Хроника Хоккея


Russian teen following Samsonov's path. 
05.01.2003. Dupont, Kevin Paul. Boston Globe

The name to remember in Russian hockey is - Star Searchers, you might want to file this away - Alexander Ovechkin. Only 17, the little-known power forward wannabe has been the talk of the World Junior tournament that is wrapping up this weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Headed into weekend play, Ovechkin led the elite international tournament with six goals - a pair of hat tricks - and all the buzz in the Maritimes and beyond is that he will be the top pick in the 2004 amateur entry draft.

"I've heard about him, but I don't know much about him," said Sergei Samsonov, the Bruins' Magical Muscovite, reached Friday at his suburban Boston home, where he continues to recover from Dec. 24 wrist surgery. "I've seen some stories on the Internet about him, and I know he had the hat tricks. It sounds like he could be a special player."

Not that many years ago, Samsonov was the heralded Russian teenager on the rise, touted as the potential No. 1 pick in the NHL's '97 entry draft. In December '95, the World Junior tournament was held here in the Hub of Hockey, and the then-17-year-old Samsonov, already by then some 10 years into his training with the Red Army (CSKA) club, was on virtually everyone's radar screen as the hottest prospect in hockey.

Much to the Bruins' good fortune, Samsonov had a bad tournament.

"I got sick in Russia before I even left, and I came here with the flu, hoping I'd get better," recalled Samsonov. "The way it worked out, I wasn't much of a performer. It was my first World Junior, and growing up in Russia, you hear over and over that every scout in the NHL is going to be watching you. And here it was, in North America, with all the more scouts, and you're trying to prove that you're better than these other players.

"The reality was, after the tournament, I heard a lot of not good things about how I'd played."

Had Samsonov been able to flash all of his brilliant moves and speed here, he only would have added to what was already a high profile. In part, it was his tepid performance in that tournament that convinced five clubs - San Jose, Los Angeles, the Islanders (twice), Calgary, and Tampa Bay - not to take him with the picks that immediately followed the Bruins' selection of Joe Thornton No. 1 overall. When it was time for the Bruins to make the No. 8 pick, Samsonov was still there for the taking, a fact that now looks as unbelievable as Ray Bourque still being there at No. 8 in the '79 draft.

"One of the reasons I came to North America the next season was that tournament," said Samsonov, who turned pro the following fall with the Detroit Vipers, then part of the International Hockey League. "Obviously, I wanted to get drafted, and after what happened, I wanted the chance to show the scouts here how good I could be."

Ovechkin's showing here in North America the past 10 days no doubt assures that he will be among the top handful of picks in the '04 draft. He began training with Moscow Dynamo, one of Russia's elite clubs, as a 7-year-old. During a recent break in the tournament, he told reporters that he soon quit the game, only to be coaxed back to the rink before age 10 by an older brother, Sergei, who died three years ago. Every time he suits up, Ovechkin told reporters, he thinks of his older brother.

"This is my life now," he told Toronto columnist Damien Cox. "This is the air I breathe."

Samsonov well remembers what it was like growing up in Moscow, desperately hoping as a grade schooler to hook on with one of the elite hockey club's training schools. Think what it would be like for a kid here in first or second grade, hoping to win a spot with a Bruins-operated training club, believing that a missed opportunity at age 5, 6, or 7 likely meant a career path already had come to a dead end.

"I played with Red Army from the time I was 7," recalled Samsonov. "The way it works over there, you make it early, and you pretty much play with that same bunch of guys all the way through for the next 9-10 years. I had the same linemates for seven years, which is pretty cool. I can't say I've seen those guys much, because your life changes, you grow apart, and I've been gone a while now. But Oleg Kvasha on the Islanders, he and I played together all the way through. So it's still something special when we get together."

The day he tried out as a tyke, Samsonov came to the Red Army practice in a uniform made by his mother, with a helmet and cage cobbled together by his dad. He remembers there being some 60 skaters on the ice, and two coaches, the entire session lasting about two hours.

"Comical, and at the same time harsh," is how Samsonov recalls it, describing that one-day audition as an on-ice showdown. "It was almost like a Bud Light commercial or something. At the end of the two hours, everyone was out there on the ice, and one of the coaches went around pointing a finger, saying, `OK, you, you, you and you - come back next time for practice. And the rest of you, good luck next year.' That was it. Realistically, if you didn't make it then, you were done. After the age of 7 or 8, it's almost impossible to make it in Russia."

The economy there 17 years ago wasn't what it is now. Equipment was scarce. Eventually, the first Russians to play in the NHL, including the likes of Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov, sent back new and used equipment for kids like Samsonov to use. He still remembers the day some of that old NHL equipment first arrived. One of the newspapers ran pictures of his club wearing their forefathers' hand-me-downs.

"It was a big deal," he recalled. "Those first guys who left, they did it the hard way. It was very difficult for them to leave Russia, for a lot of reasons, and when they did, they didn't forget where they came from."

Neither has Samsonov forgotten. Two of the clubs he endorses, Franklin Sports and ITECH, he said, have been very generous in donating equipment for up to 50 kids to play hockey back in his homeland.

"It's kind of funny, looking back," said Samsonov. "But if you don't bring in a kid at an early age, if he's not skating by the age of 6, he's going to have a hard time making it in the Russian hockey system. It's been like that forever."

Meanwhile, Samsonov spends his days now waiting for his right wrist to heal. Dr. Jesse Jupiter repaired the crack on the outside of the wrist just under two weeks ago, and Samsonov in the next few days will have a hard cast placed around the wrist and forearm for the next phase of the healing process.

"They waited on the hard cast, for some of the swelling to go down," he said. "I'll be in this next cast for about four weeks, and then a smaller one for at least a couple of more weeks after that. To tell you the truth, I'm getting a little bored."

Contrary to some reports prior to the surgery, Jupiter did not need to take bone or marrow from Samsonov's hip to perform the graft in his wrist. Instead, Jupiter borrowed the material from the other side of the same wrist, layering it into the fissure to promote healing.

"The pain's a lot less now," said Samsonov. "For a while, I wasn't sure which side of the wrist hurt more - the side he fixed or the side where he borrowed from. The good news is, I've been off pain-killers for two days now, and I'm completely off medication. For a couple of months, I was taking anti-inflammatories and pain- killers. It's nice just to not be popping pills."

If all goes according to plan and procedure, Samsonov figures he can begin workouts on an exercise bike in 2-3 weeks. Ideally, he said, he will play again this season.

"The way we're looking, we could be playing in June," he said. "It's only January, so June is a long way off, and I'd like to be back. I never expected anything like this was going to happen, and obviously, I'd love to play. At the same time, if it's not good enough, I don't want to go back out there if it's not 100 percent. I want it to be right and I can go out there and play worry-free."

Первая страничка молодежных чемпионатов мира 2003 года
Подгруппа А - подробнее
Россия, Швейцари, США, Словакия, Белоруссия
Подгруппа В - подробнее
Канада, Финляндия, Чехия, Швеция, Германия
За 7-10 места - подробнее
Швейцария, Швеция, Германия, Белоруссия
1/4 финала - подробнее
США - Чехия
Финляндия - Словакия
1/2 финала - подробнее
Россия - Финляндия
Канада - США
Финал - подробнее
За 5 место. Словакия - Чехия
За 3 место. США - Финляндия
За 1 место. Канада - Россия
Страничка статистики

Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2003 года.