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|16 сентября 2002
Fedotenko Ready To Face The Pressure - Tampa Tribune
By ERIK ERLENDSSON
BRANDON - Humble beginnings and hyped expectations. Ruslan Fedotenko has persevered through the former and expects to handle the latter.
Fedotenko took a difficult route to the NHL as an undrafted player, and now has the weight of being traded with a pair of second-round picks for the fourth overall pick in the draft on his shoulders. But as far as Fedotenko is concerned, nothing the left winger has accomplished to this point has been handed to him, so there is no reason to stop working hard now.
"You always have pressure to perform well and to play well no matter where you are,'' Fedotenko said. "There may be a little bit more [in Tampa] because people are looking at you. But overall, I just think I need to go out and do what I do best and bring to the team the best qualities that I can bring and do my best to help this team get to the playoffs.''
The son of a small business owner in Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine), Fedotenko grew up without a hockey background. He was set to sign up for soccer when he was 6. But because hockey started six weeks earlier, he laced up a pair of skates for the first time in his life. From that point on, hockey took over his life as he traveled all around Russia. When he turned 16, on the advice of his agent, Fedotenko left home to play in Finland. He spent one year playing in the Finnish junior leagues, where he had to grow up in a hurry living in an apartment by himself doing all the cooking, cleaning and shopping.
"It was a hard year, but it was good in the long run because I learned about real life and how to take care of myself, take care of the bills and everything. So it was good for me,'' Fedotenko said.
After Finland, Fedotenko left for North America to play a season with Melfort of the Saskatchewan Junior League with intentions of attending college in the United States. After scoring 35 goals in 68 games with Melfort, he left to play in the USHL in Sioux City, Iowa, and had a scholarship offer from Lake Superior State. But the NCAA ruled him ineligible because he had an agent the year he played in Finland.
So after scoring 43 goals in 55 games with Sioux City, the 1999 NHL entry draft was expected to be the next step for the 6-foot-2 winger. But even though he was told he could be picked between the third and fifth rounds, his name was never called. Fedotenko was invited for a tryout by Vancouver, St. Louis and Philadelphia, but chose to attend a prospect camp held by the Flyers.
It was during that one-week camp that Fedotenko caught the eye of former Flyers coach Bill Barber, now the Lightning director of player personnel.
"The parameters of those type of camps can be very rugged, and guys have to show the willingness to play and pay the price to win. He showed he was willing to pay the price,'' Barber said. "Throughout his career he has earned everything the right way and has a good attitude. He's a committed player with the passion to play the game and he will do everything that is asked of him.''
After scoring 33 goals in 152 games with the Flyers, playing mainly on the third line with virtually no power-play time, Fedotenko is expected to provide 20-25 goals while maintaining his defensive responsibilities.
"It is really a testament to him and how hard he has worked to get to where he is,'' Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster said. "When you're on a team like he was on, it is easy to quietly go out and score 16 and 17 goals in a season like he has done.''
If Fedotenko lives up to the hype this season, he feels the Lightning have as good a chance as anybody to make the playoffs.
"I think this team is a good, young and skilled team that has great
goaltending and we always had a tough game against them,'' Fedotenko said.
"I really think this team has potential and I think we can make the playoffs
and have a good run.''