Canada Vs Russia Preview
The Canada Russia rivalry needs no introduction. Any Canadian hockey fan can recall their favorite Canada-Russia moment, of which there are many. Of course there was the 1972 Summit Series, and endless examples of Canada-Russia dramatics that have taken place at the World Junior Hockey Championships over the years. Tonight the City of Prince George gets to play their part in this majestic rivalry when it plays host to Game 1 of the CIBC Canada Russia Seriers. Tonight a group of 20 of the WHL’s very best World Junior hopefuls will go head-to-head with a Russian team looking to maintain their prominence having earned a silver medal in each of the past two World Junior tournaments. The Russians have earned a medal in each of the past six tournaments. Tonight’s game in Prince George will certainly have an impact on their World Junior evaluation process as well.
2015-16 Canada Russia Series Record: 1-4-1
All-Time Record in the Canada Russia Series (Since 2003): 24-51-3
Head Coach: Valery Bragin
NHL Draft Picks: 5
WHO’S UP FRONT:
German Rubtsov: The Philadelphia Flyers prospect helped lead Russia to a Silver Medal at last year’s World Juniors. In 15 games this season with his MHL team, Rubtsov has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points.
Nikita Popugaev: The sophomore member of the Moose Jaw Warriors has 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 18 games this season. He’s eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft. WHL coach Tim Hunter knows full well how dangerous Popugaev can be.
WHO’S ON D:
Artem Minulin: The talented draft eligible defenceman is enjoying a terrific second season with the Swift Current Broncos. In 19 games he’s posted four goals and 15 assists for 19 points which puts him second in the WHL for scoring among defencemen.
Sergey Zborovskiy: He’s a third round pick of the New York Rangers and plays a huge role on the CHL leading Regina Pats. He’s 6’4, 195 pounds and is very mobile. Offensively he’s got a goal and 11 assists for 12 points in 12 games this season.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Konstantin Volkov: A prospect of the Nashville Predators, Volkov is 103-0 with a 1.81 goals-against-average, a .932 save percentage and three shutouts with his MHL team.
Vladislav Sukhachev: Helped lead Russia to a Silver Medal at last year’s World Juniors. He’s 5-1-2 for the season with a 2.06 goals-against-average and a .940 save percentage in the VHL.
Anton Krasotkin: Won a Silver with Russia in 2014 at the World Juniors. He’s 4-2 with a 1.67 goals-against-average and a .939 save percentage in the VHL this season.
Intensity: How will the Russians fair given their lengthy travel. Will it take them a period or so to find their legs? Or will they be the ones playing the role of aggressors early?
2015-16 Canada Russia Series Record: 5-1
All-Time Record in the Canada Russia Series (Since 2003): 18-6-2
Head Coach: Tim Hunter
NHL Draft Picks: 17
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Sam Steele: Leads the WHL in scoring so far this season with 14 goals and 14 assists and 28 points. He’s a huge reason why the Regina Pats are still without a regulation loss and boasting a record of 12-0-3-0. He’s a drafted prospect of the Anaheim Ducks.
Mason Shaw: One of just two players on Team WHL that are draft eligible in 2017, Shaw is tied with Steele for the league lead in scoring with five goals and 23 assists for 28 points.
WHO’S ON D:
Noah Juulsen: Team WHL’s captain is off to a great start with the Everett Silvertips. The Montreal Canadiens prospect has six goals and six assists for 12 points in 13 games this season.
Parker Wotherspoon: The Tri-City Americans defenceman has four goals and 12 assists for 16 points. The New York Islanders prospect is an alternate captain for Team WHL.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Connor Ingram: The Tampa Bay Lighting prospect is 8-6-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage. He gives the Kamloops Blazers a chance to win every time he takes the ice.
Carter Hart: Talk about impressive. Carter Hart is 9-2-1-0 this season with Everett with a 1.89 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect was the first goalie selected in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Chemistry: Team WHL has a very quick turnaround from when they arrived in Prince George Sunday afternoon to taking the ice tonight. A meeting, a few meals and a pre-game skate should hopefully be enough time for the players to gel. There’s so much leadership and skill on Team WHL’s side that things should hopefully fall into place quickly for Tim Hunter’s crew.