Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov has been crushing it in the KHL lately and was recently named the KHL’s Rookie of the Week after his triumphant performance in consecutive victories against Avangard and Medvescak. Samsonov spoke to the KHL about the distinction between a Stanley Cup victory and a Gagarin Cup victory. Additional topics that were discussed include being named #4 on the Capitals “top 5 prospects” list and if he’s ready to start mentally preparing for the NHL and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup.
Igor Kleyner has a partial translation of the interview.
Ilya, you were recognized as the KHL rookie of the week last week. How did you find out?
Ilya Samsonov: My mom called me first and congratulated me. Then my agent. I don’t put too much stock into it. Personal achievements don’t matter to me. The team’s success, points and wins are much more important. And personal accomplishments, those we can look at and compare at the end of the season. We made a deal with Vasily Koshechkin before the season began not to pay attention to each other’s personal stats.
During the Gagarin Cup finals series in Moscow against CSKA, you could see a lot of famous hockey personalities, like your agent Igor Larionov, who used to win trophies with CSKA. Have you discussed the finals with him?
Ilya Samsonov: Yes, we talked, he congratulated me with the victory. He said life doesn’t end here, you need to prepare for the next season and set new goals and objectives. And I have no idea who he was cheering for – us or the CSKA!
In the NHL it is a tradition to celebrate A Stanley Cup victory in a certain way. They do all kinds of things with that trophy. Same with Gagarin Cup. Did the Metallurg players also “rented” the cup? How did Ilya Samsonov celebrate the victory?
Ilya Samsonov: I got the cup for two days. I took it to an orphanage to meet the kids. They took pictures with the cup, it was a nice event. And the next day I took it to my girlfriend’s parents place, where we celebrated the victory in a fun way together. We didn’t do anything weird though – didn’t put popcorn in the cup, didn’t eat pelmeni from it…
Before the last season you talked about your very productive training camp in North America. You had a lot of help there from Metallurg goaltending coach Sergei Zvyagin. How did you prepare for the new season this year?
Ilya Samsonov: I had a similar program. I was also in North America this summer. This time I didn’t get to work with [Zvyagin]. I did some training in a gym, and some on-ice training as well. Some elements were new. For example, there was a lot of training to keep proper body balance, control my movement. Then I went to a training camp with Washington for a few days. I got to experience the team’s facilities, the front office, and the coaching staff. I learned a great deal. And then I returned to Magnitogorsk a few days prior to Metallurg camp opening.
The Capitals posted a top 5 prospects list on their website; you were listed at number 4. Did you know about it?
Ilya Samsonov: Yes, I heard about it, a friend of mine told me. But I did not pay any attention to the details. It’s too early to think about Washington. Although, I won’t hide it from you, during last season I followed the news from Washington – about Holtby, and our guys who play there.
You contract with Magnitogorsk runs until spring of 2018. So no thinking about the NHL and the Stanley Cup for now?
Ilya Samsonov: Yes, that is the case. Magnitogorsk is my home town, Metallurg is my team. I am not going anywhere until 2018. I want to help the team win more trophies.
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