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Author: RussianProspects.com (RP Exclusive)Date: 05/06/2004
U18 World Junior Championships Player Performance Recaps Part 2: Forwards - Top Line (Shitikov - Malkin - Parshin)

2004 U18 World Junior ChampionshipsRussia’s top line started the tournament off a bit slow, but the offensive presence picked up significantly after the first couple of games. The higher level of competition and the larger, more physical opponents exposed the line’s primary downside – it’s relative lack of size past Malkin. Both Shitikov and Parshin were unable to effectively compete, especially in the games against the North American squads due to their relatively small size. Russian defenseman Kiril Lyamin made an effective debut on the national team and offset the first line’s size vows by often joining in on the rush and provided an additional element to Russia’s attack.

Below are the individual performance recaps and grades of each forward the U18 Russian National team’s top line. The grading scale is from one to five, with one being the worst possible grade and five being the best possible grade.

Evgeni Malkin C (Grade A-): Evgeny Malkin delivered an excellent performance. The talented center started the tournament off a bit slow, with his line struggling to put the puck in the net early in the tournament. As the tournament went on, Malkin’s production returned to normal, and the center finished second in scoring behind Roman Voloshenko. The young forward possesses a great combination of size, skill and hockey sense. He did not hesitate to throw his large frame around and often dictated the tempo of the game with his speed, passing and great puckhandling.

A big difference between the U18 WJC and the previous tournaments was the fact that Malkin was forced to carry his line a lot more than before. At the previous tournaments, which were mostly against European squads, his smaller linemates Parshin and Shitikov could hold their own physically against the opponents. The two young forwards, especially Parshin, struggled to adjust to the more physical hockey against bigger opponents. Malkin did effectively interact with Parhsin, who set up Malkin up on several occasions. He also played well with Kiril Lyamin, who often chipped in the offensive zone. Shitikov’s role was more that of clean up, as he scored most of his goals by collecting the rebounds near the crease and putting them in the net. While Malkin was effective in the earlier games of the tournament, he really revved up his game during the semifinals and finals games against Canada and the US. Against Canada, the talented center was a threat whenever he skated on the ice and set up an open net goal by Shitikov early in the game, and then scored a goal of his own.

Regardless of his production, which was impressive on its own, Malkin delivered a consistent presence at both ends of the ice and took a lot of pressure off his linemates, as well as the other lines with his play. The young forward was also very solid defensively throughout the tournament, logging a lot of time in shorthanded situations.

Denis Parshin LW (Grade B-): Denis Parshin did not have a bad tournament, but he did not deliver the type of a performance that was imperative to boost his draft rating. The concerns regarding the young forward’s size appear to have merit, as he had trouble adjusting to the higher level of competition against bigger, more physical opponents and did not play at the same level as he did at the Five Nations tournament in February. It wasn’t, however, due to the lack of trying, as Parshin did showcase his great puckhandling and above average skating. He tried to stay in the thick of the action, but the larger players often neutralized him. As usual, Parshin did form an impressive passing tandem with Malkin, and the two created some great combinations in the offensive zone. While Parshin did put together a good showing at the tournament, his lack of size became more apparent than ever, and hurt his overall draft position.

Dmitri Shitikov RW (Grade C): Dmitri Shitikov did not deliver a solid performance at the U18 WJC. Despite his poor showing at the February’s 5 Nations Tournament, Shitikov retained his spot on Russia’s top line. This was a stroke of fortune for the young forward, as he was given an opportunity to maximize his exposure to the NHL scouts. However, instead of showcasing his skills, Shitikov appeared to lack the speed he displayed just a year ago at the 2003 U18 WJC. He also made some poor decisions in the offensive zone, at times unwilling to share the puck with his linemates. Two of his three goals were very lucky, which is typical for Shitikov, who is known to be a finisher, who tends to wait by the net. His first goal was actually a passing attempt through the crease that went off a defenseman’s skate and through the unprepared goalie. The second goal was an accidental one-timer, where the young forward redirected a feed from Malkin.

Overall, Shitikov’s performance at the U18 WJC once again reinforced the perception that Shitikov’s success largely depends on his linemates. He is a fairly skilled forward with a great sense of the net, but he lacks the hockey sense, size or speed to be effective without playmaking linemates such as Malkin and Parshin.

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