Building the Herd – Ivan Antonov

#?? Ivan “Vanya” Antonov

Position: Forward

Born: Москва́, Росси́йская Федера́ция

Announced as signed: Bison season ticket night, 2nd June

Buzzing to get going; Ivan Antonov is taking his talents to Basingstoke to join the Bison. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Buzzing to get going; Ivan Antonov is taking his talents to Basingstoke to join the Bison.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

After the announcement of Dan Davies joining the Herd, Doug Sheppard put one of the biggest rumours and worst kept secrets of the summer to rest with the news that Vanya Antonov was joining the Bison for 2016/17.

The 19 year old Russian born Antonov qualifies as an EIHA trained player as he played the majority of his hockey in the Bracknell junior system where he excelled. When he was 13 Antonov joined the Bracknell under 16s Stingers in 2010, one year after his brother Ilya. Vanya scored 8 points in 12 games in his first season and pressed on from there, scoring 26 points in 14 games the following season.

In 2012/13 Antonov started started splitting his time between the Stingers and Bracknell’s under 18 side, the Drones and didn’t slow down on his scoring pace as he hit 69 points in 17 under 16s games and 32 points in 13 under 18s games.

With under 16s hockey behind him, in 2013/14 Antonov started to split himself between three of Bracknell’s sides as he made his first forays into senior hockey with the Bees (22 games, 5 points) and the Hornets (7 games, 6 points). He spent time with the Drones, scoring an incredible 38 points in 9 games.

The next season saw Antonov called into the Bees squad full time. Whilst he made 1 cursory appearance for the Drones, Antonov was let loose on the EPL proper scoring 19 goals and 41 points in 43 games.

To say that 2015/16 was a tough season for all in Bracknell would be something of a massive understatement but with all the comings and goings Antonov, generally playing alongside Bees player/coach Lukas Smital was at the forefront of the Bees attack. The young Russo/Brit scored 24 goals and 65 points from 51 games as the Bees finished bottom and with their survival in doubt.

Antonov is a well established GB junior international having. He was over a point per game for the GB u18s with 11 points from his 10 caps and has 6 points from his 14 appearances for the GB u20s. Vanya has also represented Quebec international tournament as well as the South West conference.

So this one was understandably a popular bit of news. When Doug Sheppard said that Antonov “has to be the best under-20 player in the EPL”, it’s probably not the coach being hyperbolic.

The numbers do tell something of a story; with some good service, Antonov has become an offensive powerhouse in the EPL before reaching his 20s. With 116 games and 111 points the only reason he’s probably below a point per game in the league is due to how he was used during his initial bleeding in period with the Bees and even then, he has pretty much caught up by the end of his 3rd season in the league. The form book speaks for itself in terms of where Antonov’s career is trending and with the uncertainty that has been looming over Bracknell’s future (although it seems that the Bees are thankfully now on their way to participation in the 16/17 season) you can’t blame Sheppard for extending the hand nor Vanya for accepting it.

There will be a lot of eyes on Antonov in the coming campaign and there’s a weight of expectation on the young man to perform immediately. From the fight for the last playoff spot, Antonov has been propelled into the title challenge for the first time in his EPL career and he will be expected to be contributing early and often as the Bison look to retain the EPL title.

The question of quality of service to Antonov will not be in question. With the players he has around him, there will be a plethora of people to be able to set the young man up. The question for Antonov is how he adapts to life away from Bracknell.

The lad has buckets of potential and should hopefully one day be playing at levels above the EPL. He was set to be in Sheffield for 3 years at university which didn’t come to pass so he’s clearly prepared to make moves but this is really it now and how he adapts to being part of a different roster and culture will be a challenge for the young man.

It’s not just an off ice thing but an on ice thing as well because, and again I reach for my Captain Obvious cape here, Doug Sheppard is not Lukas Smital. Don’t get me wrong, we spoke of role players and utility players yesterday in Dan Davies’ piece and we all know that Ivan Antonov isn’t going to be asked to come in and be the new Alan Lack. However we also know that the Bison under Sheppard play very system orientated hockey. Where Antonov has been Bracknell’s attacking broadsword, will he be able to play Sheppard’s systems where the attack is somewhat more spread out? Doug Sheppard shutdown hockey will always rear its head and how will he fit in to that. Sheppard also loves to shuffle his lines and how will this affect Antonov’s game?

Antonov rightly comes with a fanfare; on a bottom placed team he scored more points individually than any Bison player last year and with the loss of Greener, adding someone with that ability to score goals and points is a more than suitable replacement. Will he adapt? Can he adapt? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, we’re going to have a fun time finding all of that out.

Welcome to Basingstoke, Vanya.


2 Comments on “Building the Herd – Ivan Antonov”

  1. Chris Mollitt says:

    Sheppard is building a skilled team, but am I the only one thinking it seems a little lightweight with Watt and greener having left ?

  2. FlamesFan says:

    This is the most exciting signing this summer, shame he picked the wrong team 😦

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