Even though the Russians didn’t get the result they wanted in Saskatchewan, few can say that it was because they lacked individual skill. On the contrary, there was too much of it. As it turned out, that was enough only to finish sixth overall in the 2010 World Junior Championships. This is the second biggest upset in the country’s history after 2001 WJC when the Russians came in seventh in front of their home fans in Moscow.
Coach Vladimir Plyuschev’s team wasn’t able to capitalize on its chances on the power play and showed the worst result at the tournament (13.3%). Team Russia looked surprisingly weak at putting a few passes together and defending its own end. Interestingly though, Plyuschev’s team had the best goaltending in Saskatchewan – Igor Bobkov (ANA’09) and Ramis Sadikov (2010) combined for 199 saves on 214 shots (.930 save percentage).
Bobkov was obviously the best player for Team Russia at the World Juniors. Big in size, incredibly talented, quick in the crease and a calm person in the dressing room, Bobkov is truly a full-package goalie.
Shortly after the quarterfinal loss to Team Switzerland, Plyuschev said that his ‘only mistake’ at the 2010 WJC was naming Nikita Filatov (CBJ’08) team’s captain. However, the Blue Jackets prospect tends to be blaming the coach.
"I do agree that I had to score more than one goal," Filatov told Hockey’s Future after it was all over. "It doesn’t matter whether I made five assists or not. Although, I came to the World Juniors not to become the best scorer or even the best player but to compete for the medals.
"Speaking of practices, the tactical aspects just weren’t there. We never worked on defending in the neutral zone or our own end, and we never practiced playing on the power play. And these are the key moments of the game," said Filatov.
Even though the captain was considered to be a leader of this Russian squad before the championship, he was only second in scoring with 1 goal and 5 assists in 6 games, while Kirill Petrov (NYI’08) was first with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists). The Kazan native’s performance was very solid – playing on the right wing of the first line he showed speed, a hard and accurate shot and physical presence on the ice. No wonder that the next season Petrov is likely to start in North America.
Last April, Vladimir Tarasenko (2010) stunned the scouts at the U-18 World Championship in Fargo, ND. In Regina and Saskatoon, he played a less significant role on his team but nevertheless came in third in scoring with 4 goals and 1 assist. He played on the second line with Alexandr Burmistrov (2010) of the Barrie Colts.
The 18-year-olds can’t really say that they were dynamic at the World Juniors. Both of them showed some individual skill and the ability to put the puck in the zone with tremendous 1-on-1 dekes. However, Tarasenko still needs to work on capitalizing his chances and creating some new offensive moves.
On the other hand, Burmistrov, who in his own words "struggled to find his game," has to improve his passing accuracy and work on winning the face-offs, while hockey IQ is one of his stronger sides. Overall, he scored three goals and added one assist. Note that two of Burmistrov’s goals happened on rebounds and the other was a goalie’s mistake.
The youngest Russian player in Saskatchewan, Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010), played on the third line with two grinders Evgeny Timkin of Avangard (KHL) and Pavel Dedunov of Amur (KHL). Having no other option but to create plays using his phenomenal offensive skill, Kuznetsov was a constant threat at the opposite end.
He’s got tremendous hands, lightning speed and a vast variety of dekes. Kuznetsov managed to score two beautiful tallies against Team Austria but remained off the board for the rest of the tournament. The only shortcoming of this typical Russian winger is the physical aspect. Kuznetsov needs to beef up and learn how to manage the checks.
Nikita Zaytsev (2010) played on a first defensive pair with Dmitry Orlov (WSH’09) and didn’t score a single point in Saskatchewan. Good positioning was his only upside while committing a lot of mistakes in the neutral zone and against the boards surely didn’t help his team.
As for the best defenseman for the Russian side, Plyuschev named Maksim Chudinov of Severstal (KHL). The 19-year-old native of Cherepovets scored 2 goals and added 2 assists. Arguably the best player on the power play on his team, Chudinov has a howitzer for a shot.