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Introducing Russian D-man Andrey Pedan

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
This past week at Islanders Mini-Camp, many friendships have formed, but none are quite like the bond between the Islanders last two years’ third round picks, Kirill Kabanov and Andrey Pedan.

Prior to camp, they had met briefly but really didn’t know each other all that well. Now, the Moscow natives are somewhat inseparable. They’re constantly telling each other jokes and making one another laugh, but Pedan is more reserved than the Russian forward, who Islanders fans have grown to love.

Pedan, played junior hockey in Russia and then was drafted by Dynamo, a team based in Moscow. The Russian defenseman never played for them, as he opted to move to North America and begin his career with the Guelph Storm out of the Ontario Hockey League.  One of his teammates with the Storm, Cody McNaughton, is also attending the Islanders Mini-Camp this week as an invitee..

Andrey Pedan (blue) and Danny Linell (orange) skating at Nassau Coliseum during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
“At first, it was tough for him to speak English and get accustomed to the Canadian life, but he played well,” McNaughton said. “He stepped in quick and was a big presence on the ice. He’s a good asset to our team.”

In his rookie campaign, Pedan posted 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) with 89 penalty minutes. Then, as the season continued and the Storm entered the first round of playoffs, Pedan began to find his footing and put up eight assists in six games.

Unfortunately, Guelph was beaten by the Saginaw Spirit, knocking them out of the OHL playoffs in the first round.

“It was pretty disappointing,” McNaughton said. “We had a veteran team and we were looking to make a run for it this year, but we had a lot of injuries and took a lot of penalties, so we just came up short.”

*   *   *
On Friday afternoon, the Kabanov and Pedan humored me with a dual interview. Pedan may be quieter than Kabanov, but when you put the two of them in the same room, you can really start to see his personality emerge. And while Pedan does speak English, after a little help with translation from Kabanov, a pretty decent Q&A emerged.

Q: Tell me about draft day.
Pedan: I was so excited. Every pick before me, my heart was running so fast. I was just so excited. Now I’m just happy that the Islanders drafted me. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go in the draft, but I was happy to be taken in the third round.

Q: How did you feel about your first North American season?
Pedan: I had a pretty good season in Guelph. We went to playoffs, but we lost in the first series 4-2. It takes time to adjust to the game, but once I got it, now I feel good.

Andrey Pedan talking to Eric Cairns, Islanders player development, at Nassau Coliseum during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
Q: What part of your game had to adjust?
Pedan: The game in Russia is slower. There area of the rinks is bigger. So it’s more space for your skills and there’s not really contact hockey over there, so that’s pretty much the biggest difference.

Kabanov somewhat jokingly added: In Russia, you can see all your line-mates by just looking up, even your coach and the players on the benches. In Canada you can’t do that. At home you have more time, here you don’t have time, here you get the pass and someone is already there to check you.

Q: How would you describe your game?
Pedan: I’m a physical player. I can play on the power play and I’m offensive-minded. I like to join the rush.

Q: What do you hope for your future?
Pedan: Future, for sure I want to play NHL.

Q: What will you work on to help you accomplish your goal?
Pedan: My speed and getting a little bigger. I need to get stronger, bigger because we’re in the game all the time with the smaller ice surface. It takes time to adjust, but I’m working hard in practice and I’m going to start using my feet more and get more physical. Start playing my game.

Q: You said you’re a physical player, do you also fight?
Pedan: I can fight, protect my teammates, but I didn’t too much with Guelph. I fought like five or six times last season.

Then Kabanov jumped in and said: “I fought a lot too, like 25 times on X-box.” And as he held his hands in the boxing position and made a few jabs in the air, he continued, “I’m pretty good. You know, like when you move your controller left and right.”

Q: What have you learned at camp so far?
Pedan: The guys who play in the NHL and work out here, they work so hard at practice. I like it. It’s fun to work hard.
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Afterwards, I asked a few follow-up questions of Kabanov. Seeing him at camp, you can tell that he’s a different person than he was when he arrived at last year’s Mini-Camp and a lot of that has to do with his coaches from his former junior team, the now defunct Lewiston MAINEiacs.

Kirill Kabanov skating at Nassau Coliseum during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
Q: What did you think of your coaches in Lewiston?
Kabanov: J.F. Houle, he was an unbelievable guy. He was always talking to me. He was kind of our teammate. He was one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. He was really good to me and the rest of my teammates. He trusted me a lot during the season and during the playoffs. It was a good experience for me, to work with him. Things worked out good for both of us. He gave me some really good advice about how to become a professional player and how to be a good teammate, good linemate and not just be a selfish guy.

Darren Rumble, he played in Tampa Bay and played in the NHL for almost 15 years. He was a defenseman. Both of the coaches were really good for our team. It’s good when the players trust their coach and the coach trusts his players. We were kind of like family. We were always together. The team was really friendly. It wasn’t (segregated) like Russians, French and English. We were one team, the MAINEiacs, and we were proud to be the MAINEiacs.

Q: Where did you find it within yourself to want to change?
Kabanov: I just realized that a lot of players will never play in the NHL. You only get a couple chances in life, so either use those chances or just say (swiping his hands together) whatever (just dismiss the importance). You can be a ordinary hockey player and be the funny guy who everyone loves, but when you want to be a pro, you need to tell yourself you want to be a professional and you want to follow all the rules, the hockey law. You just have to realize, you can’t lie to hockey. It is like finding the truth. I started thinking about that every day and forget about all the nonsense. I wanted to become a good teammate and a good partner. I tried to be a leader in Lewiston. It worked good for me. I started to understand that I don’t need to play for myself, I need to play for the boys. No one can help you until you want to help yourself.

Q: Now that you’ve signed your entry-level contract, what are your thoughts?
Kabanov: I hope that the Island becomes my new home. So that’s really all that I can dream about.
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