2003 WJC Preview: Team Russia

By Eugene Belashchenko

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Russia’s Potential Downfall: Anton Babchuk vs. Vladimir Korsunov

When Anton Babchuk’s name wasn’t on the
training camp invitee list it was a huge surprised not only for those on this
side of the ocean, but also those in

tyle=”font-size:8.5pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black”>Russia close to
the team.  Anton would have provided the team a strong physical presence for
Russia, as well as a booming shot from the blue line.   One justification of his
absence could have been the physical brand of hockey brought to the table by
Vladimir Korsunov. However, now that Vladimir is off Russia’s roster with a back
injury, there is a gaping hole in Russia’s defensive corps.   One would think
that Anton deserved a tryout spot more then say, Leonid Zvachkin. Not to take
away anything from Zvachkin’s game, Anton would have been a smarter choice. 


Biggest surprises
that did not make it: Dmitri Semin, Alexander Golovin, Alexander Shinin

Out of the players invited to the training and
left off the final roster, these three seem to be the bigger surprises. 
Alexander Golovin
would be the least obvious of the three, since he spent
most of the season off Avangard’s roster. However, when he was finally given the
chance after the November break, Alexander scored a couple of key goals for
Avangard in the last games of the regular season before the December break. 
Dmitri Semin
established himself as a presence in the Super League during
the first half of the Super League season while skating for Spartak.  He has
been among Spartak’s scoring leaders throughout the season and though his role
has diminished since November’s reorganization of the team, Dmitri definitely
had a lot of speed, skill and experience to offer.  Alexander Shinin was
a surprising omission from U20 Team

roster. He has been an offensive presence for Team Russia at a couple of earlier
U20 tournaments and has played well for Severstal Cherpovets.  Alexander was
surprisingly overlooked at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and this does not help his
case for 2003, though his solid play at the other tournaments and with Severstal
still makes him a solid choice. 


Biggest surprises
of those that did make it: Dmitri Pestunov, Denis Ezhov and Dmitri Fakhrutdinov

U20 Team
Russia’s final
roster selections saw a few fresh, surprising faces.  Dmitri Pestunov was
the youngest player, besides Ovechkin,  invited to the training camp and went on
to beat out Dmitri Semin for the final centrеman spot on the team. Dmitri has
been consistently playing for Metallurg Magnitagorsk in the Super League and has
already made a lot of fans in Magnitagorsk with his great hockey sense and
poise.   Defenseman Dmitri Fakhrutdinov has been a sort of a Super League
revelation thus far this season.  After spending most of the previous few years
in obscurity amongst the ranks of Yaroslavl’s young players, ’83 born Dmitri
earned a roster spot on Lokomotiv’s defensive corps and competed surprisingly
well on Super League’s best team.  He came to camp as an underdog and by it’s
conclusion, he ended up with a roster spot.   Dmitri is not a physically
imposing player and will not likely contribute offensively. He is another
amongst many of Russia’s work horses. Alexander Shinin may have been a better
choice, as he is bigger and would have contributed more offensively.  Defenseman
Denis Ezhov closes out the list of surprises for Team

As Pestunov, he is also an ’85 player.  Nothing has gone right for him thus far
this year, and this is most definitely a good turn of events for him.  Prior to
being invited to join Team Russia in Canada, Denis has spent the season playing
for Lada’s junior affiliate, not receiving a single invitation to join the main
squad.  During Team Russia’s training camp, Denis was visiting North America
with Lokomotiv’ s junior team and competing against various Canadian junior
squads.  His familiarity with his Lada’s, and now Team Russia’s teammate Maxim
Kondratiev, possession of a visa and proximity to Russia’s base in Sydney,
Canada, made Denis an attractive choice to replace Vladimir Korsunov.  The move
also helps to boost his pre draft rankings, as the scouts will now be able to
see him first hand, competing against players up to two years older then him. 



Line 1:  Alexander Polushin – Yuri Trubachev –
Alexander Ovechkin

Line 2: Alexander Perezhogin – Andrei Taratukhin – Igor Grigorenko

Line 3: Sergei Anshakov – Alexei Kaigorodov – Nikolai Zherdev

Line 4: Yevgeniy Artyukhin – Dmitri Pestunov – Timofei Shishkanov


The Russian squad has four even lines, each
capable of scoring many goals.  The team doesn’t have an obvious checking line,
though both the second and fourth lines can fulfill those duties.  Yevgeniy
Artyukhine will be the obvious choice to get the call during a physical game.
Other guys who can play physical hockey and deliver a hit would be Taratukhin,
Grigorenko and Pestunov.  It will be very difficult for the opposition to slow
down this offensive unit.  Polushin – Trubachev – Ovechkin has been the most
productive line in international U20 competition.  Perezhogin and Grigorenko
have spent the first four months of this season competing against adult players
at the EuroTour international tournaments.   Artyukhin and Shishkanov have spent
the first four months getting used to the smaller North American ice surface. 
Overall the forwards have so much punch, it will be very interesting to see how
their opponents hope to stop them. 



Defensive Pairing 1: Denis Grebeshkov – Fedor

Defensive Pairing 2: Konstantin Korneev – Kiril Koltsov

Defensive Pairing 3: Denis Ezhov – Maxim

Defensive Pairing 4: Dmitri Fakhrutdinov –
Mikhail Lyubushin 



defensive corps is strong but lacks the physical presence it would have had with
Korsunov and Babchuk.  Now Tyutin and Lyubushin will be

physical presence on the blue line and that is not as comforting as having guys
like Babchuk or Korsunov delivering bruising hits.   Ezhov and Fakhrutdinov are
unproven and new to the U20 National Team and it remains to be seen whether they
can develop chemistry with their defensive partners.  Offensively,

will be blistering with weapons. With the exceptions of Lyubushin and
Fakhrutdinov, all of Russi
a’s defensemen are offensive threats. 



Starting Goalie: Andrei Medvedev

Backup Goaltender: Konstantin Barulin

Medvedev appears to have secured the starting spot on the U20 Russian squad,
despite getting pulled half way through the second game against the Soviet
Wings.  He has a good track record in the past, but it remains to be seen if he
can remain consistent throughout the tournament.  With a capable back up like
Konstantin Barulin – it is likely that Ishmatov will have a much more sensitive
trigger finger to pull Medvedev at an early sign of a falter.