Russian entry in 2006 Canada-Russia Challenge

By Eugene Belashchenko

For the fourth season in a row, the Russian Hockey Federation is sending an U20 squad to Canada to compete against the best players Canadian juniors can offer in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. In the past, Russia did not bring the “A” U20 squad, as a lot of the players on the team compete professionally in Russia and remain there to fulfill their duties in the Super League (Russia 1). Unfortunately, this season is no different, as Russia is again bringing over a weaker team. The 1987-born squad overall may not be as strong as the past U20 teams, so this should not be a surprise. The team does include a number of players who have skated for the squad in the past two tournaments.

DEFENSE: Defensively the Russian squad is missing Vitali Anikienko (OTT), Yuri Alexandrov (BOS), Vyacheslav Buravchikov (BUF), though it does have Andrei Zubarev (ATL), and a few potential risers. If you add Ivan Vyshnevsky (DAL) from the juniors and possibly Kirill Tulupov (NJ) – there may be some sort of a chance, but the team is ill-prepared to face the physical presence of North American juniors.

OFFENSE: There are a large number of national team players missing, so the squad appears to be weak offensively as well. From the top echelon, the team is missing names such as – Ilya Zubov (OTT), Igor Makarov (CHI), Artem Anisimov (NYR), Alexander Vasyunov (NJ), Gennadi Churilov, Alexander Bumagin (EDM), Artem Krysanov (PHO). Really, some players should have been here, as they are not currently making as much of an impact with their clubs. Furthermore solid, but undrafted Super League and juniors contributors such as Mikhail Glukhov, Alexander Kucheryavenko and Anton Glovatsky are also missing. Some of these players may have surprised the Canadian audiences and still might if they make the U20 World Championships roster. However, we can still hold out hope that this may present an opportunity for some of the secondary members of the U20 squad to surprise and impress at the tournament.

GOALTENDING: This may actually be the squad’s primary strength, as it has been in the past years. Ilya Proskuryakov has been playing very well lately. He has good potential. Nikita Bespalov is a bit of an enigma with potential, but could also help the team out.

GOALTENDERS:

Proskuryakov, Ilya 21.02.1987 HC Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Proskuryakov is a talented young goalie who has really come up this season in his potential and ability. He has been doing well for Russia’s national team and actually outshined Varlamov at the early November tournament. Still, Varlamov has more potential and may have been tired on that one occasion. He also backed up Trevor Scott in the Super League and even played in one game, doing well. He will need to have an amazing tournament for Russia to put him ahead, but he is favored to be the backup for the U20 WJC.

Bespalov, Nikita 28.12.1987 HC CSKA Moscow
This young netminder has potential but he has not yet fulfilled the expectations placed on him a couple of seasons back when he was considered a rising netminder. He could fall by the wayside as Borisov did a couple of years back, but may still develop into a solid Super League goalie. Thus far this year he played for CSKA’s farm club.

DEFENSEMEN:

Shvalev, Aleksei 25.05.1987 HC Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
This young defenseman broke into the Super League last season after surpassing Anikienko as the team’s U20 defenseman. However, he is yet to see ice time in the Super League this season. He has never been a top-notch guy, but did show some potential and reliability last season.

Osipov, Denis 09.05.1987 HC Soviet Wings Moscow
Osipov has received a good amount of ice time in the Super League this season – his club’s first back in the Super League. He has played against adults for the past three seasons (two in the High League) and may be better prepared for this level of competition, but still is another average blueliner without much size.

Romanov, Stanislav 14.05.1987 HC Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Romanov spent most of last season in the juniors in Russia, but did manage to play a few games for Lokomotiv. This year the club loaned him to Dizelist Penza – its High League (Russia 2) professional farm team. This is a stepping stone to get into the Super League. He has average size and doesn’t really stand out much.

Lange, Andrei 04.12.1987 HC Metallurg Novokuznetsk
Lange is coming back to the tournament for the second time. He is not physical, but has the size to compete against the boards. He also has two seasons of Super League experience behind his belt. A defensive defenseman, he might be one of the club’s “veteran” leaders.

Zubarev, Andrei (ATL) 03.03.1987 HC Ak Bars Kazan
This is Russia’s top defenseman who may surprise a lot of North Americans as Dmitry Megalinsky did a couple of seasons back. He has great size and loves the physical game. He can also contribute a bit on the offense. He has not seen much Super League ice time this season, but he excelled last year, and played well at the U20 WJC.

