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Surviving meteor strike made Abramov's move to Canada easier

by Adam Kimelman / Columbus Blue Jackets

After surviving a meteor strike, moving to Canada became a bit easier for right wing Vitaly Abramov of Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Abramov was at school in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia on Feb. 15, 2013 when a meteor exploded over the city. The meteor was between 49 and 55 feet in size, with an estimated mass of 7,000 to 10,000 tons, according to CNN. The estimated energy released by the meteor's explosion was 300-500 kilotons, or about 20 times the estimated amount released by the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

"I was in school and all the windows in my class crashed," Abramov said. "All windows in the city was gone. … It was like big panic because it was something none of us had ever seen. But after that it was fine when everyone said it was a meteorite and we're still alive.

"Normal school day and a meteor came down."

Maybe not normal, but Abramov came through OK. And if he could get through that kind of near-disaster, then a cross-continent move to play hockey had to seem easier by comparison.

Abramov had a stellar season in 2014-15, including nine points in nine games for Russia at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and 14 points in 20 games for Chelyabinsk's team in the MHL, Russia's junior League.

He could have tried to earn a spot in the Kontinental Hockey League but instead opted to move to North America this season.

Leaving home at 18 years old wasn't an easy decision, but Abramov and his family knew it was the best path for him to reach his goal of playing in the NHL.

"My dream is the NHL and I want to play there," Abramov said. "I want to understand the Canadian style of life, the North American style of life before the NHL, to be more ready for NHL."

Abramov was selected by Gatineau with the 13th pick of the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. He arrived in the city without any family members and with no grasp of English.

But he quickly assimilated thanks in part to teammate Yakov Trenin, a Chelyabinsk native and 2015 second-round pick (No. 55) of the Nashville Predators. Abramov also had an English tutor.

His work on the ice needed little help. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound forward led Gatineau and QMJHL rookies in goals (38), assists (55), points (93) and plus/minus (plus-36). He also was tied for the team lead with 11 power-play goals.

"Small player who played down low very well and went into traffic," Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said. "Good scorer and good vision. Very good compete level."

Despite his lack of size, Abramov said he enjoyed the more physical style that comes with the tighter confines of NHL-size ice.

"I don't feel small on the ice," he said. "And I'm not afraid to go to the net and get hit. I don't think it's a problem."

He said he'd like to get bigger and stronger, but he does have a secret weapon when it comes to learning to handle himself physically.

"I have a younger sister and she does karate," Abramov said. "She fights me every time."

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