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сентября 2005 года.
Babchuk feeling at home with Hawks - "Чикаго Сан Таймз"
BY LEN ZIEHM
Mike Smith was big on drafting Russian players before the Blackhawks fired him as their general manager early in the 2003-04 season.
Smith took Mikhail Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev in the first round in 2000 (10th and 11th overall) and Anton Babchuk in 2002 (21st). He also had high hopes for Alexander Kojevnikov (third round, 2002) and Igor Radulov (third round, 2000).
As the Hawks completed their first full day of workouts Wednesday, only Vorobiev and Babchuk are in camp, with Babchuk the more likely to earn a roster spot when the regular season begins Oct. 5. Though the Hawks signed three free-agent defensemen in Adrian Aucoin, Jassen Cullimore and Jaroslav Spacek, two spots on the blue line remain up for grabs, and the 6-5 Babchuk's blistering slap shot will be hard to ignore.
In their throw-away 2003-04 campaign, the Hawks gave Babchuk five games of NHL experience as a rookie pro and were very pleased with his work that season in Norfolk. But while Babchuk was Norfolk's only American Hockey League All-Star last season, his overall play didn't live up to that of his promising first season.
"It was more of an up-and-down year,'' Babchuk admitted Wednesday. "Some games were very bad, and some were very good.''
"Anton had a little sophomore jinx after having such a good rookie year,'' Hawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "This year we'll see a different Anton. A little adversity last year might help him, but he will have some serious competition.''
Brent Seabrook, a first-round pick in 2003, and Cam Barker, a first-rounder in 2004, also are in the mix for the open defenseman spots, as are Michal Barinka, Duncan Keith and Nick Kuiper. With two seasons under his belt at Norfolk, Babchuk might have an edge on the others. He had eight goals, 16 assists and 88 penalty minutes in 66 games last season playing for Trent Yawney, now his coach with the Hawks.
Babchuk adjusted to American life quicker than the other highly drafted Russians. Vorobiev, Yakubov and Radulov were his teammates at Norfolk, but Yakubov and Radulov are now playing in Russia, as is Kojevnikov, who hasn't played above the East Coast League level.
Radulov had five goals in seven games after the Hawks called him up late in the 2002-03 season. He never showed such promise again and no longer is under contract to the Hawks. Yakubov chose to play in Russia this season, but the Hawks made him a restricted free agent and retain his rights.
"They changed the way they wanted to play, and maybe they didn't want to wait,'' Babchuk said of Radulov and Yakubov. "Radulov had a tough season in Norfolk, and maybe he wanted to change something in his life. It was his choice. That's those guys' business.''
Babchuk has no intention of looking for a team closer to his native Ukraine. He spent the summer at home in Kiev but wants to make the NHL his permanent workplace.
"If I didn't want to be here, I'd go back to Russia,'' he said, "but my dream, almost from when I started playing at 3 years old, was to play in the NHL.''
He has no problems off the ice, having benefitted from the Berlitz language program that the Hawks have provided their foreign players over the last three years.
"I know English,'' he said. "I never [formally] learned it, but I talked to people and I listened.''
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