Rangers Rookie Artem Anisimov Discusses his First Season in New York

New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov survived the additions of fellow centers Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeny Malkin to Russia's roster at the IIHF World Championship this weekend, and even managed to pick up his second point of the tournament with an assist on Russia's final goal in a 6-1 drubbing of Denmark on Sunday afternoon. Not surprisingly, the 21-year old rookie has seen limited playing time on the tournament's most stacked roster, but he hasn't looked at all out of place when he has been on the ice.

Anisimov's invitation to join the Russian squad has had an added benefit: not only is the promising young forward gaining valuable experience by playing with and against some of the top players in the world, but his participation has put him, like his teammates, squarely under the Russian media spotlight. Before he had even left Russia's training center in Novogorsk for the World Championship in Germany, Anisimov had been interviewed by most of Russia's top sports media outlets. The best and most comprehensive of these interviews was done by Alexei Shevchenko of Russian site sports.ru. In the lengthy interview, Shevchenko covered a wide array of topics ranging from Anisimov's thoughts on his rookie season, to his feelings on playing with tough guys Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust, and what it's like to play with super-pest Sean Avery. In the process, Shevchenko provided a glimpse at the personality of a player who's rarely heard from in the North American press.

Continue below to read the full translation of Sevchenko's interview with Anisimov.  

Note: I posted a link this translation in it's original location in the comments section of Rob's review of Anisimov's rookie year on Saturday, but we thought it warranted its own post for those who don't normally dig into the comments.

Artem Anisimov: "Playing with tough guys, you feel completely safe"

Philadelphia, Playoffs and Statistics

- You had a pretty unusual finish in the NHL. Towards the end of the regular season the Rangers raised their game, but couldn't beat Philadelphia twice in the last two games, and just barely missed the playoffs. Oh, it was probably upsetting?

- It's still upsetting! Just one point short. We could have won.

- When you say that you were one point short, you probably recall some particularly upsetting defeat immediately. What game was it?

- Yes, over the whole season there were so many games like that, that you could make an entire list. One point -- that's the same as a win in a shootout. I don't know which game to name. Well I remember a game against the Penguins. I scored two goals, but we weren't able to win during regulation time.

- If you draw the Rangers season as a line, you get some kind of sine wave. And you yourself played inconsistently.

- I agree. There was a period of 16 games when I didn't score any points. I made the allowance for myself that it was my first season at this level. Still, I needed to adapt. But you know when I settled down?

- When?

- Here I'd played these 16 disastrous games, and the coach calls me in. That's it, I think, I'm done. But he told me 'Artem, don't worry, don't be nervous. We believe in you, we believe that everything will work out.' After that, really, everything got back to normal. Words like that are very important from a psychological point of view.

- So it was possible to play and not worry particularly about statistics.

- Yes. But I paid a lot of attention to defense, and let in very few [goals]. So I wasn't completely useless to the team.

- You'd had an excellent season in the AHL. It was clear that you would be moved up to the first team. You probably figured out as early as the summer that you'd made it to the NHL?

- How can you say that? Not during training camp, or during the pre-season, or at the start of the regular season did I have any confidence. I didn't even rent an apartment, I lived in a hotel and waited for them to send me to Hartford.

- When did they tell you to rent an apartment?

- When I'd played 10-15 games. But in general I finally understood that I would stay with the team after that conversation with the coach, when he expressed his full support.

- So listen, how is it that you didn't get in the playoffs? It's a nightmare. Such a roster, such a goaltender...

- Yes. I don't understand it myself.

- Have you collected many souvenirs from this year?

- Only one. I took the puck from my first goal in the NHL. And from last year I still have a commemorative plaque from my debut with the Rangers. With my statistics from my first game on it.

Enforcers, English and an Apartment

- It seems like you finished the season on the fouth line, with the enforcers?

- Yes. I became friends with the guys. It's very easy to play with them, to be honest... in the sense that you feel completely safe.

- In what way?

- In front of the net, for instance. The other team's goaltender will cover the puck, and without fail you get shoved. But my linemates would skate right in and they begin to say all kinds of things to those who touch me.

- Give us a quote.

- Oh, I'd better refrain.

- And did you not want to play their [style of] hockey?

- Why would I fight? No thanks. I wouldn't stand a chance. I didn't even try.

- How is your English?

