|Forward Viktor Tikhonov is the grandson of former
Soviet national team coach Viktor Tikhonov, the team defeated by the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
Almost every American-born hockey player -- or American-born hockey fan, for that matter -- has seen the movie Miracle, the story of the improbable 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey gold medal.
One California-trained player, though not only never has seen the film, but he's made a point of avoiding it.
Viktor Tikhonov, though, isn't just any youngster.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Viktor's grandfather, who shares the same name, was the legendary coach of the Soviet national team that dominated international hockey in the 1970s and '80s.
The younger Viktor grew up in much different circumstances. Vasily Tikhonov -- the older Viktor's son -- was an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 1993-94 to 1995-96. During that time, the younger Viktor began playing organized hockey, first with the Santa Clara Blackhawks.
After minor-league coaching stops in Kansas City and Kentucky, Vasily's coaching career took him and his family to Europe. Viktor spent two years in Finland and a year in Sweden before finally returning to Russia, where Vasily took a job with CSKA -- formerly the Central Red Army squad -- where the elder Viktor Tikhonov had coached and now serves as president of the club.
The younger Viktor played in Russian junior leagues, and for the last two seasons, he's played with Cherepovets in the Russian Super League.
Playing hockey in Russia with the last name Tikhonov is akin to playing in Canada with the last name Howe or Gretzky. It's a heavy weight to put on a developing teenager.
"It is something people ask me about," the younger Viktor told NHL.com. "It was a little hard growing up with the name, but the last 10 years, I'm used to it, and now I use it in my favor."
He's certainly made an impression on NHL Central Scouting, which ranked him No. 7 among European skaters eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
As a 19-year-old playing with men in the RSL, Tikhonov had seven goals and 12 points in 43 games. He also was named the Best Forward at the World Junior Championships after scoring five goals in seven games.
"Viktor was one of the most improved young players in the Russian League in 2007-08," said NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb. "He shows a high level of competitiveness and is a dedicated team player. He shows a keen ability to read and react to the play and is projected to be a second-line player in the NHL."
Part of what makes Tikhonov so good is his melding of the North American and Russian styles.
"I have a good hockey sense, I see the ice well," Tikhonov said. "I'm more of a play-making type of player. I definitely know my responsibilities. I'm a two-way player; I play defensively, too. I like to go into the corners and battle for pucks. Kind of a North American game. I tend to play different depending on the situation, speed it up or slow it down, forecheck."
But he only takes the North American thing so far. Like with Miracle, for instance.
"Never seen it," Viktor said. "My friends want me to watch it. They place bets against me, like if I don't score on my friend in five shots I have to watch it. It's just not my thing."
He also says his grandfather absolutely never has seen it, nor does he talk about what happened in Lake Placid.
"I'm afraid, I don't want to (ask him about it)," Viktor said.
He does, however, ask his grandfather about stories from the old days.
"The whole discipline, the whole athleticism, all the hard work they went through to get where they were," Viktor said. "He'd always tell me to work hard and pay a lot of attention to the athletic part of the game, the workouts and that stuff, because that's pretty lost right now in Russia."
Which is another reason he'd like to bring his game to the NHL.
"I want to play in the NHL as soon as possible," Tikhonov said in an interview with Russianprospects.com. "If I'm not ready next year, playing one or two seasons in the Super League is the plan."
NHL teams seem to be impressed with Tikhonov.
"He's fairly comfortable in his own skin, knows what he wants to do," said Chicago Blackhawks Assistant General Manager Rick Dudley. "He's got a plan set for himself in terms of where he wants to be at what point in time in his life and you get the distinct impression he might get there. He's a pretty bright kid, very sure of himself (but) in a good way, not cocky -- very confident.
"I've seen him play once. He knows what he has to work on, his explosiveness, his quickness. Our guys who have seen him play much more than that say he's a pretty good player."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org