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Author: Alessandro Seren RossoDate: 12/05/2009
Interview with U18 Team Russia's head coach Mikhail Vasiliev

2009 U18 World Junior A Challenge
Former CSKA Moscow forward, Olympic champion Mikhail Vasiliev is Russia-92 head coach since this fall after some arisen problems with Kryuchkov's health. In this interview with Alessandro Seren Rosso of Russianprospects.com he talked about the performances of the team in the WJAC, about the 1992 years of birth top players and about the future of this selection.

Hello coach Vasiliev. How can you judge the results of the team in the Summerside tournament, in which team Russia got the bronze medal?

We didnít have such an aim like to get this or that place on the standings. We could even get to the finals. Our true aim was to try the schemes and playersí reactions to them in such a big and important tournament. Iím really satisfied by our players. They played very well as a team. It was important for us to see if they could have done it, and almost all the players demonstrated that they can really play at this level.

The line made up of Sergei Gusev, Vladislav Namestnikov and Sergei Barbashev played very well, especially during the bronze medal game.

Yes, Iím really satisfied by Namestnikov. Gusev is a player with a great technique. Barbashev is a more opportunistic player and he can play in a lot of different situations.

And what can you tell us about the defense? Alexei Marchenko had an excellent tournament, while Stefan Stepanov hadnít. Might be because of the tiredness?

Yes. Stepanov arrived into the team directly from his Canadian club and unfortunately, after the first preparation match, which we lost 9-1, he got sick and had to sit for three days without skating. Then he came back, but he was fatigued. Alexei Marchenko had a great tournament, he even finished the tournament without getting a single penalty minute. In his team (CSKA-Krasnaya Armya of the MHL Ė authorís note) he usually plays a very offensive style, while here we asked him to pay not only offensively, but also defensively, with aggression. And he did it excellently.

How did the goalkeepers play?

We brought to the team Sergei Kostenko and Kirill Brashkin, and we alternated them. They showed a good level of play. Our goalies coach, former USSR national team player Vladimir Myshkin, agrees with the fact that they are ready to play at World Championship level. And weíll keep on working with them.

Do you plan to try some other players for the other tournaments? Iím sure that you pay a lot of attention to Evgeny Kuznetsovís performances with Traktor Chelyabinsk.

Yes. Kuznetsov is an excellent player, he already plays in the KHL, in Europe's top league. In America we have other four players. Kirill Kabanov, who's among his team's top productors. Stanislav Galiev. Ivan Telegin. Roman Berdnikov, who had to undergo a surgery, but now is playing well. Even if Kuznetsov and Kabanov weren't playing in the tournament in Canada, it's really probable that they'll play at the Under 18 WJC. Now we are playing for a couple of exhibition matches against Austrian Under 20 team, which is going to play at the elite WJC in Canada. The team's roster is the same that has played in Summerside and this shows that our players are ready. We count on them.

Sometimes younger players get on the World Championships roster too. What do you think, have 1993-born guys a chance?

Hardly we can take any other forward. There will be the five new players aforementioned, then the Namestnikov's line, and so eight spots are filled already. There is not much space. There is only one player that we might consider to call: Nail Yakupov. He's a very good player, who's playing very well. On the defense instead we might think about some one to bring as seventh or eighth defenseman.

Let's talk about your future. Would you like to keep working with this team during the next seasons, like Vladimir Plyuschev did with Russian Under 20 team?

This is a really interesting team. Maybe here we don't have such players like Kovalchuk or Ovechkin, but there is plenty of talented guys. I am trying to change a bit their mentality, they have to play more like a team, without too much individualism. This is really important. I would be thrilled to keep on working with these guys. In this group there are five or six players who can play, maybe not from the next season, but in two or three years, in the National Hockey League.

Related Player Profiles: . S.Barbashev R.Berdnikov K.Brashkin S.Galiev S.Gusev K.Kabanov S.Kostenko E.Kuznetsov A.Marchenko V.Namestnikov S.Stepanov I.Telegin N.Yakupov
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