You love the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, and so do we! This year WJC enthusiast and good guy Mitch Giguere put together pre-scouts of six teams he thinks will make noise at this year’s tournament, which runs Sunday, December 26, 2021, to Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in Edmonton and Red Deer.
- Pre-Scout: Team Canada
- Pre-Scout: Team Sweden
- Pre-Scout: Team Finland
- Pre-Scout: Team Czech Republic
- Pre-Scout: Team Russia
- Pre-Scout: Team USA
This will be the third coach in four years now for Team Russia, and I can’t remember the last time I have seen this. Oleg Bratash was the Head Coach, but Team Russia has decided to go with Sergei Zubov as their Head Coach instead. Zubos was in the KHL before leaving for personal reasons this season. I am pretty sure he will bring something unique to the team. Having a lot of returning guys, and knowing what went wrong last year, I can see them bouncing back this year. Stats-wise a lot of players don’t jump off the page, so it will have to be a team effort to be successful. At their first training camp in November, where they were playing against other countries, the main message for the team was always move, play some active hockey and own the puck at all times.
In my opinion, what went wrong last year for this team was the lack of finish. Yes, they scored 16 goals in four games. But, I didn’t like how they missed so many chances off the rush. They were the best team in the WJC for carrying the puck and entering the zone (we can watch some of their rushes from last year). But after entering the zone, no finish, at all. Passing and moving is great, but passing and not getting to the net makes it difficult to score. Sometimes, waiting for the perfect opportunity can work against you, because sometimes it never develops, like last year. They have the basics and that’s good, but now they will have to bring more and put it all together. It will probably be our first chance as Canadian fans to see Ivan Miroshnichenko and Matvei Michkov play live. Both I think should be with the team and both will be high end draft picks in the next two upcoming NHL drafts. Hopefully we can see a face-to-face showdown between Miroshnichenko and Team Canada’s Shane Wright.
Update: Ivan Miroshnichenko didn’t make the team for this year WJC. Here’s what the Head Coach Sergei Zubov had to say about it: ”It was a tough decision to make. We held an individual conversation with each player who left our group, thanking all of them for their effort. Ivan Miroshnichenko wasn’t picked? He isn’t in the best physical condition at the moment. We haven’t chosen any players from the North American leagues? We were watching Yan Kuznetsov and Daniil Chayka, but we came to the conclusion that the players who have been training with us here in Russia are stronger defensively. The strongest players have been picked.”
The key player here will be Yaroslav Askarov, who is already playing in his third WJC. The team will go as far as he will take them, no matter who’s in front of him. With everyone healthy, they will have four returning defensemen from last year’s team. Three of them are playing pro hockey, two in the KHL (Mukhamadullin, Kirsanov) and one in the AHL (Kuznetsov). They have a combination of 160 pro games. That’s a lot pro games between their top three. We were able to have a sneak peek of the Russian team at the Four Nation Cup in November. I’ll say, they have a lot of things to work on but, they also didn’t have all the “best” players playing. Some of them were with the national team. We could see that without Askarov, they are only a good team and not a contender.
Let’s start with the best penalty killing team from the last WJC. With 90.00%, they had a lot of success on it. Being down for a total of 39:41 minutes and still having 90:00% is pretty good. With Askarov, I think they can be as good as they were last year. Your best player on the penalty killing is usually your goalie. I am intrigued on how they will perform this year.
I know I have said this before, but Askarov will dictate how far they will go and he will be the X-Factor for this team. If this team brings a lot of speed and are able to capitalize on their chances, I could see them going pretty far in this tournament. And what about the young players? They can always be an X-Factor.
Now, let’s watch some of their goals from the WJC 2021.
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