MISSOULA- Missoula has seen some record-breaking performances lately, from Katharine Berkoff in the pool to Dante Olson’s tackles on the field. But you rarely see someone shatter the old records quite like Misha Akatnov on the ice.
“One of the first things I heard about when I took this job was about this Russian guy who we had here that had been here a while that was pretty special. You know, people can talk about it a lot. Until you see it for yourself you don’t quite understand how special he is,” said Bruins head coach Cliff Cook at a Tuesday afternoon practice.
Akatnov was drafted by the Missoula Bruins with the first overall pick in the 2016 NA3HL draft. Three years into the league, it’s becoming more and more evident why he was taken first overall.
In his third year at age 20, he has just broken the league’s career goals record, shattering the previous mark.
Akatnov has 128 goals in his 112 career games and still has 16 games to build on that.
The previous record? 106 goals.
“His hands are some of the best I’ve ever seen, not only at this level but at higher levels. It’s his ability to move around people with the puck and then once he’s got his sights set on the net more often than not it’s going to go in the net,” said Cook.
He’s also chasing the career points and single-season goals records. No matter how many times his teammates have seen it in person they’re still amazed.
“It’s one of those things that you think you getting used to, but you really don’t. We watched him in practice, we watched him in games and some of the stuff he does you’re still like, ‘How does he do that?’” said teammate Kyler Fullerton.
“He’s just a really smart hockey player, and that’s the key to anything. Even if he didn’t have the skills to go with it, just his intelligence alone as a hockey player gives him all the opportunities to be successful,” said Cook.
Odds are Akatnov is done in the NA3HL. Whether he signs with a college or joins an NHL team on a minor league deal, the future is bright for Akatnov.
“Obviously with his skill set and his hockey IQ, sky is the limit. Every player, no matter how good they are, is always learning, and that’s one of the good things about him. He’s willing to learn, and that’s a credit to him. So it’s tough to predict, but I think he’s got a really good chance to go along way in the sport,” said Cook.
Akatnov declined an interview request. He’ll look for career goal No. 129 on Friday night, when the Bruins take on Helena in Missoula.