Since coming to North America at the end of last season, Vladislav Gavrikov has been a fantastic addition for the Blue Jackets.
On the ice, he's proved to be a reliable defenseman, which one might expect given his pedigree as a standout both with the Russian national team as well as KHL power SKA St. Petersburg. He's a strong, big presence in his own zone and has a touch of offense about him, with Gavrikov racking up four goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating through 46 games.
"He's very similar to (David Savard) in just the way he plays," head coach John Tortorella said. "He's in the way, finishes his checks, I think has really improved this year as the year has gone on with his stick on puck. He's a good defenseman, and the thing that surprised me because I just didn't know much about him, I think he has a really good sense of when to jump into the offense and has been involved in a lot of offensive plays -- 'There's Gavy, he's down by the net.' I think he reads the ice very well offensively."
Video: CBJ@NYI: Gavrikov sweeps home a rebound for the lead
Off the ice, the 24-year-old -- a sixth round pick of the team in the 2015 draft -- has also been a great addition to the team. Possessing a quick wit and playful sense of humor, he's on the way to becoming a fan favorite for his personality as well.
In this edition of 5 Questions, we catch up with the rookie defenseman to talk about his dog, Willy; his transition from Russia to America; and how he got started in the sport of hockey.
1. BlueJackets.com: Today (Monday), you have your dog here at the rink. Tell us about him.
Gavrikov: "He's so beautiful; you saw that. He's so pretty. It's so fun to watch him and play with him. It's a lot of fun."
Have you always been a dog person?
"Oh yeah. Actually because you can't be lazy with him. You have to wake up and go walk with him, and do that before sleep, too. And play with him, too. It's a lot of fun really."
Did you get him while you were still in Russia?
"Yeah, Russia. When we got him, he was four and a half months. Now he's nine and a half months."
So he still has that puppy energy then?
2. How did you get started in hockey when you were a kid?
"Before I started playing, I went with my father to our local team's game (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL), just watching hockey, and after that we came to the ice rink and he showed me practice. I was just watching and I said I wanted to try it. My first time was awful because I'm falling every time. I'm just holding on to the wall and maybe did a couple laps and saying, 'I'm done for now.' He said, 'We'll come back tomorrow.' That was my first time on the ice."
Does your family still watch your games over in Russia?
"Yeah, they watch all the games. My family and my grandmother, too. They watch all the games and text me after every game."
What time is it there if we have a 7 p.m. start here?
"Right now, it's 3 a.m. for my local time. But when we played in LA, it was a 6:30 start. That's better because you can wake up at 6:30 or 7, something like that, and you can watch the game and after that you go do what you usually do. But if you wake up at 3, I can't understand how that is. The game is over at 6 or something and you have the choice to go to sleep again or go to work, but it's early."
Is it exciting that they're still willing to get up that early and watch?
"Yeah. I'm really appreciative for that, but it's tough. I know it's tough."
Is your grandmother a big hockey fan?
"Yes, big. Really big."
Does she text you with what you need to do better every game?
"(Laughs) No, she just watches the game."
3. Coming over here to Columbus, what's the experience been like getting used to living here and being in a new place?
"I'm here with my wife. We like Columbus. It's a pretty nice city. We have learned a couple more new places. We went to the Hocking Hills. Hocking Hills is so great. We went to Cleveland once. It's close, too, and it's a pretty nice city. It's cool."
I've never been to Hocking Hills, I should go.
"You have to. It's so beautiful, but you have to choose good weather. And not so hot because it's a tough walk. It's a long way."
4. The question I ask everybody for this is you're a pro athlete, so you're an athletic person, but is there something you're just bad at? Maybe something you've tried and said it's just not for you?
"Every sport, actually. (Laughs) I'm just kidding. What do the guys usually answer?"
They usually say basketball. Not a lot of good basketball players on this team.
"No. I'm not a good player, but I'm not the worst player. Because I am tall."
Some guys say golf, too.
"Actually golf, yeah. I can't play golf. I tried a couple of times. It's so hard."
That's interesting because hockey players are usually good at it.
"Yeah, but not me. Because I've never played golf in Russia -- only once or twice. It's not really that big in Russia. The American and Canadian players and some guys from Europe play very well. I saw (Alexander) Wennberg and (Gus) Nyquist, they play very well."
5. Is there a favorite player growing up that you watched or wanted to be to be like or modeled your game after?
"Not really. I just watched everyone and tried to figure out what the best (moves were.)"
That's fair. Maybe now that you're in the NHL, you're someone's favorite and they're watching you.
"Yeah! Watch me please!"