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Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RP Exclusive)Date: 06/02/2004
U18 World Junior Championships Player Performance Recaps Part 4: Forwards - Third Line (Shirokov - Plyuschev - Lisin)

2004 U18 World Junior ChampionshipsRussia’s third line at the U18 World Junior Championships consisted of Sergei Shirokov, Alexander Plyuschev and Enver Lisin. The three young forwards remained relatively quiet throughout the tournament. This was partially due to the limited ice time they received, as the club’s coach Bragin dedicated the majority of the ice time to the top two lines. Beyond the ice time, the three players did not seem to play as well with each other as they did at some previous tournaments. Still, the third line did perform a purpose and often maintained the pressure on the opponent.

Sergei Shirokov LW (Grade: B-)
CSKA junior squad’s top sniper, Shirokov returned to the Shirokov-Plyuschev- Lisin line for the U18 World Junior Championships. He played aggressively, working hard throughout the tournament. Shirokov scored a very important goal for Russia in the semifinals, giving Russia an imperative two goal lead early on against Canada. Besides his immense offensive upside, the young forward also worked very hard on defense. The negative comments regarding the young forward’s game were his reduced interaction with his linemates and his struggle to finish plays and score. While there was never too much passing going on Russia’s third line, there was even less at the U20 WJC. Likely one of the most underrated players eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Sergei Shirokov took full advantage of his relatively limited role on Russia’s gold medal winning squad and showcased his wide array of skills.

Enver Lisin RW (Grade: C+)
Likely the best skater available for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Lisin did a bit of a disservice to his draft stock at the U18 WJC. The young forward seemed to lose his finishing touch, and the player, who once scored four goals in one game for Team Russia, scored just a single goal in the entire U18 WJC tournament. He seemed to struggle to read the developing plays and his decision making was not at it’s best. On some occasions, bad luck was a factor. For example, in one of the games Lisin and Shirokov had a two on one chance, Lisin carried the puck, took the defenseman and made a pass to Shirokov who could not cash in on the opportunity. The young forward did showcase his amazing speed and ability to outplay the opposition with his sheer talent. The time he spent in the High League has clearly helped him to develop physically and mentally. However, his performance at the World Junior Championships also indicates that the young winger needs to continue to improve his hockey sense. The talented young forward possesses world class skills and speed, but lacks the vision of the ice to fulfill his potential. The tournament has hurt his stock, dropping him to the end of the first round. While there have been comments made that Lisin may even drop into the second round, it is more likely that an NHL club will be too tempted late in the first round to draft him, rather than watch such a talented player slip through their grasp.

Alexander Plyuschev C (Grade: C)
Alexander Plyuschev once again centered Russia’s third line with Enver Lisin and Sergei Shirokov on his flanks. Unfortunately, he delivered a mediocre performance at the U18 WJC, showing off his raw skills, but not being able to put together an effective and productive performance. The young forward proved effective on face offs, and worked hard in the offensive zone. However, he did not share the puck all that often with his linemates, preferring to shoot it instead. He did showcase his solid speed, hands and a good wrist shot. Plyuschev’s hesitance to help out defensively, his biggest shortcoming, held true once again during this tournament. Since defense is one of the key responsibilities of a center, this is where he needs to drastically improve to continue playing this position at higher levels. Overall, the young forward did not perform as well as he did at the 5 Nations Tournament in February, but he still proved his ability to compete at a very high level. Alexander Plyuschev did not improve, though he did solidify his drafting position in the middle rounds.

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