Team Russia has the advantage of being the host country in the upcoming 2013 World Junior Championship, but that’s certainly not the only thing they have going for them.
Russia announced its finalized roster for the upcoming tournament and it looks very impressive.
“Russia is always strong and this year’s team is as strong as the gold medal-winning group two years ago,” NHL Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb, told NHL.com. “The goaltending is better now.”
Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko will headline the squad after helping the country earn a silver medal last year. Yakupov and Grigorenko were selected with the first and 12th picks respectively in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Andrei Vasilevski, who the Tampa Bay Lightning took with the 19th overall selection in 2012, will also be returning after posting a 2.01 GAA and .953 save percentage in last year’s tournament.
Hockey fans might also want to keep an eye on Valeri Nichushkin. NHL Central Scouting ranked him first among Russian skaters eligible for the 2013 draft.
“He’s a big, strong two-way winger,” Stubb said. “He’s tough to stop when driving to the net from either wing — a defenseman’s nightmare in one-on-one situations when at top speed. He handles the puck well in traffic, makes good decisions in those situations. Has a high overall skill level and moves well for a big guy. Smooth hands. Good playmaker.”
Russia will play against the United States on Dec. 28 and Canada on Dec. 31.