The first of this season team Russia's training camp will be held on August 19 -24 in Switzerland. Igor Kravchuk, appointed last year as a chief scout of team Russia in North America, talked to AllHockey.ru about his new responsibilities and why it is neccessary to watch the games with Alexander Ovechkin. Here are some excerpts from that interview...
A year ago you became team Russia's scout in North America. In May our team won the world championship thanks in part to the game of their NHL players. Sounds like you've done a good job?
As for winning, you have to realize that these guys are playing, not me. I just try to be very objective in my scouting reports.
What is the main subtlety of your job?
The fact that I have to compare two different hockey systems. You send a report about a person with specific recommendations, taking into account not only the specifics of European hockey, but the scheme that head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is using. You have to think through certain situations in advance. You look at particular player and think, "How he will be behave in this situation? How he will look on Olympic size rink?"
And how the decision is made?
Of course, the final choice is by Zinetula Khaydarovich. It's great that Malkin, Varlamov, Kulemin and Emelin came earlier. They had time to recover and play together, to see what's here and there, rather than jumping from the plane right on ice. Of course there were fears that some guys that Zinetula Khaydarovich made a bid on would not play well. Nobody expected that Perezhogin and Popov would be so good, right? Take my word, for many it was a surprise.
It is clear that in Russia very few follow, say, Slava Voinov and Andrei Loktionov, who won the Stanley Cup. Here your assessment of their play is of the enormous weight. Do you devote the same attention to stars like Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Malkin?
Of course, I watch their games. Maybe, perhaps, not with so much attention. For example, you watch one period with Yevgeny Malkin and all is clear, he is carrying the team. He is like a locomotive. But Sasha Ovechkin had a very difficult season. There was a change of coach, and much more. He had big swings in his game. Ovechkin was probably the second in the number of games that I watched.
Who's the first?
It was Emelin. It is because he plays here in Montreal. But I watched Ovechkin a lot. One must understand that you can't just blindly invite Ovechkin to the national team. Why that? He's a good hockey player, right? But the thing is that he might not match the concept of the game team Russia has chosen. That's why you have to watch out and this is what I did. I have not missed his single game in the playoffs. Along with him I watched Sasha Semin. I can say that in Boston series Semin played just brilliant. He was very strong. Even stronger than Ovechkin. It was evident throughout all his actions, his hockey sense, and how he was playing without the puck, how he would get open to receive a puck. But in the next series with Rangers Ovechkin, on the contrary, played better, and it was not the best series for Semin.
And then you sit down with Bilyaletdinov, and ...
And here we sit down with Zinetula Khaydarovich, and I am telling him, for example, here is our situation with Semin. I say it as it is. This is my job. I take on this responsibility. I can't say, "Come on, Zinetula Khaydarovich! Take him to the team, he's so experienced! He'll be fine ". You can imagine that there were already such moments, when the stars would come to the World Cup and fail in the tournament completely.
Let's look, for example, at Dima Orlov. I honestly said to Zinetula Khaydarovich that he did not play a single game in the playoffs, even though the season he looked pretty cool and is a talented guy in general. I really like him. Yes, of course, he makes mistakes because he is young and is just learning. But he has a potential, he has a future. However he did not play in the playoffs and inviting him to the national team should not be considered automatically. Since they did not trust him, since he was sitting and not playing, how can you tell if he will fit or not?
There should be no resentment on the part of the kids. Because everything that is done is done for the sake of victory. At the world championships and at the Olympics the country should be represented by the strongest.
Wikipedia on Igor Kravchuk:
Kravchuk started his NHL career in 1992 with the Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted him 71st overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He would also spend time with the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers.Igor Kravchuk was also the first Russian born player who reached Stanley Cup finals in 1992 with Chicago Blackhawks scoring 8 points in 18 playoff games that season.
Kravchuk was also a member of the Unified Team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Two days after his 21st birthday Kravchuk was the lone defenceman facing a 3 on 1 in the final game of the 1987 Canada Cup. Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, and Larry Murphy skated in on goaltender Sergei Mylnikov and Lemieux scored the game and series winning goal at 18:34 of the third period.
He now resides in Montreal, and formerly coached for Harrington College. He has two sons; Ilya and Christopher. He also has a daughter.