U20 WJC 2002 TEAM RUSSIA PLAYER REVIEW
PART I: Goalies and Defensemen
By: Eugene Belashchenko (Special thanks to Robert Neuhauser and a Finnish
observer for their assistance in preparing this article.)
Starting: Andrei Medvedev
Back up : Sergei Mylnikov
1st pair: Igor Knyazev (A) – Fedor Tjutin
2nd pair: Anton Volchenkov (C) – Denis Grebeshkov
3rd pair: Maxim Kondratjev – Vladimir Korsunov (A)
4th pair: Andrei Zabolotnev – Vladimir Sapozhnikov
Draft Status: Calgary Flames 2001 NHL Entry Draft (52nd overall)
Games: 6 (302:10 minutes)
Shots: 127 GA: 12 GAA: 2.38 SV%: .905
Andrei Medvedev was Team Russia’s starting goalie. Andrei had a very solid
tournament. He played with more confidence then at the 4 Nations Tournament. He
played very well against Finland both in the preliminary round and in the
semifinals. His physical conditioning still gave him trouble, especially in the
finals, where the wear started to show a little bit. However, he did not get
pulled in the second period of his worst performance of the tournament because
of fatigue – he let in three unlucky goals on rebounds. Throughout the
tournament he played a fairly conservative style of hockey – cutting off angles
and skating out of the crease to face shooters, but rarely leaving the net to
handle the puck. He also relied on his reflexes, especially on the glove side.
Draft Status: Undrafted
Games: 3 (117:50 minutes)
Shots: 43 GA: 2 GAA: 1.02 SV%: .953
Sergei Mylnikov played well when called upon. It is very surprising he did not
get drafted in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft when he was first eligible. He was the
fifth ranked European goaltender during the midseason. He did not appear to
have as much of raw talent Medvedev, but played a very mature game. His style
was more conservative then Medvedev – he stayed deeper in the net. According to
an observer from the games, one asset that Sergei definitely had was the respect
and trust of his teammates.
Draft Status: Carolina Hurricanes 2001 NHL Entry Draft (14th
Games: 7 G:2 A:1 Pts:3 PIM:35 +/-: +3 (7-4)
Igor Knyazev has had quite an interesting season thus far. First he suffered an
injury in Carolina’s training camp and stayed in the US to heal the injury.
Next Spartak trades him to Ak Bars after the relationship between the head coach
and Igor soured. Putting all the controversy behind him, Igor stabilized Ak
Bars’ defense and played great hockey. He brought that same level of hockey to
the U20 WJC. He was responsible on defense, and also joined in on offense at the
right moments. Igor led all defensemen in goals with two and showed a knack for
quarterbacking the power-play and great passing ability. Igor did have a poor
showing at the last game vs. Canada. He was on the ice every time the Canadian
team scored and Vladimir Plyuschev even benched him during the first period.
Anton Volchenkov was the better defenseman in this tournament, but Knyazev
impressed everyone and was named to the first all-star team.
Draft Status: New York Rangers 2001 NHL Entry Draft (34th overall)
Games: 7 G:1 A:0 Pts:1 PIM:2 +/-: +4 (7-3)
Prior to the tournament, there was a great concern that the Russian team will
not have the chance to utilize its talented players that have crossed the ocean
to North America since the draft. Those concerns were lifted when Fedor Tyutin
was given permission to leave his OHL team and agreed to join Team Russia.
Fedor played on Russia’s first line along with Igor Knyazev. Though he was
given a lot of ice time and opportunities on the power play, the real Fedor
Tyutin did not show up until the game against Finland in the semi finals. Part
of the reason for his behavior could have been the coaching instructions he
received. It appears Tyutin was given the defensive defenseman assignment,
while Igor Knyazev fulfilled the offensive responsibilities of the first
defensive pairing. It is unclear as to how happy Fedor was with his role. He
did not show the tenacity and physical presence that he was know for from the
U18 WJC last May and from his days with SKA St. Petersburg in the Russian Super
League. In the quarterfinals Fedor scored his only goal and only point of the
tournament, which is quite strange for a player who scored a lot in the OHL all
season. Judging by his play, one observer at the tournament went as far as to
say that Tyutin “had not developed in the OHL at all, maybe even declined”.
