Monday, August 27, 2007

The Canada/Russia SuperSeries

Well, I'm not going to lie to ya. I am eagerly anticipating this series. Sure, I wasn't around in 1972... but I love junior hockey and of course, the Canada/Russia rivalry is synonymous with excellent hockey.

There are lot of players going into this tournament who are going to be big deals when it comes to future hockey pools and if some NHL teams continue their streak of giving young talent an early start in the league, we may see some names kickin' about in the coming season.

Between the two teams, the rosters will comprise of players between three draft classes... 2006, this past summer's 2007 and next summer's 2008 class. The 2006 class look to be full of names who may find an impact on their NHL team sooner rather than later.

Monday's starter for Canada, Steve Mason, will shine for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the coming years. Mason has a great chance to show off his OHL record-breaking skills on an international stage. In Columbus, the goaltending situation could have an open spot for a kid like Mason. With only Norrena and Leclaire to really tend the nets, Columbus could use a guy who can take on a steady job.

Jonathan Bernier will probably get a shot in net for the Canadians at a point or two and he should also get some serious consideration to step into the Los Angeles Kings starting rotation through camp as well. Bernier, who was amazing in net for Lewiston in the Memorial Cup tournament, has a contract to play for the Kings for the next few seasons.

Calgary is going to need a backup to Kiprusoff this season and although there are a couple good candidates coming to camp, Leland Irving might get a good look after this tournament. Darryl might have his brother give Irving a good test for scouting his ability, which he is expected to do well in. It's pretty exciting to see the goaltending situation for Team Canada.

There's only one Russian prospect drafted by an NHL team, Semen Varlamov. The Washington Capitals made him a 2nd round selection in 2006 and he has signed a deal with the Caps this summer. He'll get a great look as he'll probably take the reigns for most of the games. With Kolzig still in the hot seat in Washington, at least management knows they have a ringer in Varlamov.

The next place you want to look for your future pool talent is up front. The Canadians have a boatload of drafted talent, moreso than the Russians, because of the lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. That isn't to say the Russians don't have drafted talent, because they do.

The Boston Bruins dominate the numbers of Canadian forwards with three players taking part. Zach Hamill, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are all Bruin draft picks and all have their own individual talents that will make them useful in the series. Hamill and Lucic will probably be your best bets for pool-worthy kids in the future, but they probably won't jump right away.

For the Russians, the Rangers have the two most offensive forwards signed on to their system. Alexei Cherepanov and Artem Anisimov could be the most gifted Russians on the ice through this series and the Rangers drafted them quite high in their respective years. Cherepanov is quite possibly the highest touted player for the Russians and it will be interesting to see if he does the business against Canada.

On the blueline, both teams have lots of talent, but it's Canada again have more talent drafted than the Russians, but that isn't to say that the Russians won't be under-manned in this series.

The Capitals have a pair of blueliners on the Canadian team, including the only returning defenseman from the last World Junior tourney, Karl Alzner. Alzer is joined by Josh Godfrey, both will bring great elements to the Caps, who are in need of some help on the back end, since they're already stacking up in the offensive end.

The two drafted Russian defensemen were both apart of the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL last season and both New Jersey and Dallas have them signed on. Kiril Tulupov and Ivan Vishnevsky are both big talents and they should both be in the running for a number six spot for their teams.

This series and the World Junior tourney is usually a great indicator of up and coming talent, which is why the Opiated Sherpa is always a big fan. It gives ya a leg up on a few names if you'd care to remember.

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