Kniazev has made ‘great progress’ this season
It hasn’t been a fantastic year for any member of the San Jose Barracuda roster, and Artemi Kniazev knows it.
“It’s been a tough year,” Kniazev told San Jose Hockey Now. “Especially in the beginning. It’s a new level, different speed, different pace of play. Lots of tough guys in the league, especially in our division.
It was also an adjustment for the San Jose Sharks’ 2019 second-round pick, in his first year pro.
While Kniazev played in the QMJHL for three seasons, this is the first year he has had the opportunity to play in a league that only uses North American size ice as he played his junior hockey north -American with Chicoutimi. Sagueneans. The Saguenéens arena, the Center Georges-Vezina, has an Olympic-sized ice rink rather than NHL standards.
However, the Saguenéens have the only international-size ice in the CHL, so the team still plays on North American ice when on the road.
“We played on the big ice, but we didn’t really see the difference between home and road games. Before the road games, we would practice on our second rink, and it’s very small, even smaller than the normal North American rink, I would say,” Kniazev said. “I don’t know, I don’t have big problems going from small to big or the other side.”
However, the Russian defender’s transition from junior hockey to professional hockey came with other challenges. As for that learning curve, Kniazev says he had the support of the San Jose Barracuda to adapt and improve his game throughout the season.
“The coaches helped me a lot during the first part of the season,” he said, “[and the] The last two months have been much better than they were.
The leading offensive defenseman, who had 29 goals and 66 assists in his 120-game QMJHL career, got off to a slow start in the AHL with just one goal and one assist in his first 24 games. Since January 22, however, Kniazev has registered six goals and 18 assists in his last 33 games.
Kniazev has been asked to play a top-two role on this Barracuda team as the season progresses. Head coach Roy Sommer says while it’s partly down to the number of players the squad has lost, Kniazev has earned the blame.
“He was probably playing 10 or 11 minutes,” Sommer said of the defenseman’s ice time before Jaycob Megna, Nicolas Meloche and Ryan Merkley were called up. “Now he’s in his mid-20s.”
Of course, ice time alone isn’t enough to prepare someone for the NHL, but it allows the San Jose Sharks’ top prospect to show more of his abilities with each game.
“He still has a long way to go before he becomes an NHL player,” Sommer said, “but I think he’s moving in the right direction. He takes points. He leads our first power play, which has been quite productive throughout the season.
Kniazev says his most significant improvement has been that he started playing with confidence this season, and Sommer agreed with the self-assessment: “I think he has made great progress. He’s playing a lot more comfortably, playing with confidence right now.
Now that he’s more confident in his abilities, Kniazev says he’ll just play his game and bring points where he can. However, he knows there is still room for improvement.
“Now it’s better,” the 21-year-old said of his game. “I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s better.”
Sommer cited skating as Kniazev’s most obvious attribute and added, “Where he’s done a really good job is in the neutral zone. Surfing through, which means killing plays further forward. He’s probably our best defender to do that. He reads the ice, sees enough good ice cream.
But Sommer also shared what the young defender needs to improve.
“I think he’s hanging on the pucks a little too long and getting himself into trouble,” the coach said. “Defensively, he needs to kill more plays. His stick needs to improve. His decision making is still not there, but he has come a long way since the start of camp.
Speaking of keeping the puck a little too long, Kniazev was told to shoot the puck more.
“You won’t get goals without shots, so it’s an obvious thing,” he said. “Our power play coach wants us to shoot more [since] we have more space on the power play in particular. That’s where the goals come from. »
Sommer, however, pointed out that he has seen improvement on this front in Kniazev’s game: “I think he did a really good job of that, passing the pucks. At times, he would pass when he had the lane to get the puck through the net. It has improved in this area, surpassing that first layer.
Kniazev already has one NHL game under his belt. It happened in early November when the San Jose Sharks had an unfortunate string of COVID cases. Although the experience was brief, it gave Kniazev insight into what he works for every day.
“Every kid’s dream is to play a game on the Show, and it happened. Be with guys like Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Tomáš Hertl,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, other guys had COVID when I was up there, but they’re still the best players in the league. It’s nice to see how they prepare for the game. How they practice every day. It was a great experience.
Predictably, Kniazev says that made him want to make it to the NHL full-time even more:
“It forces you to work harder every day in training and in the game to reach that level.”
Best Locker Room DJ:
“It’s probably Jake McGrew’s playlist that I like the most.”
What is McGrew playing?
“All the guys who deal with music, they play a lot of country, which I don’t like, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
He went on to mention that he loves the rap that McGrew plays the most.
As for who has the worst music on the team? Kniazev says there aren’t many guys to choose from:
“We don’t really have a lot of DJs. Most likely [Nick Cicek] and [Zach Gallant] left. Jacques is the best. Cheech or Gally, one of them is the worst.
In case you were wondering, here are Kniazev’s three favorite songs:
In a bit of a twist, Kniazev failed to deliver his perfect pizza build. Why?
“I’m not a big fan of pizza, actually. I don’t eat a lot. Very rarely.”
Essential pre-match meal:
“Pasta or rice, and now I’m more into seafood like salmon or shrimp, stuff like that. I don’t really think about anything special, just what I want.
Ideal activities outside the day:
“In the morning, I usually call my parents or my girlfriend at home. It’s a perfect time for that because of the jet lag, and then I take a nap. Plan to go out with the boys, especially when we have had Russians in a team, or just stay home and watch a TV series. I watch Sharks games every time they play – something like that, nothing special.
Did he teach the guys Russian?
“They know all the swear words. They use bad Russian words even among themselves for some reason, yeah. It’s actually funny.
If he could have a super power, he would like to be able to:
“Probably to go back in time. Does that make sense? Go back in time and change it.
Specifically, he meant that he wanted to be able to go back in time in the moment, with the idea that using it in games would be very useful.
“That’s probably where I would use it the most.”
If he could play any other position, which would he choose?
“I wanted to be a goalkeeper when I was a kid.”
Unfortunately, his youth coach put him on defense early on, and he never got a chance to put on the pads, so we’ll never know what might have been.
THREE TO GO
Winless in their last 12 outings, the Barracuda are looking to end their final three games of the season on a high.
The San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate played its final game at SAP Center on April 13, suffering a 6-3 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. Thomas Bordeleau made his professional debut and had three assists. Lane Pederson, Jasper Weatherby and Patrick Holway each scored.
Bordeleau shines with 3 assists on his professional debut
In their final home game of the season, the Barracuda put on a show for Sharks Ice fans, but ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime to the Abbotsford Canucks. Pederson opened the scoring, collecting both a power play and a shorthanded goal in the first period. Kyle Topping scored the goal that sent the game into overtime and the Barracuda picked up their second point in 12 games.
Kniazev had an assist in both games.
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