Despite all the lackluster aspects of his offensive game, Fedor did lead all
Russian defensemen with the +/- of +4.
Draft Status: Ottawa Senators 2000 NHL Entry Draft (22nd overall)
Games: 7 G:1 A:3 Pts:4 PIM:10 +/-: +3 (5-2)
Anton Volchenkov was Team Russia’s captain and he fit the role very well. A
leader on and off the ice, he showed up every game. Anton played physical
hockey and did not make any mistakes in his own zone. Vladimir Plyuschev used
him extensively on the first defensive pairing with Denis Grebeshkov in almost
every situation. He got lots of ice time on even strength, power play and short
handed. The Volchenkov-Grebeshkov-Frolov-Nepriayev-Polushin line was Russia’s
first power play unit. Anton’s four points lead Russia’s defensemen. According
to an observer, he played well offensively, passing the puck well and using his
hard shot. One other observation another observer made was that Anton was a bit
overweight and needed to lose a few pounds to improve his mobility. Overall,
Anton was one of Russia’s top players. He was named to the tournament’s second
All Star team and proved he earned the captaincy.
Draft Status: Eligible for the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Games: 7 G:1 A:2 Pts:3 PIM:0 +/-: +3 (4-1)
Denis Grebeshkov played on the second defensive pairing with the team’s captain,
Anton Volchenkov. Denis was very mobile, displaying great puck handling and
skating ability. Denis showed a lot of hockey sense and impressive vision of
the ice. He however was not very physical and according to an observer from the
tournament, he needs to bulk up and add some upper body strength. Denis also
did not shoot the puck enough. According to an observer from the tournament,
Denis was benched in the second period of the final game against Canada for
unknown reasons. He did return in the third period, which leads to the
possibility that he could have been injured.
Games: 7 G:0 A:1 Pts:1 PIM:2 +/-: -1 (3-4)
Maxim had a good tournament. He played on the third defensive pairing with Team
Russia’s assistant captain Vladimir Korsunov. In the tournament, Maxim was a
dependable defensive defenseman without much offensive upside. Maxim played on
the second power play and shorthanded units, but did not get much ice time on
the power play, as Volchenkov-Grebeshkov-Knyazev-Tyutin played most of the time
in those situations. He played solid defense for the most part, but was prone
to making mistakes in some games. Maxim played physical hockey, though he will
need to bulk up to sustain it at a higher level. Offensively, Maxim did have a
couple of impressive passes down the ice, but did not show much else.
Games: 7 G:0 A:2 Pts:2 PIM:6 +/-: -2 (2-4)
Vladimir Korsunov was the offensive minded defenseman that complemented Maxim
Kondratiev on the third defensive pairing. Vladimir played well on offense, but
he needs to improve his defensive skills. According to an observer from the
tournament, he also needs to work on his skating, — Alexander’s strides
appeared to be uneven and he would move faster with improved foot-speed.
Vladimir was one of two assistant captains for the Russian team, which in it’s
displayed the coach’s faith and team’s trust in his leadership abilities.
Vladimir played physical hockey, but he lacked the strength sufficient for
effective body checking. He often used his stick to stop the opponent and on
several occasions got called for crosschecking. Vladimir’s place on the team
was in accordance to his abilities. He was the fifth or sixth best defenseman
on the team.
Games: 5 G:0 A:1 Pts:1 PIM:6 +/-: +4 (4-0)
Andrei Zabolotnev is a defensive defenseman. He stayed in his own zone the
entire tournament. According to one observer he appeared to be eager to mix it
up physically, but on some occasions did not think an action through before
acting on it and caused his team some grief. Despite his eagerness to play the
physical game, Andrei’s smaller size reduced his effectiveness. Nevertheless,
not a single goal was scored against Team Russia while he was on the ice.
Games: 3 G:0 A:0 Pts:0 PIM:6 +/-: -2 (0-2)
Vladimir Sapozhnikov paired up with Zabolotnev on Team Russia’s fourth defensive
pairing. He, along with Zabolotnev received very limited ice time. Unlike
Zabolotnev, Sapozhnikov did not make the most of his ice time and had a sub par
tournament. He finished with a poor -2 +/- rating and was scratched for all
but three games. He was slow on the ice and did not show any of the expected
offensive upside. He really was Russia’s 8th defenseman.