Saturday is a slow day at the Young Stars Tournament for the Vancouver Canucks. The team skated at noon to keep the legs fresh and have plans for a team-building activity later in the evening.
When it came to interviews, it was one of the bigger days of the weekend as Danila Klimovich spoke to the media without an interpreter for the first time.
And honestly, he handled himself quite well. The 19-year-old is spending three days a week doing English lessons as he continues to grow his life in North America. His wife is also joining him for those lessons and both of them really enjoyed their first summer in Vancouver.
“Vancouver is a very nice city,” said Klimovich when asked about his summer. “I love Vancouver. I drove around Vancouver and I went to Tofino. It’s been a pretty good summer. It’s my best summer.”
Making the adjustment to a place where you don’t speak the language or know the culture has to be extremely difficult and Klimovich spoke about the struggles that he had at the beginning.
“Yeah, it was a little bit of discomfort,” said Klimovich when asked about his first few months in Canada. “I tried to not be sad and just be positive. I tried, but sometimes it was stress[ful]. It was very, very tough. But I think I’m done with [the stress].”
He came out of a tough answer with a smile as Klimovich is excited for what the future holds and he clearly loves his life in Canada.
When asked about how his rookie season went, he noted the jump in competition and also the excitement of just being able to show that he could belong in the AHL.
“Of course, I was happy with it because I played with pro guys [in Canada],” said Klimovich. “[My] last year before Canada, I played junior in Belarus. It’s a big step for me.”
Klimovich had a good chuckle when he mentioned the jump from junior hockey in Belarus to the AHL.
It sounded like playing a full season of pro hockey in North America was a big deal for him. There was an option for Klimovich to go to the QMJHL last year but he stayed in Abbotsford all season long and ended up scoring eight goals and adding 10 assists in 62 games.
As for his offseason workouts, we saw him in North Delta working with other pros and he did want to focus on his strengths but also work on his weaknesses and what the coaching staff advised him on as well.
“I [worked on] improving my shot, almost every day I’m going to shooting zone,” said Klimovich. “Coach told me D-zone play, so I tried to watch video and [also] my behaviour on ice, I tried to keep it in mind.”
Being the youngest player in the AHL was a cool experience for Klimovich but he’s more focused on just being able to play in that league.
“Yeah, it’s cool for me,” said Klimovich. “Doesn’t matter when you’re born. You need to play hockey and use your skills and just play.”
There’s clearly a lot of raw talent in Klimovich’s game. His shot can resemble an NHL-level release and in practice, he is often ripping that shot into top corners. There still needs to be more consistency and that is hopefully what good coaching can bring to his came over the coming years. The good news is that this is still just a teenager and giving him some rope as he learned a new country last year was likely necessary. This season should be more about really developing those weaker parts of his game and finding a way to get the consistency in his game to be much more present.
A lot of people want to believe that Klimovich can push for NHL minutes soon but this is a player who is going to require a lot of work before he gets that opportunity. It’s good that he had been doing video work about his play in the defensive zone as well as being aware of some of the behaviour issues he shows at times.
While projecting the 2022-23 season, a realistic goal for Klimovich should be to find his way into the team’s top-six group. We believe he will see power play time throughout the year but if we get to playoff time and he is producing in Abbotsford’s top-six, that’s a big win for the teenager and the organization.
The Klimovich project should be near the top of new AHL coach Jeremy Colliton’s list. If he and his staff are able to develop Klimovich into an NHL-calibre player, if this happens, the AHL development group should receive praise for their work.
The onus is now on Colliton, the Abbotsford development staff, and Klimovich himself. If the team can really begin to teach and coach the kid, there’s a very bright future.