Simeon Varlamov is one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, but the 20-year-old Russian speaks little English and could be in for a culture shock during his first season in North America.
The 2006 first-round pick by the Washington Capitals has had some help with that transition this week during summer development at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. One of the other players at camp, Nikita Kashirsky, is also from Russia and is fluent in both languages.
While the two have spent plenty of time together off the ice this week, Kashirsky has translated for the coaching staff, especially goaltending coach Dave Prior.
“I am really excited about that,” Kashirsky said. “It feels really good to be able to help out. I can help tell him what the coaches want him to do to be a better player.”
Added Prior: “Last year with Audrius [Zubrus, Dainius' brother and former team employee] here helping me out - who didn't have any other responsibility on the ice - he helped me talk to [Varlamov]. This year I am at a little more of a disadvantage. My interpreter is often out on a line rush or something, so he's not always available.”
Kashirsky is one of several players attending the camp who are not property of the Caps. He is also one of a few of those guys with interesting connections to the organization. The sons of coach Bruce Boudreau (Andy) and television color analyst Craig Laughlin (Kyle) are here participating, and one of Kashirsky's best friends plays for the team.
That would be Alex Ovechkin.
“We grew up together,” Kashirsky said. “We played in Dynamo since we were 8 years old. We've been friends since then, I guess. We became really good friends around the age of 14 or 15. Since then we've always been really close. We come to each other's house, spend the weekends and stuff. We've been like brothers since that time.”
Kashirsky moved to this area from Russia when he was 17 to be a student and hockey player at Georgetown Prep. He credits his parents for keeping education as a top priority - something that doesn't always happen for athletes in his native country.
After spending two years at Georgetown Prep, he moved on to Norwich University to continue his hockey career during Ovechkin's rookie season with the Caps.
“The first year was tough for him,” Kashirsky said. “He really didn't know a lot of people. We were close, so I would always come over when I had a break to visit him.”
At 6-foot and 191 pounds, Kashirsky has had a successful collegiate career. As a junior last season, Kashirsky had 20 goals for the Cadets, who lost in the semifinals of the Division III playoffs.
He is at the Caps' camp this week trying to leave an impression that could help him pursue a professional career after his senior year at Norwich. Kashirsky is also house-sitting for Ovechkin while at the camp.
“I've been there a bunch of times and he trusts me enough to stay there,” Kashirsky said. “As soon as I got invited [to the camp] he offered for me to stay at his house. He's a great friend, and I am taking care of his house - trying to keep it clean.”
As for any other duties, like looking after a pet, “No he doesn't have any pets. He has a few dogs at home back in Russia, but he hasn't got any here yet. I don't think he has enough time to have one here.”
- The Caps signed forward Boyd Gordon to a one-year contract Friday. Gordon had seven goals and nine assists last season.