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Author: Evgeny Belashchenko (RP Exlcusive)Date: 12/07/2004
U20 WJC Russian Roster Predictions: Forwards (In Depth Analysis)

2005 U20 World Junior ChampionshipsRUSSIA’S 2005 U20 WJC FORWARD CANDIDATES:
The following players are the likely candidates for Russia’s U20 WJC training camp roster. The players are split up into four categories. The " definite" players will be on Russia’s U20 WJC roster barring injury. The " likely" players will most likely be on Russia’s U20 WJC roster barring injury. The " possible" players will have a chance to make the roster, but most will likely be left in Russia. The " fringe" players will have very little chance to be on Russia’s team at the U20 WJC.

PREDICTED LINES:
Line 1: Alexander Ovechkin – Evgeni Malkin – Denis Parshin
Line 2: Konstantin Glazachev – Dmitri Pestunov – Enver Lisin
Line 3: Alexander Radulov – Mikhail Yunkov – Roman Voloshenko
Line 4: Sergei Ogorodnikov – Grigori Shafigullin – Konstantin Makarov
Spare: Alexander Nikulin

Definite Candidates (All will definitely make the U20 WJC roster barring injury):

Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins #2/2004) Center
Undoubtedly one of the most talented players to come out of Russia in the recent years, Malkin will be enjoying his second U20 WJC and will likely take over the center spot on the top line. Him and Ovechkin proved effective together at the 2003 U18 WJC, and Ovechkin’s production should most definitely benefit from playing with such a gifted playmaking center. Malkin has not let up after his rookie of the year 2003-04 season, coming into his own in the Super League (Russia 1), and becoming one Metallurg’s (Magnitogorsk) top forwards.

Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals #1/2004) Right Wing
For the third year in a row Alexander Ovechkin will be a center piece of Russia’s U20 national team. While Kovalchuk joined the national squad at just as young of an age, Ovechkin has clearly had more of an impact. Due to circumstances outside of the player’s control, he has been with the national team during every year of his eligibility, while Kovalchuk could not enjoy his final U20 WJC due to his NHL obligations. Ovechkin will be on Russia’s top line, and hopefully this tournament will mark the reunion of the young forward with another budding Russian super star – Evgeni Malkin. The two proved very effective at the 2003 U18 WJC. While Pestunov may be a talented young player, because of his small stature, he had difficulty playing against physical North American defensemen. His ineffectiveness allowed the opposition’s defense to concentrate on Ovechkin, and Malkin’s dangerous presence on the line would free Ovechkin from such pressure.

Denis Parshin (Colorado Avalance #72/2004) Left Wing
Denis Parshin meshes very well with Evgeni Malkin, and don’t be surprised if the skilled young forward will replace Dmitri Shitikov on the wing of Russia’s top line from the 2003 U18 WJC. Parshin’s speed, puck handling ability and vision of the ice will complement his partners and make Russia’s top line one of the most dangerous in years.

Dmitri Pestunov (Phoenix Coyotes 2003) Center
A seasoned center with extensive international experience on Russia’s U18 and U20 squads, Pestunov will likely hold the center position on Russia’s second line. He held the top center spot on the squad last year, but his lack of size has proven to be a problem, as the opposing teams were successful at neutralizing him and concentrating more on Alexander Ovechkin. Pestunov sees the ice well, and does not have any blaring weaknesses besides his size. He should enjoy a successful final U20 WJC of his career, albeit in a secondary role.

Alexander Radulov (Nashville Predators #15/2004) Right Wing
The dynamic right wing proved his ability quite well at the Canada-Russia Challenge tournament. The young forward dominated when he was reunited with his old line mates Yunkov and Voloshenko from last year’s U18 WJC. His presence on the squad is all but assured, and Radulov will add speed and scoring to Russia’s lineup.

Grigori Shafigullin (Nashville Predators #98/2003) Center
Shafigullin’s reduced ice time in the Super League (Russia 1) has caused some to forget about him. Yet, he still remains one of the best defensive centers eligible to play at the U20 WJC. He will not hold a major offensive role at the tournament, but will likely center Russia’s checking line and get significant ice time in short handed situations. The mobile and rangy center started the season off slow with Lokomotiv in the Super League, but has been in the club’s lineup more consistently during November.

