them, frankly speaking. Hartigan is a good forward, I remember him in Riga, when we played against local Dynamo. About the other player I can't say a thing.

With training camp opening on July 20th, have you had a chance to meet with new head coach Sergei Nemchinov yet, either in person or as a team?

No, nothing like that. The trainers will meet the team only on the first camp day.

What’s your impression of the recently announced MHL, the new Russian junior league?

I think that it's a good step forward for Russian hockey development, both for the young players and for the KHL.

How good do you think the talent level will be in the new MHL, and how it will compare to the Canadian junior leagues?

It's hard to say now which will be better or worse. Let this season go and we'll see which one will be the better one. Simply I don't know too much about junior hockey and about their level.

But you did play on CSKA’s second team with many of it’s current players, didn’t you?

There play many good youngsters. They can only improve playing there I think.

Since the second team made the semi-finals last season, and are returning many of its key players to the line-up, do you think they’ll do well again this coming year?

Yes, it's like that. I think that they have good chances to win the title.

From the current roster, who do you think has the best chance for success and stardom?

I think that Sergei Barbashev is a good forward. Alexei Marchenko is a good defenseman, Roman Lyubimov. I think that these guys can carry away the whole team.

Your birthday just passed recently. How did you celebrate?

I wasn't in Moscow that time, but in America. I celebrated with my parents.

Why you were in America?

I was there in vacation. It's already the second year I spent my vacations in Florida, in Miami.

You spent your entire vacation there?

I've managed to spend a month in America, even a bit more.

Was it difficult to get back from vacation and have to start preparing for the new season?

Well, no. In America I trained too, I haven't stopped myself, went to the gym. I also had some athletics. I kept myself in good shape for the whole vacations.

Related Player Profiles: . S.Andronov S.Barbashev P.Chernov E.Dadonov N.Filatov M.Goncharov E.Grachev D.Kulikov R.Lyubimov I.Makarov A.Marchenko S.Nemchinov M.Pashnin N.Zaitsev
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