Zubov, Igor 04.07.1988 HC Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Considered one of the better Russian defensive prospects in last year’s draft, yet he went undrafted. However, being one of the better defensemen in that crop after Alexandrov and Vyshnevsky did not mean nearly as much as in the past years. So, while this blueliner has much potential and could be the third or fourth-best 88-born defenseman in Russia, don’t expect that much from him at this tournament.

FORWARDS:

Shipachev, Vadim 12.03.1987 HC Severstal Cherepovets
Shipachev is part of the HC Severstal farm system and delivered a solid showing at the U20 tournament earlier this season in September. He has offensive talent, but not much should be expected from him in this tournament, as he has yet to prove enough in Russia.

Kazionov, Denis 8.12.1987 HC Podolsk MVD
Contrary to published lists, this is actually an 87 born player drafted by Tampa Bay last year, who interestingly also drafted his older 84-born brother Dmitri Kazionov. Denis is a strong skater and handles the puck well. However, he is not very smart with the puck all the time – his vision can be questionable. He did succeed in the Super League last season, but had more trouble this year to break into the lineup or produce. Still, he has two Super League seasons under his belt.

Kalyanin, Aleksander 24.09.1987 HC Lokomotiv Yaroslav
Kalyanin was fairly highly touted before the last draft, but was overlooked. He was a long-time 87-born national team member, though he failed to make the U18 WJC squad. This year Lokomotiv loaned him to Dizelist Penza to get professional experience in Russia’s secondary High League. It remains to be seen if he can make the U20 squad in December. He has potential, and has good chemistry with Kiryukhin along with pretty good size – 6’1 and about 200 pounds. He had a good performance in the juniors last season (39 points in 41 games).

Milovzorov, Egor 19.11.1987 HC Sibir Novosibirsk
Milovzorov is another smaller speedy forward who has seen Super League action for two seasons now. But has been scoreless in 14 games for HC Sibir. He has a potential upside, but will likely have trouble on the smaller ice.

Kiryukhin, Andrei 04.08.1987 HC Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Kiryukhin may prove to be a sniper on the team. He has been on Russia’s U20 national team this season and unlike his junior linemate Kalyanin, Lokomotiv has kept him around, giving him limited ice time in the Super League. Just like Kalyanin he ripped up the juniors last season (33 points in 36 games).

Zachupeyko, Sergei 05.01.1988 HC Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Zachupeyko is a hard-working young forward who may surprise. He rose in the rankings prior to last year’s draft, but did not get selected. He was one of Russia’s best at the U18 WJC last season. This year he has been doing well for Salavat Yulayev’s junior club (20 points in just 17 games). He is also reliable defensively, but not very big, so we will see how he handles the physical pressure.

Zyuzin, Dmitri 21.10.1987 HC Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Younger brother of the NHL defenseman Andrei Zyuzin. Dmitri was highly touted last season as a contributor in the Super League, but faded away as the season went on. This year he had trouble breaking into Salavat Yulayev’s lineup, skating in only five games. He did score two goals, but this doesn’t mean much if he is not performing as the coach wants him to. He has also had trouble putting the puck in the net on the international level. He’s a marginal forward, but one with Super League experience who will hopefully provide some leadership.

Mikhno, Nikita 17.08.1987 HC Metallurg Novokuznetsk
A speedy little forward who has some skill, but has yet to show much in Russia.

Tikhonov, Viktor 12.05.1988 HC Severstal Cherepovets
Grandson of the legendary CSKA coach, Viktor actually has played in North America before in the US (San Jose area). He speaks good English and has really grown in the past year (to about 6’3 or so). This young man was very strong in the High League with HC Dmitrov, but really needs to work on his skating. Hopefully he has improved since last season. He has only gotten marginal ice time with HC Severstal this year.

Shibaev, Aleksandr 18.04.1987 HC Soviet Wings Moscow
Shibaev has skated 13 games in the Super League, with some success though getting limited ice time. He’s a scorer of sorts, but will be a marginal member of this squad.

The tournament kicks off on Nov. 20 in Rouyn-Noranda and concludes Nov. 30 in Kamloops.