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Remembering Daniil Sobchenko

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“Mom, I did it!”

That’s what Daniil Sobchenko shouted at the camera, grabbing and shaking it, after Russia topped Canada in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championships.

It was the first time that Russia had won the World Junior Championships since 2003. They haven’t won it since. It was also the 6-foot-2 center’s first WJCs — the 20-year-old had been passed up by the national team in previous years.

Sobchenko literally soaked it all in: He didn’t take his medal or jersey off for several days.

That’s the kind of kid that the San Jose Sharks lost on September 7, 2011, when KHL side Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s team plane crashed on takeoff. San Jose’s 2011 sixth-round pick perished with all of his teammates and coaches; 44 of the 45 people on the flight died.

“He was smiling all the time,” Maxim Kitsyn, Sobchenko’s WJC left wing, recalled. Vladimir Tarasenko skated on the right side of Sobchenko’s line, the most productive on the gold medal-winning side.

Tommy Wingels, Sobchenko’s roommate at 2011 San Jose Sharks Development Camp, added: “He was just a kid who seemed to love the game of hockey.”

On the tenth anniversary of the Lokomotiv tragedy, San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Wingels and Kitsyn, who shared their memories of Sobchenko. Long-time San Jose Sharks scout Shin Larsson also shared some memories.

Tommy Wingels

“I remember Daniil being a youthful kid who was extremely excited to be at development camp. Coming to California, the nice weather, being at an NHL facility was such a cool experience for him.

“It was funny…he spoke very very little English, so he would Skype with his girlfriend when we got back to the room each night. He would spend a couple minutes talking to her, but he wanted her to translate his thoughts and questions that arose from the day. He wanted to talk hockey with me, his roommate, and reflect on the events of the day.

“So we would spend 30 minutes chatting with her as our translator…this was definitely something new for me, but I thought it was awesome, because he had so much to ask me, his roommate, and this was our best way to communicate. It must’ve been in the early morning over in Russia and it was important to him to communicate with me for the majority of the conversation, not with her back home.

“Hockey-wise, he was a good player. A big body who moved well out there and had good skill.

“I remember we had a really hard bike that absolutely crushed him, where he wasn’t able to finish. Lots of guys would be done for the day, but he didn’t let it keep him down. His spirits were high and didn’t want to miss the next on-ice session.

“He was just a kid who seemed to love the game of hockey.”

Maxim Kitsyn

“Of course [my favorite memory of Daniil is winning the] 2011 World Juniors Championship in Buffalo.

“Daniil was funny guy and he was smiling all the time. As a player, he was a very smart centerman who had some skill. He liked to pass the puck, which is the thing I like in players the most.

“I knew a lot of people on that [Lokomotiv] team. I didn’t believe it when I heard about it at first, I thought it was someone’s bad joke. Then I started to realize that it really happened.

“It was a bad day for everybody in hockey family.”

Shin Larsson

“My memory from him is from the World Juniors, where he was one of the leading members on the team.

“I wasn’t at Development Camp. But I heard that he took major steps even after the World Juniors.

“We had a strong feeling about [his NHL chances], for sure.”

Special thanks to Jon Allred, whose reporting was indispensable for this piece.

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Alaskan_ice

Gone too soon. So sad.

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