Mikhail Grabovski proud to see Flames’ Yegor Sharangovich break his record

Calgary Flames centre Yegor Sharangovich (17) celebrates with the bench after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

LOS ANGELES — First, Yegor Sharangovich invited Mikhail Grabovski to join him for the Father’s Trip.

Then he beat the former Maple Leaf winger’s record for goals in a season by a Belarusian.

Next up, Grabovski’s record for points in a season, which Sharangovich got within one of on Tuesday night.

“Maybe he didn’t call yet because he’s mad,” laughed Sharangovich of the radio silence from his good pal since he scored his 30th on the weekend.

“Just kidding, good guy.

“He just posted ‘congrats’ on Instagram when I beat his record.”  

Only nine Belarusians have ever scored an NHL goal, so the odds of players in that small group knowing one another are good.

But the relationship between the 40-year-old Grabovski and 25-year-old Sharangovich goes much deeper than owning similar passports.

“I knew about him when I was young — I always watched him, and Ruslan Salei, and any Belarusian player in the NHL,” said the Calgary Flames forward.

“I tried to be like these guys.

“After when I was drafted in 2018 I met him. He just called me and said, ‘if you need something I can help you with, anything, don’t be shy.’

“After that he watched my games and was helping me.”

While Sharangovich plodded through the minors, wondering if he could ever take the next step, Grabovski provided regular advice and support on the phone, even driving to some games to watch.

Then came COVID-19, when Sharangovich returned to the KHL to play for his hometown Dinamo Minsk club. 

The assistant coach there that year was Grabovski.

“Before that he was on New Jersey’s farm club and not really given much chance, so him playing in Belarus during COVID was awesome,” said Grabovski, still a fan favourite, who is now retired and living in Ontario.

“He played against older players on a great team in his hometown and he was the best player that year, so I had an opportunity to work with him on things, including his shot.

“I think I helped a little bit.”

A lot, actually.

Once the NHL resumed, Sharangovich broke in with the Devils, scored 16 goals in 54 games, and according to Grabovski, “was one of best penalty killers in the league.”

Grabovski insists he never doubted his quiet understudy would eventually become an NHL star.

“He has a great shot — he told me he used to practice by shooting at his fridge — but in New Jersey they didn’t understand how he could play and how great he could be if they gave him more chances to shoot,” said Grabovski, who said Sharangovich’s decision-making and defensive game have come a long way since he was a Devil. 

“Just put him in a position to shoot the puck.

“He’s a shy person and he didn’t start great in Calgary but then the trust from the coaches helped him be comfortable. He’s really smart, and learns really quick. Tell him one time and he will do it.”

Grabovski said he isn’t surprised Sharangovich has flourished since being moved to his natural position at centre, where he can control the puck more and use the whole rink.

He also wasn’t shocked the Lego-building kid they call “Sharky” beat his record, as he called earlier in the year and suggested it was a possibility.

“I was so happy for him — I beat (Andrei) Kostitsyn’s record (26 goals) and now somebody beat my record,” said Grabovski, whose last season was on Long Island in 2016.

“Now I need to make sure I work with my kids to beat Yegor’s record.

“Also,” he added with a chuckle, “he still didn’t beat my (season) point record (58), so I still watch.”

Sharangovich is one point away from tying it, which makes the Flames’ quiet goal leader smile.

“He’s just a really good guy — it’s nice to talk with him,” said Sharangovich, whose affinity and respect for Grabovski prompted him to invite his mentor to join him for the Dad’s trip.

“My dad doesn’t have a Canadian or U.S. Visa, so I asked him if he wanted to come.”

Grabovski had to decline, as he’s busy with his own kids.

“One day I want to go though, it would be a good experience for me,” said Grabovski, whose 125 NHL goals gives him 42 more than Sharangovich.

“He makes me proud for all of Belarus because there aren’t lots of rinks or competition.

“He is a big deal for some people back home. They always talk about him.

“He’s here in North America so I hope people understand how valuable players can be from Belarus, living here and showing results the country can be proud of.”

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