“Salavat’s interest in me is practically zero.” What happened to Vasilevsky before leaving for the NHL
Tampa Bay Lightning record holder for the number of victories, Vezina Trophy winner and current Stanley Cup contender Andrey Vasilevsky has always been considered an exceptional talent in Russia. The pupil of “Salavat Yulaev” already at the age of 15 was so good that he went to the junior world championship with boys two years older than him and was the uncontested first number of Mikhail Vasiliev’s team, and even more so he did not crawl out of all kinds of national teams of the region and the country in his 1994 year. Therefore, one should not be surprised that Vasilevsky was at the YChM and MFM three times and did not come there to watch hockey from the stands as a tourist, but to drag his native team to medals.
Now it seems that at the beginning of the 10s in Ufa there simply was no other option, how to bet on the most talented pupil in the history of the club and turn him from the best junior in the system into the first Russian starter of the first team of the republic. Ufa fans remember very well that even after all the international successes, Vasilevsky’s relations with Salavat were not as rosy as they look to outside observers. Few people remember, but in 2011 Salavat Yulaev could have lost the best pupil in the history of the club and his debut for his native club could have been postponed for an incredibly long time.
Andrey Vasilevsky (at goal) in the game for the Russian junior team
In 2011, Vasilevsky, who already had two YChM behind him, entered the KHL draft as the unconditionally strongest goalkeeper in the world in 1994. So it was not surprising when the Mytishchi Atlant decided to pocket the Ufa goalkeeper. Fortunately, at the senseless and merciless Kahaelovskaya fair, there was a mechanism to protect their own pupils and the boss of the Yulaevites, Oleg Gross, did not force his main avenue to throw a handful of corvalol, saving it. Although if you believe the then 18-year-old guy, then after choosing Atlant, everything went to this: “When Atlant chose me, my heart went into my heels, I thought:“ Will I really go to this club? ” Didn’t expect this. I thought Ufa would choose me right away. Well, that’s what happened in the end.
Andrey Vasilevsky and Oleg Gross
Vasilevsky spent the entire post-draft season in the MHL, and in the winter, as expected, he went with the Bragin youth team to the silver MHM in Calgary. At that tournament, the Ufa player, who was the youngest player in the Russian national team, saved all 40 shots in the first match with the Swiss national team, and in the game with the Latvians he made the second shut-out in a row. True, in the semifinals with Canada, the rosy-cheeked Russian swam a little, and before the third period, Valery Bragin had to change him to Andrei Makarov, who eventually played gorgeous in the final with the Swedes. Needless to say, the PR machine of the Canadian media giant TSN immediately began to compare Vasilevsky with Tretyak, and the NHL scouts who filled Calgary were finally convinced that Andrey had no competitors among his colleagues in the role in the upcoming NHL draft.
“In the person of Vasilevsky, we see a megastar in the future, this is so, but now, probably, we shouldn’t praise him. But this guy, who is two years younger than his peers, has all the physical, technical, psychological qualities, he can become a world-class goalkeeper. He is still young. He has strong rosy cheeks, look at him – he is just handsome. This goalkeeper is Alain Delon. Although there are no ugly goalkeepers at all, ”- this is the assessment given to Vasilevsky by the former coach of goalkeepers of the youth team Yuri Novikov.
For many boys, the MFM is not only a chance to win the best tournament in the world, but also a gorgeous springboard for adult hockey. However, it was unrealistic for the young goalkeeper to play for the post-champion Salavat Yulaev, unlike his partners in the silver youth team from other clubs. In Ufa, perhaps, they wanted to quickly play Vasilevsky as a base, but for his native club, the struggle for the Gagarin Cup is always a constant that does not change under any circumstances. So, then it was much more important for Ufa to think about how to reanimate before the playoffs the Swede Erik Ersberg, who had surrendered sharply, and to worry that another pupil Nikita Davydov, who had failed in the position of number two, was not progressing.
“Yes, I really hope and probably will be surprised if they don’t give me a chance. However, in Ufa, there is now a serious competition for a place in the goal. In the VHL, Sohatsky does wonders, so I will wait for my chance to defend at least half of the period for Salavat, ”Vasilevsky said shortly before his last YChM.
Around the same time, in the spring of 2012, pre-draft lists in the NHL were already established, in which the Ufa player was invariably the strongest goalkeeper of the draft, and in parallel with the final ratings, rumors appeared that Andrey and his older brother Alexei might leave for Canadian CHL. The goalkeeper immediately disowned the rumors, but a month after the pre-draft interviews with the NHL clubs he told the press that Salavat Yulaev did not need him:
“I had 28 interviews. Yes, yes, these are almost all NHL teams. Only with “Dallas” and “Phoenix” was not. So I was pretty worn out. Still, it’s not pleasant to walk in a suit and talk to each team for 30 minutes. By the end I was already pretty tired. I prepared myself mentally for fitness tests during these interviews.
