Arsen Khisamotdinov | A strange adventure from a Russian hope to a Canadian

For Montreal fans, following Canadians’ hopes step by step is almost a sport in itself.

Simon Olivier Lorang

Simon Olivier Lorang

However, how many can pronounce the name Arsen Khisamutdinov without being mistaken? In fact, how many of you remember him? The contract of the 23-year-old Russian, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2019, was terminated on Thursday. And so he left on his arrival: with maximum anonymity.

His connection to the two and a half years he spent in confinement was a succession of contradictions.

Dominating in his final year in his home country (55 points in 41 games), the 6’3″ tall man had an interesting start in the KHL, with 5 points in his first 9 games. However, on the same day as his draft, in June 2019, all observers were at a loss. Khisamotdinov, 21, was not on the list of international skaters in the NHL Career Center.

Few recruiters knew him,” CH’s director of amateur recruiting Trevor Timmins said at the time. He did not play in the national teams because he developed late. “

If he had not been drafted, he would have become a free agent wanted by several teams.

Trevor Timmins, Former Director of Amateur Recruitment Canada

During the following season, in 2019-2020, Khisamotdinov enjoyed success in the VHL, the Russian equivalent of the American League, but his full-time period in the KHL was difficult: only 3 points in 31 games at Nizhnekamsk Stadium.

Even if the NHL teams retained the rights to the European and American players they had recruited for four years, the Canadian was quick to award him a contract in May 2020, making him the first player in his 2019 squad to line up with the club, by Gianni Verbrother (March 2021), Cole Caufield ( March), Raphael Harvey Benard (May) and Matthias Norländer (June). Obviously we wanted to continue developing the striker in North America and not in Russia.

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Urdu in Laval

Khesamutdinov could not have landed under unfavorable conditions. Logically, he referred directly to the Laval missile, but in a very special context.

Several ECHL clubs, as well as the junior leagues in Ontario and the West, have passed the 2020-2021 season in whole or in part. This had the effect that the American League formations, including the Rocket, found themselves in much greater numbers than usual. So the young man found himself in the middle of a huge group of players.

In addition, COVID-19 requires, he lived alone. He could barely speak English, his isolation became inevitable.

The language limit was also an obstacle to his learning on the ice. As a result, he played little – only 15 matches, in which he received only one assist. Although he has had to deal with reduced training for much of the winter, due to reminders from the Canadian or injuries, coach Joel Bouchard more than once preferred using defenders in attack to playing Jesamutdinov.


Arsen Khisamotdinov at the Laval missile training camp last October

Bouchard did not take any turns when he talked about it during his assessment of the end of the season last May. “He is a very good young man, and I have not had any problems with him,” he emphasized. But in terms of hockey, despite the “improvements” during the season, the striker “started from a very far”.

“Sometimes there are things that can be explained, and others less so,” Bouchard said. I don’t hold his staff either. […] We did a lot of videos, I was using a translator on my phone. I saw he was trying a lot, but it was too much for him. You shouldn’t hold it against him. We’ll see what happens next year. ”

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Urdu in Trois-Rivieres

Thanks to the association between the Canadians and the Trois-Rivieres lions, in the ECHL, it was clear that Khisamutdinov would continue his career in Mauritius.

Having passed the training camp of Canadians (it was not in the junior camp), and then the rocket camp, it was not surprising that he ceded to the Lions.

Photo of Hugo Sebastian Hubert, the press

After starting the season with the Trois-Rivieres Lions, the 23-year-old Russian striker announced the termination of his contract with the Canadians on Thursday.

On the eve of the first game of the season, last October, the players made it clear that they were trying to get him into the team as best they could, even though his English was still very rudimentary.

His teammates Cedric Desruisso and Justin Ducharme, who were also his roommates, described the following: Journalism “A fairly quiet man,” not very extroverted.

“At least by living with us, he has a chance to practice his English,” Ducharme said. Follow us, come to the grocery with us. He tries, but it’s not always easy. ”

“He won’t come and sit with us in the living room when we’re listening to TV in French, so he’s playing video games on his computer,” Desruiso continued. In the arena, he has more fun. ”

As Justin Ducharme predicted, “the more time passes, the better for him.”

Rather, the opposite happened. He was initially forced to miss matches in the United States due to a visa issue preventing him from entering the country. And head coach Eric Belanger, dissatisfied with his work, several times left him aside.

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In a phone interview from Newfoundland, where the Lions play this weekend, Belanger made it clear Journalism That the language barrier has become particularly restrictive. “I couldn’t meet him for 10 minutes,” Quebec explains. More complex communications had to be made through his agent.

the end

However, Khisamotdinov’s main drawback was his inability to keep up with the playing patterns established by the coaching staff.

“To play hockey in North America, you have to be able to play in a system, to fit into a framework,” Belanger continues. It’s hard for him. Among the pros, we don’t play like an outdoor skating rink. When you don’t keep track of the structure three-quarters of the time, it’s tough. ”

Nevertheless, the striker made a drinkable harvest of five points, including three goals, in ten matches. But his insistence not to contribute to the collective effort was clearly problematic.

When you’re trying to create a culture in a new team, and it’s inconvenient but we keep making it play, what message are we sending to the other players? Just because he has an NHL contract doesn’t mean he’s different from the rest.

Eric Belanger, Head Coach of Trois-Rivieres Lions

The driver ensures that the management of HBS never pressures him to make Khisamotdinov play. Moreover, he did not throw in the towel in his case, and the Russian was supposed to accompany the club in the east of the country this weekend.

However, the plan changed when the skater asked CH to terminate his contract to allow him to go home. The team secured their wish and confirmed the news in a short statement on Thursday.

It was not possible to obtain additional comment from the Organization on this matter. Our letters to Marc Labouche, Khisamutdinov’s representative in North America, were not answered.

In short, a strange end point for an adventure that will be just as much, from start to finish. full circle.

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