2022 IIHF World Juniors Preview: Russia

2022 IIHF World Juniors Preview: Russia

by December 24, 2021 0 comments

Now that Russia has announced its roster for the 2022 IIHF World Juniors, they are looking to grab a medal of some kind. But, of course, gold is always preferable; it has been ten years since they last brought home the gold. Last year, they lost to Canada in the semifinal and then to Finland in the bronze medal game.

Looking at their roster, it is not that difficult to notice that there are several surprising omissions from their list. On the surface, Russia appears to have deliberately not chosen any player currently in North America. Yan Kuznetsov, Daniil Chayka, and Ivan Miroshnichenko come to mind when thinking about who should be there but are curiously missing from the roster. Miroshnichenko is actually projected to go early in the 2022 NHL draft.

Of course, the coach Sergei Zubov stated their reasons as to why players were excluded from the team. They feel as if they have the players needed to get them where they want to go. However, if you look at the team’s composition, it’s clear they decided to go with players who chose to stay and not go abroad to play. It’s a bold strategy that will have to wait until their final game to declare it a success or failure.

Make sure to check out all of our other IIHF World Juniors Previews.

Forward Group

Matvei Michkov will be someone to watch out of this group of forwards. He’s been dominating Russia’s junior league and is thought to be a high first-round pick at the 2023 NHL Draft. Vasily Ponomaryo is returning this year and currently has 11 points in 16 games in the VHL. Other notable forwards are Marat Khusnutdinov, Nikita Chibrikov, and Alexander Pashin, all of whom will be leaned on just as much as Michkov and Ponomaryo.

Chibrikov brings speed and puck handling, and Khusnutdinov has excellent hockey IQ and speed. Out of the fourteen forwards, there are eight players who have been drafted already in the HNL, and one is eligible for the 2022 draft and another for the 2023 draft. The remaining four are undrafted.

While Russia has a good dependable group of forwards, players such as Daniil Gushchin, Matvei Petrov, and Miroshnichenko will be noticeably missing from the ice. All of them are having outstanding seasons thus far and could have been a boost to the offense.

Defenseman Group

Shakir Mukhamadullin and Kirill Kirsanov are set to defend the blue line, and the remaining defensemen will fall in line behind them. Mukhamadullin returns, bringing his ability to move the puck. Kirsanov brings speed and breakout ability to the table for Russia. He’s also great at distributing the puck. Nikita Novikov is also set to defend the blue line for Russia; he’s good in his own end but still has a lot to prove despite being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.

There’s still a glaring hole in Russia’s defense despite having three decent defensemen. Their decision to not include some of the best defensemen available is sure to be a detriment to achieving a medal this year. Chayka has enjoyed a successful season in the OHL, and Kuznetsov has experience at the NCAA, AHL, and QMJHL levels. Artyom Grushnikov was also left off the roster for the team, despite playing for one of the OHL’s best teams and being a second-round pick to the Dallas Stars in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Goaltending Trio

Yaroslav Askarov, Yegor Guskov, and Maxim Motorygin have been chosen to be the netminders. Askarov will be the starter of these three, making this his third appearance in this tournament. He was drafted 11th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and currently has a .904 save percentage for SKA in five starts this season. Askarov is Russia’s best option for the netminder, and he’s capable of stealing games.

Gushkov holds a .915 save percentage with a 7-3-2 record and is thought to be a shoo-in for the backup position. It’s doubtful that  Motorygin will see ice time unless there’s an injury or an utter lack of ability to defend the net.

Player to Keep an Eye On

Matvei Michkov, 17, Right Wing, SKA-Varyagi, MHL/ 2023 NHL Draft Eligible

Michkov can compete in all zones and is considered a great finisher. In addition, he has an ability to pull off lacrosse-style goals, and it was in full view during the U-18 World Championship. Last season, he had 56 points in 56 games in the Russian U-20 division. He’s making a name for himself and is being compared to Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, and Pavel Bure.

He’s dominant with the puck; Michkov also has the ability and skill to play against older, more experienced players. He has so much potential, and he makes it look effortless no matter who he’s playing against; there’s no visible struggle to keep up with the opposing team. Michkov is a rising star, who, if not this year, then next year will be a dominant part of Russia’s team at the tournament.

Tournament Outlook

In light of Russia’s choice to not include players currently in North America, it’s challenging to evaluate and project where they will finish. They will have a difficult road ahead of them without players who would have been a better choice and fit for the team. Each year the tournament is becoming more competitive, and the degree of difficulty in bringing home a medal increases.

Coach Zubov believes they have the strongest players; they are the ones who have been training in Russia. However, if they fail to bring home the goals or any medal, will the national pride stance be more important than what they lose? The answer can only be found deep in the heart of each member of the team.

Prediction for Russia: Non-medal placement

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