Five Questions with Igor Larionov

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NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Hockey Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup champion, Igor Larionov. Larionov will coach the Russia at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship:

Igor Larionov is confident Russia has built a team that can win the IIHF World Junior Championship for the first time in 10 years.

Larionov will coach Russia at the 2021 WJC for the first time, replacing Valeri Bragin, who had coached Russia for the previous six tournaments. Larionov was an assistant under Bragin at the 2020 WJC, where Russia finished second.

Russia has finished in the top three in nine of the past 10 tournaments, but last won the event in 2011.

 

[RELATED: More 2021 World Junior Championship coverage]

 

“I guess it’s time to reconsider the standings … maybe reshape the standings,” Larionov said. “I played for a team that hadn’t won the Stanley Cup for 42 years (before winning in 1997) in Detroit, so now maybe it’s time as a coach, as a leader, to lead [Russia] to success in Canada.”

The WJC is scheduled to be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, 2021. No fans will be in attendance for the games, and the teams are in a secure zone similar to the one used by the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Russia will play in Group B during the preliminary round, starting against the United States on Dec. 25. It also will play the Czech Republic (Dec. 27), Austria (Dec. 29), and Sweden (Dec. 30). Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany.

All games will be broadcast in the United States on NHL Network.

As a player Larionov helped the Soviet Union win the World Junior Championship in 1979 and 1980, and in 14 NHL seasons he scored 644 points (169 goals, 475 assists) in 921 regular-season games with five teams. He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.

Here are Five Questions with … Igor Larionov:

 

What is your coaching philosophy and how might it differ from Valeri Bragin?

“My philosophy is to teach hockey the right way. To be professional, pay attention to detail and play good, enthusiastic hockey that requires skill, the mindset and the work ethic needed to be successful. I guess maybe it’s not appropriate to compare to a previous coach and someone who I have a lot of respect for, but at the same time I’ve tried to go back to the roots of Russian-style hockey, when we played at high speed and used quick minds and quick feet. I enjoy the smart team play and playing an offensive style that requires imagination. We will play with skill, play for each other and give maximum effort.”

 

What are the strengths of the Russia team we’ll see at the World Juniors?

“We don’t have that much experience in returning players from last year, other than goalie Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators), and forwards Vasily Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks) and Maxim Groshev (Tampa Bay Lightning). Since I couldn’t view players during this difficult time (in a pandemic), with no camps and nothing to see from exhibition games in the traditional Canadian Hockey League Canada Russia Series during the November tour in Canada, it gave us an opportunity to see the boys play in the Kontinental Hockey League level, playing against men. I’m looking for skill, character, speed and a mind that’s ready to sacrifice and play for the team.”

 

Askarov is 18 years old; is he one of the best Russia-born goalies you’ve seen at his age?

“It’s not the secret that everyone is talking about Askarov, but we have three really good goalies, Askarov, Artur Akhtyamov (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Vsevolod Skotnikov (2021 draft eligible). Obviously, [it isn’t often] you have a young talent like [Askarov,] and looking back on [the 2020 WJC], when he had so much pressure, he was kind of a little off his game. This time around we hope it’s going to be his tournament. Obviously we’re not going to rely on just the goalies. We’re going to rely on everybody else too, but [Askarov] is going to be the guy who stops the puck.”

 

What are the advantages of having three returning players (Askarov, Podkolzin, Groshev)?

“Well, they became one year older and the experience last year wasn’t very pleasant, losing in the final (to Canada), but it’s still experience and this year they came with one purpose: to help the team to be better in every way for the best possible result.”

 

What has impressed you about defenseman Daniil Chayka, who received an A rating from NHL Central Scouting for the 2021 NHL Draft and is the only projected first-round selection on the roster?

“I like the way he’s developing and the way he plays. Obviously there’s some mistakes and he’s only 18, but I like his hockey sense, his poise with the puck … so there’s a good future. When you see a player like that, it’s obviously a pleasure to have him on the team, believing that players can play with him at the same time and on the same unit because they know he’s going to make the right decisions. Sometimes there are some mistakes made, but you need to expect some mistakes. But he’s good enough and smart enough to play in this tournament.”

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