Photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey
Caps prospect Stan Galiev has put the work in this season and has become a great story. After initially struggling with system play as a teenager, the 23-year-old forward has carved himself out a roster spot in AHL Hershey. Galiev is fifth on the Bears in scoring. Earlier this season he authored a brilliant streak of 8 goals in 8 games, putting him on the Caps radar as a potential call-up.
The young Russian, a restricted free agent this summer, did an interview with Sports.ru blogger Dmitry Groshev on Wednesday. Galiev spoke about his relationship with Alex Ovechkin, what it’s like playing in front of Hershey’s fans, and the key to his success lately.
“This year I played well in the pre-season, our head coach Troy Mann, trusted me and I began to score,” Galiev said. “I get power play time, get some points. I stay healthy too. You put all that together and you can say I’ve now got confidence.”
Fedor Fedin has your translation below.
Your play at St. John got you drafted by Washington. I’ve heard that Evgeny Kuznetsov predicted you being picked by the Capitals, right?
Stan Galiev: Me and Zhenya have been friends for a long time, ever since the youth national teams [“youth” in Russian are U18 and younger]. I won’t lie about the prediction; I don’t remember. Zhenya said it’d be neat to end up on the same team. The first day of the draft was on one day and the rest of the rounds on the next. When I was walking to get photographed in the Washington sweater, Zhenya screamed “Cool jersey!”. I was happy to end up with Washington but not only because I was friends with Kuznetsov. I always liked the way team played, especially with Ovechkin, Semin, Fedorov… now I dream about playing for the big club myself.
Everyone wishes that for you too I’m sure. For now, you play for the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ affiliate. And you’ve played in the ECHL for Reading.
SG: By the way, that’s a pretty strong league. Reading was a part of the Capitals system. The level of hockey is good, most teams play three lines so I had plenty of ice time. There was also a lot of bus rides. In my first year with Hershey I didn’t get much done, I missed three months with a broken collarbone. I was sent to Reading where I played a lot and that helped. They’re South Carolina now if I’m not mistaken.
Your scoring has improved significantly. What do you think is the reason of such a spike compared to last season?
SG: This year I played well in the pre-season, our head coach Troy Mann, trusted me and I began to score. I get power play time, get some points. I have stayed healthy too. You put all that together and you can say I’ve now got confidence.
What style of play do the Hershey Bears play now? How are the fans? How is the hockey life in town?
SG: The whole town wears shirts, hats, sweaters with the logo. People come from neighboring cities for the games. If I’m not mistaken, we are the oldest team in the league, 77 years old. Big traditions. The most important tradition is winning. You’re taught to win. We’ve won 11 championships, more than any team in the league. And about style of play… We play aggressive on defense, try to control the puck. More time on the attack! The emphasis at practice is penalty kill and power play. If you look up the stats, we’re number one penalty kill, number five power play and number one in goals allowed in our conference! The arena is always full, almost 10000 people at every game. It’s great to play in such an atmosphere
How are fan relations?
SG: Great! They always support us. We meet them often, talk.
Is the AHL level high? What can you say about the league?
SG: It’s very high! A lot of talented young players who have just been drafted and who have played in the NHL. Veterans help you out. Coaches work to make your better. A lot of work on the strategy and the team play. And great infrastructure, too. Better than in any league except the NHL of course.
What Russian AHL players do you chat with?
SG: I see a lot and talk to [Sharks’ Daniil] Tarasov, [Pens’ Anton] Zlobin, [Lightning’s Nikita] Nesterov and [Vlad] Namestnikov. I scored twice on [Andrei] Vasilevsky if I’m not mistaken and I’m yet to play against [Andrei] Makarov. I hope it’s all ahead of me and he won’t be mad at me when I score a couple.
You’ve been in the Capitals training camp more than once. It’s a commonplace question, but I can’t avoid asking it. Do you know Ovechkin well?
SG: I think I’ve been in the Caps camp five times. You can even say that I knew Sasha even before leaving for America. We talk often about our home Dynamo and coach Ramil Safich Valiulin, who coached both of us. We have the same Dynamo blood in our veins!
So you can always call Alex The Great for any reason or no reason at all?
SG: When I come to Washington for the camp, we always spend time together. He gives me a lot of good advice that I listen to. Not everyone gets advice from a player who scores 50 goals a season. During the season we write to each other, ask how is it going. Sometimes I just write Sasha, Zhenya Kuznetsov, or Dima Orlov to congratulate them on a win.
Best advice from Ovi?
SG: The first one. When I was drafted by Washington, he told me to put some muscle on.
A few years ago you said you can’t imagine how to defend against Ovechkin. After a few years, did you get any understanding?
SG: It’s tough even if only because of his shot. And then he just comes at you with crazy speed it’s twice as hard. And he’ll never pass up an opportunity to hit you and I guarantee you it’s not very pleasant! Believe me!
Did the relationship between the big club and the farm team change with the arrival of Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz? Do Hershey players now get more attention?
SG: I didn’t notice much of a difference. Coaches contact, but you don’t notice any change. At least players don’t know about it. Everyone’s working and I do too. Work and wait for your chance.
Is making the Capitals is your biggest career goal as of now?
SG: To be honest I try not to think about the NHL call-up. I know I’ve lost a lot in the last two years and now the biggest task is to keep playing the way I’ve been playing. Score, get points, help team win games. It’s only my first full year with Hershey. A lot of work ahead… but I have such a goal [to make the Caps]. And another one to play for Team Russia.
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