Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Oleg Sosunov has had a nasty run of bad luck to start his Western Hockey League career.
First, visa issues left him trapped in Tampa Bay, Fla. until he was able to travel to Moose Jaw on the eve of the start of main camp ice sessions. That left him no time to further recover from the flight from his hometown in Ryzan, Russia.
Then the airline lost his sticks, meaning he had to play with whatever the Warriors could find for him on short notice.
Then there was his equipment. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors don’t generally stock gear for a lanky six-foot-eight, 235-pounder. As a result, his gloves didn’t fit, his pants didn’t fit and his shinpads are too short. When you’re playing for a spot on a team in the Western Hockey League, you generally want to go out there with gear that’s going feel right and protect you completely.
And yet, after all that, there Sosunov was, playing in all his team’s main camp scrimmages and taking the ice in the Black-White Game on Sunday afternoon.
“For me, it’s pretty tough because I have the time change with Russia and the flight two days ago, it’s difficult for me to play,” said Sosunov, who speaks and understands English well. “I need to get myself into my best condition… but I’m here to play hockey and why wouldn’t I want to play hockey. This is my job and I’m going to do my job.”
Sosunov was the sixth round, 178th overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old rearguard was subsequently picked up by the Warriors in the first round, 45th overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft this summer.
The Warriors’ solid relationship with the Lightning played a part in Sosunov joining the team, as Tampa Bay wanted him to become familiarized with NHL-sized ice surfaces and the style of game played in this part of the hockey world.
“He made it here and we’ve had a chance to see him here (Saturday and Sunday),” Warriors general manager Alan Millar said Sunday during the intrasquad game. “He tried to do a little too much in the first period, but he settled down and he’s a guy who plays to his strengths. He knows what he is.
“Tampa Bay has a pretty good track record with what they’ve done with Russian players,” Millar added. “This is a guy they’ve signed to an NHL contract and in February, March and April and hopefully beyond, spending the whole year with us, he’s going to be a hard guy to play against at that time of the year.”
For his part, even with the myriad of inconveniences, Sosunov is happy with what he’s seen from the Warriors and Moose Jaw in general.
“It’s been going so far, so good,” he said. “I like this place and I like this team. It’s okay for now I think…. I want to show my best play here, I’m going to do my best for the team. It’ll be my first season not in Russia so I want to play as well as I can.”