Team Russia shocked the world by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the gold medal game against Canada to win the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship one year ago. Tremendous coaching, discipline, and a lot of luck made a good team great. Several players also proved that they were the real deal, including Dmitry Orlov (currently playing in Washington), Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues prospect currently ranked fifth in KHL in goals), Maxim Kitsyn (KHL’s Metallurg Novokuznetsk), Artemy Panarin (Vityaz), and — the youngest of the bunch — Evgeny Kuznetsov. Role players from last year’s team, Nikita Dvurechenski (KHL’s Vityaz), Anton Burdasov (third-line center on the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk), and Nikita Pivtsakin (KHL’s Avangard Omsk), have also graduated to become full-time KHL players.
Unfortunately, age eligibility rules have forced a drastic change to Russia, who is looking to repeat as champions for the first time since 2002 and 2003. The only returning player is Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzya, the captain wearing #25, is sure to be a major key to success for the Russians. He’s played in the tournament before, scored, and assisted on clutch goals.
Kuznetsov’s been very successful at the professional level this year: he leads the KHL in game-winning goals (5), scored the game-winner in the Karjala Cup, and plays on the first line of the Russian league’s best team, Traktor Chelyabinsk.
Kuzya multi-tasks while talking to the media Tuesday.
The KHL is currently taking the week off so that the Russian National Team can participate in the upcoming Karjala Cup, an annual tournament held in Finland where the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, and Russia all face off against one another. 19-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was invited to play on the National Team and joined his teammates in Novogorsk, Moscow Region to prepare for their first game Thursday.
Despite the fact that the team is filled with stars such as Alexander Radulov and Vladmir Tarasenko, Kuznetsov — who was working out at the time — was mobbed by journalists during his media availability. In interviews to both Sovetsky Sport and Sport-Express, the gifted and versatile forward discussed his NHL plans, gossiped about the latest KHL news, and mused on what it will be like to play center again during the four day tourney.
Below the jump, check out my translation of the interview.
Photo credit: Reuters
Mikael Granlund’s eye-popping goal was all Finland needed to best Russia for the second time this week, but the Finns still plied on while Russia’s offense looked lifeless. The 3-0 loss for Russia ends their chance at gold — they will face the Czech Republic for bronze Sunday at 10:00 AM Eastern Time — while Finland will move onto the championship game against Sweden.
Alex Ovechkin was more of a factor Friday than any other game in the tournament, though unluckily for him, in a negative way. The Great Eight was called for two slashing penalties after poking Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen on multiple occasions, while failing to convert on great chances to score. He finished the game a minus-one while registering five shots on goal and 18:31 of ice time. In five games since joining the team, Ovi has neither scored a goal or tallied an assist. Ouch.
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