CALGARY – At 15 years of age, Danil Antropov is a well-travelled young man. The majority of his minor hockey career has been played in his hometown of Toronto but the game has taken him to Winnipeg, Canada, American southern states like Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama and, furthest of all, the country of his family’s roots – Kazakhstan.
Danil, the son of former NHLer Nikolai, who played almost 800 games in the league for Toronto, New York, Atlanta and Winnipeg and World Championships and Olympics for Kazakhstan, is grateful for each of those experiences. The 15-year-old was in Calgary for Hockey Canada’s under-17 camp with the goal of representing his country at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
And Danil’s road to this point has been anything but standard.
“Sacrifice is everything. If you want something badly, you’re going to sacrifice to be there and do what you need to do,” says Danil.
In 2012/13, in the midst of the NHL lockout, his father Nik signed a contract with Barys Astana of the KHL and moved the family from Winnipeg back to Nik’s home country of Kazakhstan. Danil played parts of two seasons in Kazakhstan and, despite the NHLPA and NHL coming to terms on a new collective agreement, Nik decided to sign a two-year extension with Barys Astana for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons.
It was in January 2014 when Danil, then 13, had a decision to make – stay in Kazakhstan or head to Canada and do what he thought was best for his hockey career.
He chose Canada and had to deal with the reality of leaving his parents and two siblings.
“Due to my Ontario Hockey League draft year coming up, I decided to come back to Toronto and play for the Don Mills Flyers for a year,” says Danil, who is a prospect for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
“It was a big decision, especially with my mom not wanting me to leave,” says Danil. “She was pretty emotional with it. My dad was more like ‘this is what’s good for him, this is what’s good for his career so he needs to do it.’ Obviously it was emotional but it’s what had to be done. Staying alone, it was a lot of work. You have no family around, you have a nanny so you have to do your homework. You don’t have your parents telling you go do this, go do that or wake up at this time, wake up at that time. I had to grow up at a young age but it helped me become the person I am now.”
The person he is now is an incredibly well-spoken and confident teenager who, at 6-feet tall (183 cm) and 180 pounds (82 kg), is a force in the corners, in front of the net and, really, anywhere on the ice.
And, despite his game being primarily crafted in his native Canada, there’s no doubt Danil cherishes the time he spent in Kazakhstan.
“There is only one team based in that city and you have to travel by train through Russia and Kazakhstan,” he says. “The shortest train ride would be 24 hours and there would be some up to three days long just to play four or five games in that city. And then we would go back home, train every day, and we all went to the same school and learned together. It was a set-up system, like a club team.
“They play a completely different style of hockey – more passing, no dumping and chasing. I kind of brought that over here in my game. I brought lots of patience and puck movement and control and I think that gave us success with the (Toronto minor midget AAA) Marlies last year.”
Being the son of a prominent NHLer gave Danil a front-row seat into what it takes to get to the top. Danil says one of his great strengths is his hockey sense and that comes from being around the game his entire life.
“I was always watching my dad, looking at what he was doing and how he plays. I got to bring that into my game,” says Danil. “And just him showing me around, bringing me to places as a kid that most kids don’t experience was a great opportunity for me. He taught me a lot. When we would be on the ice, he would teach me a bunch of stuff about down low, little tips and tricks, how to get out of the corner, how to get to the net, how to stand in front of the net properly, how to open up.
“My dad has always said that I have a great shot so I have to use it. I listened to him and I started shooting more and pucks started going in.”
Danil is preparing for his rookie season in the OHL as a member of the Oshawa Generals, who used the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft to nab Danil.
Even though he’ll once again leave home, this time it will be just a 45-60 minute drive. And that makes Danil happy, who has a strong bond with his brother and sister.
You can hear the pride in Danil’s voice as he talks about his little brother Matvei.
“He’s just three years old but he’s shooting a puck like he’s a 10-year-old,” says Danil. “It’s crazy. He’s obsessed with the game. We are just getting him on skates now, like recently, but he’s all about road hockey, mini sticks, all that stuff.”