World Juniors: Russia – Junior Hockey News
Published: Wednesday, 19 Dec 2012
By: Michael Gosnell
The Russians still remember the defeat in the gold medal game the Swedes handed to them. This time the Russians are hosting the Word Junior Championships and have the home-ice advantage that is so valuable.
Despite losing explosive offensive forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, Team Russia still brings a formidable team to the World Juniors and has all of Russia’s eyes fixed upon it.
The obvious strength of Team Russia is between the pipes.
Returning to the Russian squad are veteran goalies Andrei Makarov and Andrei Vasilevski. The luxury the Russians have in goal is unmatched by any team in this tournament.
The majority of the minutes should be taken by Vasilevski, but do not be surprised if Makarov see more minutes than he saw in 2012.
The third option Team Russia brings to the tournament is undrafted goalie Igor Ustinski, who currently plays for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk.
Defense is question mark that faces Team Russia. A majority of its defenders are either undrafted or draft eligible in 2013.
Nikita Nesterov and Artem Sergeev are the only defensemen who have ties to National Hockey league teams. Both Nesterov and Sergeev are Tampa Bay Lightning prospects..
Team Russia made a surprise move by cutting highly touted defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Many, including myself, thought Zadorov was lock for a spot on the roster.
In cutting Zadorov, the door is open for defenders like Pavel Koledov or Mikhail Naumenkov to earn more ice time.
Team Russia is loaded on offense, but they had to let go some of skilled players
Anton Zlobin from the Val D’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Bogdan Yakimov, who was Central Scouting’s No.2 ranked Russian skater, were let go on Wednesday.
First overall pick Nail Yakupov and first rounder Mikhail Grigorenko return to represent their country.
Yakupov, a native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, has scored 10 goals and eight assists in 22 games for the Kontinental Hockey League’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk.
Girgorenko has put up 50 points in only 30 games for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL
In addition to Yakupov and Grigorenko, Russia features plenty of other skill players, many of which are playing in the KHL.
I expect Anton Slepyshev to have a breakout performance in this tournament. He went undrafted last year, and he wants to prove his worth to NHL teams.
Another player hat could have a great tournament is Daniil Zharkov.
Russia has the advantage of great goaltending and home ice. Ufa should treat the Russia well.
However, the Russian have the pressure of the country on them to win big.
The tandem of Makarov and Vasilevski and the pure talent the Russians feature on offense could send this team to the gold medal game.
Losing Kuznetsov hurts, but the stage is set for Yakupov and Grigorenko to shine.
It will not be easy, by any means for Russia, but I see Russia making the gold medal game against Canada.