Last week, I speculated about the rosters for Canada and the U.S., at the upcoming World Junior Championship being held in Regina and Saskatoon, Sask. But this ain’t a two-team tournament, so let’s take a look at some of the prominent Europeans stars who will light up the prairie rinks come Boxing Day.
The biggest name now available for the tourney is new Red Army star Nikita Filatov. The latest Russian rocket has four goals and six points in his first three Kontinental League games since leaving Columbus and will no doubt want to show North America what they’re going to be missing for the rest of the season.
And Filatov wont’ be alone. Also available from the KHL is big-time defenseman Dmitri Orlov (Washington) and a cadre of forwards such as Kirill Petrov (Islanders), Maxim Kitsyn (2010 draft eligible) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010 eligible). Sergei Ostapchuk, who played in the Quebec League for Rouyn-Noranda last year and now suits up for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, will be buoyed by his familiarity with North American ice, while Sibir’s Vladimir Tarasenko (2010 eligible) has put up the best numbers of any young KHLer this season with 15 points in 25 games.
Canadian League imports such as Dmitri Kugryshev (Washington) and Alexander Burmistrov (2010 eligible) offer dynamic skills, though the Russians will miss Moncton’s Kirill Kabanov (wrist surgery and politics) and Saginaw’s Ivan Telegin (politics), not to mention Florida Panthers rookie Dmitry Kulikov.
In the same way, Sweden will have to fill a big hole left by Tampa’s Victor Hedman, but will return much of the silver-medal squad from last year. Fortunately for Tre Kronor fans, the team will be stacked in net with the tandem of Jacob Markstrom (Florida) and Robin Lehner (Ottawa), while the blueline will still be strong thanks to Tim Erixon (Calgary) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Phoenix). But the defenseman I’m really hoping to see in Saskatoon is Adam Larsson, who isn’t draft eligible until 2011, but already has 10 points in 24 games for the Eliteserien’s Skelleftea squad.
Up front, the Swedes are blessed with Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi (Edmonton), Jacob Josefson (New Jersey) and this year’s big surprise, Djurgarden’s Marcus Kruger (Chicago), among other young stars.
Finland is in a bit of a rebuilding phase with its youth, but the stars are beginning to align. Unfortunately, one of the brightest stars – 2010 draft candidate Teemu Pulkkinen – will likely miss the WJC due to injury. But Mikael Granlund (2010 eligible) will be there and I have to assume he’ll be reunited with international linemate Toni Rajala (Edmonton), who is going great guns in Brandon this year. Rajala has 22 points in 22 games for the Wheat Kings as a Western League rookie.
I’d also like to see Joonas Donskoi (2010 eligible) make the cut and based on the YouTube tributes to him (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLwPujIotk8), I’m sure a lot of other hockey fans would as well.
Defenseman Jyri Niemi (Islanders) plays for Saskatoon in the Dub, so he’ll be very comfortable on the Credit Union Centre ice, assuming the Finns make it out of the Regina round-robin. Harri Sateri (San Jose) was born just a few days early enough to still qualify for the tourney, so look for him in the Finnish net.
Slovakia will count on Windsor Spitfires right winger Richard Panik (Tampa Bay) and last year’s breakout player Tomas Tatar (Detroit) for offense, while the Czechs will counter with Victoriaville’s Andrej Nestrasil (Detroit) and Tomas Kubalik (Columbus).
Elsewhere, Switzerland has always been able to count on Nino Niederreiter (2010 eligible) for international points and now that he’s been playing in the Dub for Portland, he’ll be very comfortable on the Canadian ice. Roman Josi (Nashville) will be the big name on defense.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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