|Backed by his solid play with Ottawa, Volchenkov was invited to play in the 2006 Winter Olympics for Russia. Photo: J. Vinnick/Getty Images/NHLI|
by Todd Anderson
Entering his fourth season in the NHL, Anton Volchenkov's emergence as a talented defensive defenceman with the Ottawa Senators continues.
Known for his thundering bodychecks when he arrived in North America - he was given the nickname A-train because of them - the young Russian progressed in other categories in 2005-06.
Most notably was his will to stand in front of shots from opposing shooters. In total, Volchenkov blocked 189 shots last season. Only five other players in the NHL had higher totals.
"If you look around the league, the leaders in blocked shots are all real team players and they play with lots of heart," says Senators assistant coach Greg Carvel. "That's Anton's mentality. He's a stay-at-home defenceman who protects his net. It takes courage to not only block 189 shots, but to probably have stepped in front of 300 or so. It's also a skill. You have to know how to position yourself."
While the stat proves Volchenkov's dedication to doing all that he can to prevent scoring opportunities against his team, the 24-year-old also continues to be a presence physically. He finished third on the Senators with 139 hits.
The Senators' first-round pick, 21st overall, from the 2000 NHL Entry Draft has been participating in informal workouts the past few weeks at the Bell Sensplex, the Senators' practice facility located down the street from Scotiabank Place arena. After a trip home to Russia this off-season, he says it's good to be back in Ottawa - and he looks forward to continuing his progress this season.
"It's great to be able to get out here on your skates with the guys," Volchenkov says during a break in action at the Sensplex. "This really helps. I can't wait for the season to start again."
While Volchenkov's game on the defensive side of the puck was impressive in 2005-06, he still managed to set career highs in most offensive categories as well, including four goals, 17 points and a +21 rating - which blew away his previous high of +1 during the 2003-04 season.
When the season came to an end, Volchenkov travelled home to his native Russia to visit family and friends.
"I just relaxed," he says. "I did a little training and played some soccer and tennis. I also watched the World Cup on television. I like Germany, Italy and Ukraine. I've gone back home the past two years. It's nice going back to see my family."
After spending about a month in Russia, Volchenkov travelled to Florida where he spent three weeks training with a few friends before returning to Ottawa.