Russian 'roadrunner'

Gene Pereira - Special to the Examiner

Blessed with blazing speed, it was no wonder that growing up as boy in Russia that Ivan Telegin's friends would always choose him first when it came time to pick teams for whatever game they were playing outside.

"It's like a gift," said the Barrie Colts winger in Russian through translator and agent Mark Gandler.

"Sometimes I go so fast, I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to stop," Telegin said, adding a hearty chuckle.

The Colts certainly don't want him slowing down one bit. Not when he's lighting up the Ontario Hockey League in impressive fashion and doing it in a stretch drive where the Colts are fighting for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

It seems like almost every time he touches the puck these days it ends up in the back of the net. Telegin just came off a scorching February where he scored 13 times and added five assists in 12 games.

March kicked off the same way February ended for the Russian sniper as Telegin scored once and with a little more luck might have had at least two or three more goals in a 5-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers Thursday night at the Barrie Molson Centre.

"I believe every time I touch the puck I can do something, particularly after having scored bunch of goals recently," said the Winnipeg Jets prospect who celebrated his 20th birthday on Tuesday . "My confidence is sky high. I feel like I can take off on any play."

What's even more impressive is that the lightning speed comes in a six-foot-four, 185-pound package. Head coach and Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk played with and against a lot of talented players in his 16-year career, but admits he hasn't seen anybody with that combination of size and speed like Telegin.

"Yeah, it's sick," Hawerchuk said. "He would be fast in the NHL, I think. I haven't seen somebody that big and quick. There's power in it, but it's quick.

"Even from a standstill, he's gone. He's a roadrunner."

Telegin is like a runaway freight train on the tracks when he moves in an opposing defencemen. If he gets an edge on the outside, time and time again he leaves them in his dust.

Telegin's confidence is so high right now, he believes the situation leaves them with only two options, which neither of is very good.

"When I go on the outside, first of all I'm faster than the defenceman," said Telegin, who has racked up 28 goals and 22 assists in just 40 games this season. "By the time he turns around, he has a couple of choices. He can let me go, or commit a penalty, basically."

Telegin's damage isn't just limited to the outside, Hawerchuk points out.

"It's almost impossible to play the body on him," he said. "You've got to angle him, you've got to get sticks on pucks. He does it a lot of different ways. He beats you wide with speed, he'll beat you with moves.

"And he's got a good shot when he uses it. The trick is trying to get him to shoot more."

Hawerchuk has rewarded his Russian star with a ton of ice time, even pairing him with Colts' star forward Tanner Pearson to kill penalties.

The duo have been a big part of the Colts improvement on the penalty kill, and are just as dangerous when playing shorthanded.

When I (kill penalties) with Pearson, we both believe we can score shorthanded every time," said Telegin, who along with his Barrie teammates will play host to the Oshawa Generals tonight at the Barrie Molson Centre.

"He knows where I am and I know where he is, so we use each other."

"I use him a lot," Hawerchuk said of his Russian star. "He's one of those guys he loves to play. He loves the ice time and it seems like the more he plays, the better he gets."

Telegin was acquired by the Colts in late June after two seasons with the Saginaw. In his rookie year with the Spirit, he posted 26 goals and 44 points in 51 games and then followed it up with 20 goals and 61 points last season.

Looking to bolster their attack, the Colts sent Saginaw a second and third-round pick to acquire the native of Novokuznetsk, Russia and Telegin admits it's been a nice fit from Day 1 because the club and his teammates made him feel right at home in Barrie.

"I feel really good in Barrie because when I first arrived the guys were really good to me. They took me around and made things happen for me," said Telegin, who admits he has idolized Washington Capitals forward and Russian star Alex Ovechkin since he was a young kid. "I felt (Hawerchuk) was really paying attention to me, that he trusted me.

"All together, that made me feel really comfortable and confident in Barrie."

It seems injuries have been the only thing that have slowed Telegin down this season. He started the year injured, getting into just six games in September and October.

A return to health in November and Hawerchuk placing him on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Pearson proved to be the spark he needed.

Telegin racked up eight goals and six assists in November and then followed it up by finding the net five times and posting 12 points in just six December games before leaving to play with Russia at the world junior hockey championships in Alberta.

Telegin helped the Russians reach the gold medal final, but a wrist injury at worlds sidelined him until late January. Telegin has picked up right where he left off in Barrie.

In 16 games since his return from worlds, he's recorded 15 goals and six helpers.

"It seems like every year I get injured at the beginning of the year. It was a knee, then a shoulder and a wrist," said Telegin, who has notched five game winners with Barrie this season. "When I was put with Scheifele and Pearson, it's easy to play with them and my game really took off."

The Winnipeg Jets have to like what they've seen in their young Russian star. There's nothing more that Telegin would love than to step into the Winnipeg lineup next season.

"It all depends on me," said the fourth-round pick of the then Atlanta Thrashers and now Jets in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. "How hard I work, is what's going to happen."

Hawerchuk can see his big, talented winger stepping up to the NHL next season and knows a strong effort for the Colts in this year's playoffs would go a long way in convincing the Jets he's ready to make that leap.

"For sure there's going to be a good possibility of that," Hawerchuk said. "As the games get bigger, I'm sure Winnipeg will be watching closer. They want to see that he has that desire to compete and win even in the playoffs and tough games.

"He can really help set himself up by having a great run here."

The Colts come into tonight's contest against Oshawa playing their best hockey of the season. Barrie has moved into third spot in the Eastern Conference with an impressive run that has seen the team go 12-2-0-1 over its last 14 contests and Telegin has been a big part of the surge.

The Russian speedster says he's having too much fun right now and wants nothing more than to help keep this going for as long as possible.

A deep run into the playoffs would ensure that.

"I want to play as many games as possible," Telegin said. "I don't want to stop. I want to win. I'm going to help us to stay on the ice for as long as possible."

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