Vasily Glotov calls the rink his second home. The Buffalo Sabres' prospect always arrives early – “I show up at 8:15, 8:20 at the latest,” he said – and is so regimented he takes the same number of shots each day before practice.
“Two hundred pucks every morning,” said Glotov, a rookie winger with the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Sabres’ ECHL affiliate.
Spending the day at the rink is a special experience for Glotov, whose slick skills and fun-loving personality have caught the attention of the Sabres and their fans over the last three years.
Glotov, who will represent the Cyclones at the ECHL All-Star Game on Jan. 21, always seems to be smiling and having a blast.
“He’s a guy that’s all about the game,” Cyclones coach Matt Thomas said. “Like, if you took hockey away from him, I couldn’t see him functioning. That’s how much he loves the game.”
Thomas said “coming to the rink is the best day of the year” for the Russian.
“You can’t help but recognize that and feed off of that,” Thomas said. “He makes it exciting for everybody to come to the rink, because of how excited he is. He’s certainly got that contagious personality and that zest for the game and for life that you always want to be around.”
Glotov, 21, has beaten long odds to play pro hockey in North America.
The Sabres’ old regime picked him in the seventh round, 190th overall. Two strong seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League helped him earn a one-year American Hockey League contract.
The 5-foot-11, 174-pound Glotov has acclimated to the ECHL quickly, compiling seven goals and 23 points in 32 contests this season. He also earned a one-game promotion to the Rochester Americans.
Glotov’s array of talents, of course, have buoyed him.
“He probably has some of the most natural, raw, purest stick-handling skills I’ve seen,” said Sabres winger C.J. Smith, who noted Glotov’s “skill set is incredible.”
But Glotov’s desire to improve and evolve – “He’s insanely coachable,” Thomas said – has helped him thrive.
Thomas said Glotov has “the ability to take to coaching and not only take it, but put it into play.
“A lot of players will agree with it and understand it and they have a hard time implementing it in their game. The thirst for knowledge from him is incredible. But the ability to go out and actually positively change it to implement it into his game, I haven’t seen any player that has that.”
Glotov has done that while working to improve his English. He said he has done that by watching “a lot of Netflix.” The British drama “Peaky Blinders” is his favorite show.
He spoke English well enough to conduct interviews after the Sabres drafted him in 2016. But a better grasp of the language has been critical to his success.
“You tell him, ‘Hey, this is what we need you to do,’ ” Thomas said. “He knows it all. He can repeat every one of our systems word-for-word, and I think that’s a special trait from not only a player that has a language barrier to begin with, but is known as an offensive player.”
Thomas has put more on Glotov’s plate, utilizing him as a shutdown forward against the opponent’s top line and in a penalty-killing role.
“He’s been tremendous with that,” said Thomas, who will coach Glotov and the Western Conference All-Stars. “He was a guy I was worried that it was going to be a long process to understand that he just can’t play one-on-one and be the dynamic offensive player that he is.
“But he’s a guy, he’s all in. … Give him a role and he’ll do the role.”
“I really enjoy when a coach puts me in a situation (where) he trusts me,” Glotov said.
Still, the speedy Glotov’s main job is to create offense. While he ranks seventh in scoring on the Cyclones, who rank first in the conference, the ECHL likes to showcase its young talent in the three-on-three all-star format.
Glotov might zoom all over the ice and put on a show.
“The best thing to say about him is he’s a tremendous one-on-one player that has an elite skill set that can really create offense,” Thomas said. “I think … those types of guys can really shine in those games. So for me, I think he’s deserving because he’s a pretty electrifying player when he has some time and space.”