- I'm in my third season in America, and in the beginning, of course, it was pretty difficult. But then I consistently took learning upon myself. And I watched films with subtitles, and in the locker room I sat with the young, English-speaking guys. So now everything is fine.

- By now, can you express yourself convincingly in English?

- To do what?

- To suggest who should have gone where, but didn't go.

- You're kidding! In the NHL that isn't done at all. You don't criticize a teammate. That's the job of the head coach only.

- It's not that way in Russia.

- But I really don't remember how it is here in Russia. Although I've gone for a skate here in Novogorsk and I understand that it's very difficult to get used to the larger ice surface. It seems you're going along the boards and you think 'it's time to shoot or pass,' and you lift your head and you're still far away. In the NHL it's easy to score from the boards.

In general what I liked about America is that the majority of players have their own role. One is responsible for only forechecking and does nothing else on the ice. The task for our fourth line was well defined: move the game into the opponents zone. Don't let them in your own zone. That's all.

- Coaches in Russia don't like such differentiation.

- Again, I'm sure that this is all because of the size of the ice surface. Here you need to be able to do everything.

- New York is most likely the only city in the world which is cooler than Moscow. Where did you lease an apartment?

- In the suburbs. It's 30 minutes to New York, but what's important is that it's 10 minutes from the [practice] arena. It's a quiet little town, but it has everything necessary to live. I'm satisfied.

- But why didn't you live in Manhattan?

- It's very noisy there. I don't really like that area. If I choose to go for a walk, it's somewhere by Central Park. A few players from our team live there.

Cars, Theaters and Avery

- Tell us what cars the players travel in. Nikita Filatov said that Rick Nash has some kind of antique truck.

- You know, it's the same on the New York Rangers. Everyone has very expensive cars. Mine might be the cheapest.

- And what is it?

- A BMW X5. Our goaltender Lundqvist really loves sports cars. However, he's already crashed his Lamborgini.

- How?

- He hit a rut on a wet road and skidded. Everything was fine.

- Are traffic jams in New York worse than in Moscow?

- No, they're a far cry from Moscow. I'm very pleased with the courtesy on American roads. Everyone yields to one another, allows you to change lanes, merge from secondary roads. I don't think anything can be compared with Moscow. Here, if you get stuck you stand there and don't move.

- You played on a line with the illustrious Avery. How was that?

- It's fine as long as he plays on our team. Opponents don't like him. Yes, he provokes, but it benefits the team. By the way, I'd note that in the locker room he's completely different.

- Give us more about New York. Where else might you go, besides Central Park?

- I went to Broadway a few times, to see musicals. And I must say that I was very satisfied. I saw the Lion King twice, for example. First with my girlfriend, and then with my parents. And the time flew by in a flash. And I went to a Russian theater performance that came to America. Sergei Bezrukov performed.

- So you're a theatergoer?

- Well no, of course not. But I enjoy it very much.

- Have you fallen in love with baseball or American football?

- I didn't like watching American football live. There are too many people in the stadium. 80,000 people come to the game. I'd rather hang out at home. And I don't understand baseball.

- Why?

- No, I figured out the rules, they're simple enough. But the Yankees invited us to a game in Tampa. We went, and watched. As I understand it, all baseball games are a reason to get out somewhere and get some fresh air for three hours, with beer and hot dogs. And I'm not the only one who thinks that. I left the stadium early, and the next day I asked those who stayed 'how did they play?' They shrugged their shoulders. No one there kept an eye on the score.

- And have you gone to any NBA games?

- Only once, in Cleveland. I saw how the great Lebron James plays. And well, he's the best.

- Players who come back to Russia are much more comfortable with the fact that journalists speak with them before the game.

- Yeah, well, I don't see anything terrible about it. Usually on the day of a game the press comes to the pre-game skate [and] comes into the locker room. And conversations don't always concern hockey, I was once asked whether I like to sunbathe.

- Do you?

- Yeah, not very much. But once the game commentators came up and asked whether my parents had arrived. 'Yes,' I answered, 'they'll be at the game.' And what do you think? That night during the game, when there was a break, my parents were shown on TV. Very nice.

- They don't do such long interviews there, right?

- Yes, generally everything ends quickly. A couple of questions, a couple of answers. However once some girl fed me questions for 20 minutes. The team had already gotten dressed and left for the bus, and I sat in skates the whole time. But that kind of thing happens rarely.

For more translated interviews from Anisimov's time with the national team, see the following links: