Russian rookie turning heads

by Kim Mueller || AHL On The Beat Archive

Do you remember what you were doing on May 30, 1990? What song hit the Billboard No. 1 spot? Which teams were heading to the Calder Cup finals and the Stanley Cup finals?

While Madonna’s Vogue was topping the charts on the radio, the Springfield Indians were battling the Rochester Americans for the Calder Cup, and Edmonton was fighting to get past Boston to hoist the Stanley Cup, the future of a young and talented hockey player was being born.

Andrei Loktionov was born on that date in Voskresensk, Russia, a small town 88 kilometers southeast of Moscow. In 19 short years, he has won a silver medal with Russia in the 2008 Under-18 World Championships, been drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round (123rd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, signed a three-year contract with the Kings and won the Memorial Cup with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires.

Granted all of those accomplishments have happened over the last two years, but he’s worked his whole life to play hockey at the highest level, and it’s not too far away.

These accomplishments have not come to Loktionov in stride; he hasn’t won medals and championships simply because he’s been on the right team. He’s been an integral part of these victories.

As a member of Team Russia at the 2008 Under-18 World Championships, he collected eight points (three goals and five assists) in six games which tied for second on the Russian squad and seventh out of all the skaters in the tournament.

In the Spitfires’ playoff run last season, Loktionov ranked second overall and led all OHL rookies with 33 points (11 goals and 22 assists). His four game-winning goals led rookies and ranked fifth overall and his plus/minus rating of plus-18 led the entire OHL.

This was also his first taste of North American Hockey after playing his first 18 years in Russia.

While Loktionov was playing in Windsor, Ont., last season, he was not just learning a new style of hockey; he was also learning the English language. With a year of tutoring under his belt, he has come a long way.

“I understand, but sometimes no,” explained Loktionov. “My agent and my team help me when I don’t understand. It’s not easy. I learned some English when I lived in Canada a few years ago, when my (Russian) team played there. I would like to take (an English) lesson, go to school here for one hour a day or three times a week to learn more.”

This is his second season of playing hockey on a different continent from home and he misses his family very much.

Loktionov explained, “Very hard. My parents are poor and can’t come to watch me play. The plane ride is too long for them. Some day I hope to help them, buy them a new home. Why not?”

Loktionov made a professional debut that any parent would be proud of when he scored three goals and added an assist in the Monarchs’ season opener, a 6-3 victory against the Albany River Rats on Oct. 3.

“I enjoy playing with my new teammates and they deserve all the credit,” Loktionov said modestly about his stellar American Hockey League debut. “They gave me some nice passes and I was able to score.”

With this impressive success in his debut, Loktionov became the first Monarchs player to be named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week after the first week of the season. He also became the 18th player in Monarchs history to score a hat trick and the first to score the triple tallies in his professional debut with the team. In addition, the rookie center became the 25th player in team history to tally four points in one game.

“He’s a special player and we’re going to enjoy him while we’ve got him,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris on Loktionov. “He makes those around him better. He’s got the ability to be a big time player with his passing, skating and shooting.”

Following his first four games with the Monarchs, Loktionov is tied for second on the team with four points (3g, 1a) and leads Manchester with a plus/minus ranking of plus-6. It’s probably too early to say when he’ll be called up to Los Angeles but the possibility is not unlikely.

“I don’t know, that’s a good question, but one for Los Angeles (to answer),” said Loktionov when asked about when he may join the Kings. “All I can do is work hard, but yes, I think of playing (with the Kings).”

It may be 19 years after his birth, but Madonna is still producing popular albums, teams are still competing for the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup trophies and young Andrei Loktionov still has a bright future ahead of him.