Yesterday we posted our thoughts on Nikita Kucherov’s comments to Pavel Lysenkov of Sovsport.ru. We heard some skepticism from our fanbase about the accuracy of the translation, so we reached out to Russian-to-English translator Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor on Twitter). Nikonov provide us with his best translation effort on the entire article text. Because translation is somewhat subjective, here is The Hockey Writer’s translation by Alessandro Seren Rosso for comparison.
Read our analysis from yesterday here.
Sovsports.ru interview with Nikita Kucherov
(Read the article in Russian at Sovsport.ru.)
Pavel Lysenkov: This is your first World Championship. What kind of tournaments did you watch on TV as a child? What do you remember most from them?
Nikita Kucherov: Sure, [I watched the] World Championship of 2008 in Quebec, when Russia defeated Canada despite initially losing 2-4 in final game. [Ilya] Kovalchuk scored in overtime. And the next year, in Bern, when Radulov scored the Gold Medal Winning Goal. These are the most memorable World Championships for me. Actually, I’ve watched all of them. I dreamed of playing for the Russian national team at this level. It is a great honor, and I’m glad I have a chance now.
Lysenkov: You’ve met with your old friend Nikita Gusev on the national team. Have you followed his game in the KHL?
Kucherov: I was trying to watch all his highlight moments in the game. I was concerned with Gusev and Igor Ozhiganov from CSKA. It doesn't matter who won, just wanted to make sure my friends played well.
Lysenkov: There is a photo of the team born in 1992 at your hockey school, where you are sitting in the front line. Do you often remember your own school?
Kucherov: Yes, of course. Even with Vlad [Namestnikov], because we played against each other. Always discussing, with a smile, who won and how many we scored. A lot of good memories. This was the best time of our lives. You learned how to play hockey, how to keep discipline. Our coach Gennady Gennadyevich Kurdin really helped us. Without him, neither I, nor Gus [Gusev], nor Zhiga [Ozhiganov] would be where we are now.
Lysenkov: Were you good at hockey from the beginning?
Kucherov: I always played with Gusev. I can’t say everything was good. There were some slumps or failures. But you can’t play all games at the same level. I didn’t have stability, as I have now. I used to get upset when couldn’t score, and the game was over for me. And now I’m thinking more like an adult. You couldn’t score now, but you will never know, what happens next time.
Lysenkov: Have you followed CSKA, your former team?
Kucherov: I don’t like watching them, because they’re playing terrible hockey. I feel sorry for the guys who play there. I’m only happy for Igor Ozhiganov, that he made it to the first team.
Lysenkov: Were CSKA trying to contact you, when you didn’t have a contract?
Kucherov: No, I woudn’t even consider this possibility.
Lysenkov: Yzerman offered you an “understated” contract. Everyone knows that Kucherov is worth more. Why did you agree?
Kucherov: I don’t want to discuss my contract.
Lysenkov: You played on different lines at the World Cup. With whom were you feeling most comfortable?
Kucherov: When you’re playing alongside such great players, it doesn’t really matter. We had top players in every line. It was an unforgettable experience for me. I’ve learned a lot from [Alex] Ovechkin, [Evgeny] Malkin, [Vladimir] Tarasenko, [Evgeny] Kuznetsov, [Pavel] Datsyuk. Maybe it helped me last season. I was more confident. I’ve grown as a person and as a player. And the national team helped me too.
Lysenkov: 40 goals in NHL is a very high level. You are the best Russian [forward] in the league (85 points). Do you feel some responsibility?
Kucherov: I don’t really read and listen to what experts says. Just try to accomplish the coach’s instructions, play my hockey, and help my partners. It’s really important to enjoy what you’re doing. Not just get on the ice and throw a puck, as the coach says. You should create something unusual that opposing players don’t expect. I had success later this year. Some guys were traded, some guys were picked up from farm club. Everyone had to play a new role. This is why I moved to the next level, and the coach began to trust me more. I took this opportunity. But the main thing is that I was doing everything to help my team.
Lysenkov: The fact that Captain Steven Stamkos dropped out was a blow. Yes, you have more playing time, but after all, Tampa became weaker.