Many people here asked me if I was ready to get into the AHL for three or four years to get into the NHL. I replied that I was ready to do everything to get into the NHL and play there. And the draft will be like a show for me. It will be very interesting for me to see what is there and how. The NHL always does everything at the highest level. I am proud to be at this event.
They asked about CHL. They said: if we put you on the CHL draft and someone picks you there, will you go there? I replied that I would go. Of course, an option like Bobrovsky’s would be ideal. But I understand that this is a case, one might say, one in a million. So I will make my way, like all our Russian goalkeepers, through the AHL. If they raise and lower them, this is normal. I’m ready to make my way like this.
How did Salavat feel about the trip to the combine? They have nothing to do with it. Nobody even said anything to me before leaving. I think that Salavat’s interest in me as a player is practically zero. I cannot give the details of this case in an interview. I could tell a lot of interesting things, but I won’t. ”
It’s hard to imagine that an incredibly modest, not always verbose rosy-cheeked guy of 17 years old gave this frank fiery speech. The goalkeeper, on whom Steve Yizerman will spend the first pick of Tampa a little later, was resentful that, even after a complete change of the goalkeeper brigade, the then head coach of Salavat Vener Safin did not see him in the KHL in the new season.
“Vasilevsky is a fantastic goalkeeper with tremendous potential. Growth, technology. Father is a goalkeeper who gave him a lot. But I don’t see that Russia is going to rely on Andrey. There are good goalkeepers in “Toros”, I generally keep quiet about “Salavat Yulaev”. But it is necessary that Vasilevsky played a lot, at least in the Youth League. Otherwise, he will play around next season and sign a contract with the NHL club. Let’s lose a guy!
Andrey needs to go through training camps with “Salavat Yulaev”. If trusted, confidence would come – and in a couple of years we would have got one of the strongest goalkeepers in the country. Vasilevsky lacks experience in playing with men. This is a different level of skill, the power of the throws. This goalkeeper needs to be cut like a diamond. But the club is still not taking him too seriously, – the main truth-pick of Russian hockey Sergei Nailevich Gimaev immediately supported the best goalkeeper of the draft.
Immediately after the Enkhalov draft, the rights to Vasilevsky in the CHL staked out Mississoga, and Tampa invited the future franchise record holder to the training camp. Vasilevsky went to the training camp of “lightning” so successfully that in one of his interviews he dropped the phrase about his desire to buy out the contract with Ufa, but immediately made a reservation that, unfortunately, he did not have the money for this.
You don’t need to be a hockey expert to understand Venus Safina and Oleg Gross at that time. On the one hand, the management set before them the task of laying down the bones, but to compete for another Gagarin Cup and finish as high as possible in the regular season, on the other, General Gross and Safin understood that not giving Vasilevsky a chance in the KHL would mean completely losing the main prodigy of the club vertical. Moreover, he was determined to leave.
Safin was frankly afraid to pull up the goalkeeper in the KHL, who had only one full season in the MHL behind him, where he alternately played with the more experienced Rafael Khakimov. While the head coach of Salavat was saying that Andrei did not need to rush, Vasilevsky echoed to the press: “I’m leaving!” and once joked that he would debut for his native team only at the age of 40 when he returned from North America.
Formally, he made his debut in the KHL Big Cat under Safin. There was no need to wait until 40. Shortly before the next MCHM, Vasilevskiy came out in a home match with Donbass with a score of 5: 1 in favor of the hosts and played a little less than four minutes. But the future owner of Vezina played the first full-fledged match after returning from the MFM with Vladimir Yurzinov, who replaced Safin, and … immediately dried up Dynamo Moscow. Could you imagine a tougher slap in the face to all those who said that Andrei was “whining”?
“The coaching staff had an intention to involve a talented young goalkeeper in KHL games for a long time. But the guy was preparing for the World Cup, spent a lot of time at the training camp, and we just decided not to pull him again. Believe me, he is involved in the main team in order to play! And we will definitely give him a chance soon. It is difficult to judge the goalkeeper’s readiness in two matches. But a guy won’t grow up if you don’t let him play. Therefore, you need to trust the young, “Vladimir Yurzinov instantly saluted the prodigy.
The next season Vasilevsky was already reinforced concrete had to start in the role of a backup. Imbued with Finland from the inside, Vladimir Yurzinov decided to give another chance to the dubious Finn Iiro Tarki . However, already at the training camp Vasilevsky literally gobbled up a competitor and in the summer Salavat began looking for a replacement for the failed legionnaire, and in October terminated the contract with him after a failed last chance at the start of the regular season. As a result, Oleg Gross did not find a new foreigner, and Vasilevsky in the last year of his contract with Salavat did manage to become the main goalkeeper. In the smooth championship, Big Cat played roughly evenly with the aging Alexei Volkov, but in the playoffs he trumped bell-to-bell, dragging Yurzinov’s team to the conference finals. And then he kept his word and left for a dream in “Tampa”. What happened next, you already know very well. However, as the classic said, this is a completely different story.