Roman Voloshenko (Minnesota Wild #42/2004) Left Wing – If not for his impressive performance at the Canada-Russia Challenge tournament, Voloshenko would have been in the " likely" category. However, his impressive scoring touch, as well as his effectiveness with his U18 WJC line mates Radulov and Yunkov have all but assured the young Russian sniper a spot on the U20 WJC squad. Like Radulov, Voloshenko will bring scoring to Russia’s lineup.

Likely Candidates (All will likely make the U20 WJC roster barring injury):
Konstantin Glazachev (Nashville Predators #32/2003) Left Wing
Glazachev has embarked on his third Super League (Russia 1) season, but struggled to earn significant ice time with Lokomotiv. As a result, he was loaned to another Super League club, Sibir (Novosibirsk), where he has been a regular in the lineup. The young forward posesses impressive puckhandling skills and has improved his skating since being drafted. He was one of the key members of Russia’s U18 squad at the 2003 U18 WJC, but saw little action on the national team last season. He will likely be the third left wing in team Russia’s depth, behind Denis Parshin and Roman Voloshenko.

Enver Lisin (Phoenix Coyotes #50/2004) Right Wing
Prior to the 2004-05 season, Enver Lisin’s candidacy for the U20 squad would not have been questioned because of a lack of talent, but because of his decision making and inconsistency. He has put together an impressive Super League (Russia 1) rookie campaign with Ak Bars (Kazan), and has become one of the front runners for a spot on the U20 squad. Considering the fact that he remained in Russia for the 2004-05 season, Lisin may even have an inside track against Radulov for a spot on Russia’s second line, as Radulov will likely skate on the third line with Yunkov and Voloshenko. A speedy, technical forward, Lisin has also added more vesitility and maturity to his game this season.

Alexander Nikulin (Ottawa Senators #122/2004) Center
One of the more surprising Super League (Russia 1) rookies this season, Nikulin has come on strong since the November break in the regular season. The talented playmaking center has held a second line role on CSKA (Moscow), and has skated on Russia’s U20 squad at the 4 Nations Tournament in September. While Nikulin will not beat out Malkin or Pestunov for the top two spots on the squad, he will get a fair chance to compete for a supportive cast spot on the Russian national team that will travel to the US for the U20 WJC.

Sergei Ogorodnikov (New York Islanders #82/2004) Center/Wing
Ogordinov will likely accompany the team as a utility " spare part" forward. He proved last season during the U18 WJC that he was capable of filling in for injured players on any line, even replacing Malkin on the top line when the talented center was ejected from a game. Ogorodnikov has been consistently on Gersonsky’s radar, and while he won’t hold a leadership role on this team, he will contribute.

Mikhail Yunkov (Washington Capitals #62/2004) Center
Judging by the number of talented centers ahead of him, Yunkov would likely not be in the " likely" category. However, the likelihood of the dynamic Radulov – Yunkov – Voloshenko line to be kept together is high, and Russia’s coaching staff will not likely risk splitting the forwards up. A hard working center, Yunkov effectively complements his high scoring linemates. He sees the ice well and is strong defensively. Besides skating together on the international arena, Yunkov has also been skating together with Voloshenko in Russia’s High League (Russia 2) for the past two seasons.

Possible Candidates (Only one or two of the following blue liners will make Russia’s U20 WJC roster):
Alexander Galimov (2005 NHL Entry Draft) Center
Galimov has put up a surprisingly competitive fight against other U20 forwards on Lokomotiv’s roster and has at times wrestled away a roster spot from the likes of Shafigullin and Glazachev. The diminutive center’s hard work have made him marginally effective in the Super League, and merited him an invitation to Russia’s U20 national team. However, while he is likely to be invited to the training camp, he will have to work very hard to earn a roster spot.

