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  3. Ivan Nikolishin wants to help the team win the championship

Ivan Nikolishin wants to help the team win the championship

Vesa Suonsyrjä

Russian forward Ivan Nikolishin, 25, arrived in Finland on Saturday and had his first on-ice practice with the team today. The skilled forward played in Amur Khabarovsk earlier this season and now has come to Ilves ready to do everything for the good of the team.

Born in April in 1996, Ivan Nikolishin spent the first years of his life in the US where his father Andrei Nikolishin played 10 seasons and 628 games in the NHL.

– I don’t remember much from my father’s playing career, but I lived in the US with my father, mother, little sister, and big brother. I remember some moments from those times, and one of them was the way we gathered to watch his games, Ivan reminisces.

Ivan started playing hockey by following the example set by his big brother Alexander (born in 1994). When the family returned to Russia, both boys started working towards professional careers in the local junior teams.

– I was already excitedly skating when I was very little. When we came back to Russia, I played with the Krasnaya Armiya in the MHL (KHL’s junior league) in Moscow. But when I turned 18, I decided to go back to North America.

Ivan Nikolishin played three seasons in the WHL: two seasons with the Everett Silvertips in the US and one season with the Red Deer Rebels in Canada. Nikolishin recorded 203 points in 216 WHL games.

– I went back there thinking that I should better my chances of playing in the NHL sometime. The game’s tempo is faster there than in Russia, the rinks are smaller, and players shoot more. I have a lot of great memories and friends from those years, Ivan says smiling.

Nikolishin returned to Russia once again for the 2016–2017 season and since then has played 127 KHL games and 139 VHL games. Last season Nikolishin played with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Stars, a team that is very different from the other teams he played in.

– VHL is a Russian version of the NHL’s developmental league AHL. VHL is a professional league that has great players, but when you go to the KHL, the players’ skills and speed are on another level.

– Last season I did indeed play in Kunlun that played its home games close to Moscow. Our team consisted of a lot of Chinese, Russian, and North American players. We had a fun year, and many of that team’s players are currently participating in the Beijing Olympics.

Ivan Nikolishin started the current season with Neftyanik Almetyevsk in Almetyevsk, a city in the eastern parts of Tatarstan, Russia. He then continued his journey to the Chinese border and Amur Khabarovsk.

– I had had a good season in Kunlun (8+15=23 points in 59 games), but I did not get any offers from the KHL. I had a good start to this season and started getting offers, so I chose Amur Khabarovsk, where I enjoyed my time a lot. We had great fans, and the coach trusted me from the beginning, Nikolishin praises the organization. Nikolishin scored 8+11=19 points in 39 games in the KHL this season.

Nikolishin says he is comfortable with any offensive role, and he puts the team before any personal gain.

– I’m good in the defensive zone, I observe the play well, and I can drive the game. Also, I can score goals. I prefer playing as a center, but I will play as a winger if needed and if it’s for the team’s benefit. I see myself as a strong two-way player, Ivan analyses.

Due to plenty of rescheduling of games, the KHL made the harsh decision to end the regular season in early February. Amur Khabarovsk and Ivan Nikolishin’s season ended just like that.

– I terminated my contract for the rest of the season and started to look for a new team. Ilves offered me a spot in the roster, so I called a few friends who know Finnish hockey. I heard nothing but good things about Ilves. I was told that the conditions to play hockey are great here and that the organization is strong. I was satisfied when we made the deal, and I arrived in Tampere with the goal of helping the club win the championship in mind.

Ivan Nikolishin was on the ice with his new teammates for the first time today, and the man has only positive things to say.

– Tampere is a great city, and this arena is one of the best I’ve ever been in. The practice was tough, and the team took me in in a great way. Every player came to introduce themselves to me, and I also spoke with the coaching staff. It’s great to continue towards Saturday from here.

Ilveksen ja Sportin koronatilanne jatkuu – Keskiviikon kohtaaminen siirtyy
Ivan Nikolishin haluaa auttaa joukkuetta kohti mestaruutta