Kucherov: I had a great chemistry with Namestnikov and Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other very well. And then Stamkos was injured. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that, coach started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos’ level. It’s hard to explain how I played with him [Stamkos]. We had lack of understanding [with the players besides Stamkos], there were some problems.
Lysenkov: For example, you tell a new partner where you need to be, but he does not manage to get there with his feet...
Kucherov: I was suffering all this season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners. I played with Drouin once and it was good, but the coaches didn’t put us together again. Some guys have stayed too long on the team. They’ve got money and stopped working. They knew there was no competition for their positions, and the organization was not going to take someone else. They did not play really well this season. You can see it in their stats. When we played together and I made a pass, they were not expecting it. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.
Lysenkov: What did you feel, when Nikita Nesterov was traded?
Kucherov: No one wants to lose their friend. We’ve become closer after all these years. I got upset at first. But this is hockey, it happens. You need to accept it. But then I was happy for him. He wanted to go, because he wanted to play more and he didn’t have a chance at Tampa. I’m happy for my friend, because he got a chance at Montreal. We are still in contact.
Lysenkov: How did you react to the decision that NHL players will not participate in the Olympics?
Kucherov: It’s gonna be as they decided. I don’t think my opinion matters. Of course I would love to go to the Olympics. I watched games as a child, every kid is dreaming about playing for national team. You don’t have this opportunity every year, it can be once in a life. It’s a pity if they won’t let us go there and someone will miss such a chance. It’s not about just me, it’s about everyone. Your parents and loved ones, your coaches are all watching you play for your country, feeling proud. It's great! But you should understand, it does not depend on us.
Lysenkov: Washington Capitals owner said he will let Ovechkin to the Olympics. What did Yzerman say?
Kucherov: We didn’t discuss [it].
Lysenkov: You’ve had a fight with Torey Krug and Trevor Daley this season. Did someone say to you, that this is not the thing that a pure [skilled] forward should do?
Kucherov: No, no one said this to me. It was in a period of time when we played badly. We couldn’t score, so everyone got upset. I wasn’t satisfied with my game too. So I just freaked out, I guess. Didn’t expect it from myself.
Lysenkov: Did the fights liven you up?
Kucherov: It was unusual. But then we found our game and everything became normal.
Lysenkov: Did they call you the fighter in the team?
Kucherov: At one time I had more fights than any other player in the team. So there were some jokes.
Lysenkov: Do you still watch “Walking Dead”?
Kucherov: No, I don’t.
Lysenkov: Jon Cooper was named head coach of Canada's team at the World Hockey Championship. Is it extra motivation for you?
Kucherov: I don’t care.
Lysenkov: Are there any peculiarities about playing on a big [ice] field for you?
Kucherov: You don’t always want to race on such an airfield. So much space in the corners. The game is slower. It’s more comfortable for me to play in the NHL. I love hockey with high speed, love make quick decisions. Create moments, shoot the puck. I don’t like playing on the big field. I’m not used to it.
Lysenkov: There are some discussions in the KHL about switching from big fields to small ones...
Kucherov: If there is an opportunity, it should be done. The game will be more interesting for fans. More hits, collisions, shots. It will be harder for goalies. You can shoot from everywhere and it will be dangerous moment. But trust me, hockey is much more interesting on NHL-sized fields.
Lysenkov: Everyone gets crazy about your shootout goal vs. Buffalo.
Kucherov: I always score like this against Vasy (Kucherov smiles). And I decided to try this trick against Buffalo. Had a little fortune. Goalie didn’t react and puck went between his pads. Ask Sergey Shirokov – he did it in CSKA, I’ve learned it from him.
Lysenkov: How did you train your fantastic wrist shot?
Kucherov: If I have time during training, I’m taking a puck and shooting from every spot. The fields are small in the NHL, as I said before, so your shot will be dangerous from every position. You should be prepared for any spot, any rebound. I can stay after practice to throw 50-100 pucks. I can spend two hours throwing pucks in the summer. I’m interested and have nothing to do. I train and work at my hands. It's precious time you don't have much of during the season and I don't like resting for too long. In summer, instead of wandering around, you have to make yourself better. I'm watching players like [Patrick] Kane, [Sidney] Crosby, Ovechkin — there are playing on a high level every season. I’m trying to get closer to these masters.