Team Belarus surprisingly made the final round in the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia where it lost to Finland in a tight game that exhausted the both teams. This success was rather predictable not only because Belarus had a solid coach in Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon, but also because it was led by gifted prospects Mikhail Grabovsky and Andrei Kostitsyn, both selected by Montreal. Hanlon, a former goaltender, had previously served as an assistant coach for the Canadian National Team at the 1998 World Hockey Championships.
Below is a look at how each prospect fared at the tournament.
Andrei Kostitsyn, RW (Montreal Canadiens)
Age: 21; Height: 6’1; Weight: 210
Team Belarus was the biggest sensation of the tournament, mostly thanks to the solid performance of Kostitsyn alongside Grabovsky, who carried their team to the quarterfinals. Kostitsyn can do all kinds of things on offense as well as on defense. He has a great vision of the ice, able to make long and accurate passes and shoot from every angle. Hanlon kept his top line on the ice for the better part of all games often taking timeouts just to let Kostitsyn and Grabovsky rest. Kostitsyn has a good size for a forward standing 6’1 and 210 lbs and tremendous speed with very good acceleration.
He finished the World Championship with one goal and four assists for five points in six games. The coaches in Montreal have to consider giving the 2003 first round pick more ice time and getting him involved with the special teams after such a performance.
Mikhail Grabovsky, LW (Montreal Canadiens)
Age: 21; Height: 5’11: Weight: 181 lbs
Grabovsky was the cornerstone of team Belarus not only on offense, but also on defense. He often had to cover back as his team made a heavy emphasis on defensive performance to contain the opposition’s forwards and accent on quick counter attacks. Grabovsky was filling too many holes on his team. He was starting the offense with sharp passes, looking for the rebounds in front of the net. Grabovsky had to do the bulk of the work on power play and execute his duties along the boards to prevent his opponents from delivering the puck into his team’s zone. He showed good recovery ability as he didn’t get too weary during the intense tournament.
Grabovsky was the go-to player on his team with most of the passes going in his direction. He was given the freedom to shoot whenever he deemed necessary and he was doing just that, regularly testing the opposition goalies’ alertness. He led his team with five goals and added four more assists for nine points in seven games.
Grabovsky, as well as his team, had a great tournament and kept up the good work he was doing during the regular season with Dynamo Moscow. He should be ready for a move to North America.
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