The Alberni Valley Bulldogs and not the Grand Forks Border Bruins will have the services of the Kalashnikov brothers this season.
Belarusian brothers Yan and Artsiom (Artie) were second and third in team scoring last year (45 and 35 points respectively).
“It feels great,” said Artie when asked about joining the Bulldogs.
“It’s a (higher) level of hockey and we’re looking forward to next season.”
While the move from the Junior B level of the Border Bruins to the Junior A Bulldogs represents a step up, Artie said that the one year at the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) helped his brother and he adapt to the North American style of play.
“It was our first year of junior hockey last year, so playing against bigger guys, getting used to the speed and the whole structure of Canadian hockey, it helped us to mature and be better players and people,” he said.
Kalashnikov also said that their stint with the Border Bruins helped the brothers become responsible in their own (defensive) end of the rink.
“When we came into the league, we didn’t back check but by the end of the year, we were. We’d see the other guys working hard (in the defensive zone) and you’d just want to do the same thing,” he said.
While the Border Bruins will miss the brothers’ offensive and improved defensive play, Tom Frith, director of hockey operations said it was also a good thing.
Sometimes players that go to a “super power” Junior B team will only have a chance to play with the third or fourth lines but in the case of the Kalashnikovs.
Both have the opportunity to get more ice time and their play, especially in the defensive zone, improved markedly, Frith said that the
The Bulldogs discovered the Kalashnikovs almost by accident.
Frith said that he received a call from Bulldogs head coach Paul Esdale, who asking about the brothers.
Frith asked him how Artie and Yan got on the team’s radar.
“The Spokane Braves were in town for a game last year and the Port Alberni scout, who was working the region at the time, came to Grand Forks, undercover, and was there to look at a couple of Spokane kids,” Frith said.
“He ended up focusing all his attention on the Kalashnikovs – it was by chance.”