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Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RP Exclusive)Date: 07/08/2004
RussianProspects Exclusive Post NHL Entry Draft Interview with Mikhail Yunkov

Mikhail Yunkov was the final member of U18 Team Russia’s dynamic Radulov-Yunkov-Voloshenko second line to be selected at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Washington Capitals picked him late in the second round with their 62nd overall selection. Known as a playmaker and a defensive specialist, the young forward was very good at making room for his offensively minded linemates. His offensive production was not as impressive as that of Radulov or Voloshenko, but Russia’s second line would be nowhere without Yunkov’s stabilizing presence and defensive play. Mikhail Yunkov was projected to be a second round selection for most of the 2003-04 season, but his draft stock did take a bit of a hit when he began to struggle towards the end of his first professional season with the Soviet Wings in the High League (Russia 2). RussianProspects.com shifted his draft projection from the middle to the end of the second round, while some scouting agencies even projected him to go as low as the third round. Fortunately for Yunkov, the Capitals used one of their multiple second round picks to add depth at center, drafting the talented young player.

RussianProspects.com correspondent Evgeny Belashchenko caught up with Mikhail Yunkov after he was selected by the Washington Capitals.

RP: This has been a pretty big year for you. You had a very good season with the Soviet Wings, and the U18 national team, centering the highly successful line between Alexander Radulov and Roman Voloshenko. Did you sit together with them here at the draft or talk to them at all before today regarding the draft?
Mikhail Yunkov:
Today I sat separate from them with my parents. But we did talk about the draft earlier, discussing who expected to go in which round. They both were hoping to get selected in either the first or the second round. I am sure they were hoping to get drafted as high as possible (laughing).

RP: During your interview with the Washington Capitals, did you notice any indicators that the club wanted to draft you or were you surprised that they selected you?
M. Yunkov:
They were clearly interested in me. I had an interview with Washington while I was in Toronto for the pre-draft fitness tests. They asked very good questions and sometimes even complimented me. So, it was not a big surprise to me that the Capitals selected me.

RP: You are often considered to be a playmaking center. Do you agree with this assessment of your playing style? Can you compare your style to anyone in the NHL?
M. Yunkov:
I don’t really have much of an opportunity to watch the NHL, but I was told by a Phoenix representatives that my style resembles that of Ron Francis, who currently plays for Toronto. I try to play equally well on offense and defense. I do consider myself to be a playmaker, but I would also consider myself to be more of a defensive forward.

RP: What do you know about Washington D.C.?
M. Yunkov:
I don’t know much about Washington. I know it’s the capital of the US. (laughing) I hoped that they would pick me, as they said some very nice things about me. Other than that I don’t know anything else about that city.

RP: Did you every have an opportunity to play with Alexander Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, who are both Washington’s recent picks out of Russia and will likely play with you when you join the club?
M. Yunkov:
I never had an opportunity to play with them. However, my brother, who currently plays in Podolsk, had a chance to play with Ovechkin when they were both in Dynamo Moscow’s system. I never had a chance to play with either one of them though.

RP: Is this your first time in North America?
M. Yunkov:
No, I already visited North America four times – I visited Boston, Pittsburgh and Quebec before. So, I’ve been here a few times. I really like it, it’s great over here!

RP: What are your plans for next season?
M. Yunkov:
I am not sure what my plans are for next season, but I will probably remain with the Soviet Wings. It’s not for certain yet, but most likely I will remain with the Wings.

RP: What are your impressions regarding the pre-draft fitness tests in Toronto?
M. Yunkov:
The medical fitness tests were very challenging. I’d single out the bike test as the most difficult one. Besides that, the people were really kind, making me comfortable and helping me to pick up some more English.

RP: How is your English coming along?
M. Yunkov:
I am learning it whenever I get a chance. I think I will have a better grasp of it soon.

RP: Did you have any expectations coming into the draft as far as when you would be selected?
M. Yunkov:
Things turned out as I expected. It would have been amazing if I was selected in the first round, but I expected to be picked up either in the second or third round.

RP: What are you plans for the remainder of the summer? Are you staying in North America, and are you planning on attending the Washington Capitals training camp?
M. Yunkov:
I don’t think so. I am leaving for Russia shortly to join the Soviet Wings for the preseason.

RP: When is the preseason starting?
M. Yunkov:
It’s already starting on the 28th of June. I will be a couple of days late, as I will be departing from North America in a couple of days on either the 28th or the 29th of june.

- Evgeny Belashchenko

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