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Korobov Climbing Organizational Ladder

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Dmitry Korobov got the call he had been waiting for -- from teammate Vlad Namestnikov.

Korobov, the hard-hitting Belarusian on the Syracuse Crunch blueline, was having phone troubles, so the message from Crunch coach Rob Zettler about Korobov's first National Hockey League call-up arrived through Namestnikov.

"I was a little shocked, happy, and nervous at the same time," Korobov said through Namestnikov, who helped translate. "Mostly happy."

After playing one game with the Tampa Bay Lightning, being sent back to the Crunch, and making the round trip again, Korobov got a taste of what he came to North America for. Now he’s working to earn more of those calls -- no matter who they’re from -- and eventually a permanent role in the NHL.

"He's going to make it in the NHL by being physical, by moving pucks quickly, and just being strong in the important areas," Zettler said. "That's not going to change no matter where he plays."

Signed in the summer of 2012, Korobov spent all of last season with Syracuse. Over 82 games, he netted 24 points, 43 penalty minutes, and was a plus-18.

This season, Korobov has eight assists in his first 18 game and is a plus-four, but his role remains largely the same -- using his 6-3, 230-pound frame to outmuscle opponents. The 24-year-old embraces the physical play, and actively seeks out the big hit.

"He's a little bit more confident," Zettler said. "Physically, sometimes he forces it a little bit too much, but he's trying to make that happen, which is good. He's more of a force out there."

Korobov’s physicality has progressed during his time with Syracuse, as well as his skating with the help of Lightning skating coach Barb Underhill. But the biggest headway has come in his mental game.

"I'm more confident, less worried I'm going to make a mistake," Korobov said. "Last year was my first year as a rookie, this year I'm more of a veteran and an older guy. Confidence was the biggest."