Konstantin Makarov (2005 NHL Entry Draft) Left Wing
Makarov has an inside track for the final left wing spot on Russia’s roster, as he is an ’85 born player with a long track record of international experience that goes back to the 2003 U18 WJC. The young forward has made his Super League (Russia 1) debut this season with Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) with mixed success, remaining consistently in the lineup earlier in the season, but being a healthy scratch throughout November. He has skated for Russia at both U20 tournaments thus far this season, and is likely to be given the opportunity to make the squad.

Alexander Naurov (Dallas Stars) Right Wing
Naurov missed most of the 2003-04 season due to a leg injury, which must have been quite a disappointment for the talented young Dallas Stars draftee. The young forward regrouped, putting together a solid playoff performance during the latter part of the 2003-04 season, and was one of Lokomotiv’s top U20 players during the 2004-05 preseason. He made his Super League debut in September, but has had to share the ice time with other ’85 born Lokomotiv player. With Konstantin Glazachev being loaned to Sibir, Naurov’s ice time has increased. The young forward’s chances, however, suffered due to an average performance at the Canada-Russia Challenge, which was partially due to a wrist injury he suffered in the first game. Naurov’s candidacy for the national team is not completely dead, but he will have impress in training camp.

Sergei Shirokov (2005 NHL Entry Draft) Left Wing
While Shirokov possesses the skill to be a supporting cast member of Russia’s U20 squad, he is a year younger than his ’85 competitors and is not much better than them. Hence, he is left on the outside looking in. Inability to break into CSKA’s Super League roster are not helping the young forward’s case either. He should be at the training camp, but will likely be one of the last cuts.

Fringe Candidates (These players will not make the U20 WJC roster):
Viktor Alexandrov (St. Louis Blues #83/2004) Right Wing
Without a question, Alexandrov is a talented young winger. However, his candidacy is in not likely due to the uncertainty of his status with the IIHF. The young forward has never skated for Russia, but did skate for Kazakhstan at the U18 WJC a couple of years back. While he is in a sophomore slump this season after a strong 2004-05 season, talent wise he should still be on the team. However, there has been little talk of his candidacy, and he will likely not even receive an invitation to the training camp.

Dmitri Chenykh (New York Islanders #48/2003) Right Wing
A strong member of the Russian squad that won bronze at the 2003 U18 WJC, Chernkykh’s career is in a bit of slump right now. The young forward failed to fulfill the expectations placed on him by CSKA’s management last season, and the club quickly lost their patience and loaned him first to Metallurg (Novokuznetsk), and then to Molot (Perm). The young forward remains in Molot’s system, but is yet to play in a Super League game this season. He also seems to be forgotten by the national team’s management.

Ivan Khomutov (New Jersey Devils #93/2003)
Ivan Khomutov would significantly boost Russia's physical presence on the ice, but it is unlikely that the New Jersey Devils will let this skilled forward leave the NHL club's AHL affiliate in Albany.

Maxim Pestushko (2005 NHL Entry Draft) Right Wing
Pestushko has a marginal chance of making Russia’s U20 roster for the simple fact that he is a two season Super League (Russia 1) veteran. He has enjoyed consistent ice time with Neftkhimik this season, but his lack of size will make him unsuitable for the checking line, and since most of the other spots in the lineup will already be filled in, Pestushko will likely be one of the earlier cuts from Russia’s training camp roster.

Alexander Rybakov (2005 NHL Entry Draft) Center
Rybakov has seen some action with the Super League’s Ak Bars (Kazan). However, the last time he skated for Kazan was in early November, and has lost his spot in the lineup to Enver Lisin. He has subsequently been skating for Kazan’s junior farm team, Ak Bars 2. Considering the U20 squad’s depth at center, he will not likely be going to the U20 WJC.

- Evgeny Belashchenko (RussianProspects.com)

Related Player Profiles: . V.Alexandrov D.Chernykh A.Galimov K.Glazachev I.Khomutov E.Lisin K.Makarov E.Malkin A.Naurov A.Nikulin S.Ogorodnikov A.Ovechkin D.Parshin D.Pestunov M.Pestushko A.Radulov A.Rybakov G.Shafigullin S.Shirokov R.Voloshenko M.Yunkov
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