We mentioned in a post published in early June that there were rumors swirling in Belarus media that the KHL’s Dynamo Minsk was interested in signing Washington Capitals forward prospect Aliaksei Protas. At the time there was question as to if/when the 2020-2021 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) season would begin, or if it would ever happen. Like many other prospect players at the time, Protas began to consider his options, including the possibility of staying at home in Belarus to play for Dynamo Minsk. In a recent interview with Hockey.by, Protas detailed his meeting with Dynamo Minsk officials and his decision to pass on an offer from the team and return to the Prince Albert Raiders for a third season.
Do you have a rough idea of what awaits you in the new season?
“It seems that some certainty has appeared. A letter from the manager came in the mail that the WHL season starts on October 2. The pre-season games are due to begin on September 15th. That is, around the middle of September, I have to fly to Canada. The season was postponed by a couple of weeks.”
The coronavirus is not retreating in any way. In North America, including many new infections on sports teams. Are you worried about this situation?
“Now the whole world is in this situation. Everyone suffers. I hope we will get through this together, and life will return to its usual course.”
There were many rumors that you could sign with Dynamo Minsk. From your answers, I understand that this will not happen.
“This season there will be no history of mine with Dynamo Minsk. The agent and I were constantly in touch with the representatives of the “Bison” (Dynamo Minsk). We talked with coaches and with Dmitry Baskov. They said they were interested in me.”
“I can’t play in the AHL yet (age), so I had to choose between Prince Albert and Dynamo. Playing in the KHL is a very interesting opportunity. Still, we decided that for me at the moment it was more important to stay in the WHL. This is my opinion as well – I do not want to change the direction of my development so dramatically. But I would like to thank Dmitry Yuryevich [Baskov] for the offer, trust and interest.”
“Dynamo and I parted on a positive note. The team is leading a very good ticket campaign, and many promising hockey players have signed contracts with the club. I hope all will be ok. Therefore, I would like to wish Dynamo to move only forward. My thoughts are still related to “Prince Albert”. I have not canceled the goal to break into the NHL and play in this league. Let’s see how everything goes.”
On what conditions did Dynamo want to see you?
“Several scenarios were proposed, but now I see no reason to discuss this, because we have chosen a different path.”
There is an opinion that the third year in the CHL may lead to stagnation of the hockey player. Are you not afraid that something similar will happen to you?
“I’ve heard of this opinion. But each hockey player has his own individual and unique path. The CHL is the most serious junior league. People are really excelling there. And I have a good example – Canadian striker Noah Gregor, with whom I played in my first season with the Raiders. He was sent to the WHL from an AHL team at the age of 20 – for him it was his fifth season in our league. He spent a whole year at Prince Albert, became the leader of the championship team, returned to the San Jose system and last season was a main player of the farm club and played 28 games for the Sharks in the NHL. Therefore, I repeat: everyone has their own path. Right now, I’m focused on training and don’t get hung up on what might happen in the future.”
Your agent said that in the third season you need to become a full-fledged leader of the Raiders. Are you ready?
“Yes. Moreover, several young newcomers will join the team again. And I will be in the league for the third season. Great hopes will be pinned on me. The pressure may increase. But I take it calmly and practically do not feel it. My task is one: to give all the best in every game and try to make the new season better than the previous one.”
What about the prospects in the NHL, given that the timing of the start of the new season is still clearly unknown?
“Honestly, I have not yet discussed these moments with Washington. Due to the situation in the world, it is very difficult to make any predictions. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow – that’s why I treat all processes with understanding. But we keep in touch with the club. Managers of “Washington” call often, are interested in business – in this regard, there are no problems.”
Do you regret that the 2019/20 season was interrupted ahead of schedule? It seems that you could break even higher.
“Of course, I’m sorry. We had a good team again, we could compete for something big. By the end of the hockey year, we were just accelerating. And in the playoffs, the Raiders could easily repeat the success of the 2018/19 season. Hopefully in the next one we will show the result again. Three hockey players will definitely leave the team, and the rest of the backbone may well be preserved. Therefore, the expectations are very good.”
You can access the entire interview here.
By Vadim Knyrko