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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Canada vs. Russia

How big was the 1972 Summit Series? Big enough that Hockey Canada and Russia have teamed up to do it again, just with junior players. This years Canada-Russia Challenge will be extra significant as it's the 40th anniversary of the original series. But it will also be a time to honour the memory of the Russian team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl that passed away in a horrific plane crash.

The Canadian and Russian junior teams will take part in a 4 game mini series. The first two games will take place in Russia and the series will conclude in Halifax Nova Scotia. The series will kick off Thursday August 9th from Russia.

For Canada this series is crucial as this will be the final step in narrowing down a 22 man roster for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships, which will also take place in Russia. Canada is going into the series with 28 players, seven of which won bronze at the 2012 World Juniors. For many players it will be there last and best chance of making an impression on the coaching staff. Let's take a look at the key players for team Canada.

Mark Scheifele
The Winnipeg Jets first round pick from 2011 will be looking for a big performance in this years challenge. He almost made the Jets roster full time last season, but he was sent down at the end of his 7 games. Scheifele participated int he 2012 World Junior championship but didn't really stand out. Not only will he be looking to make an impression on team Canada he'll also be hoping to make the leap to the NHL next season.

Ryan Strome
Strome was the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft and was a member of the bronze winning junior team from last year. He'll be expected to be one of the leaders in the challenge against Russia.

Jonathan Huberdeau
Huberdeau was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft and was apart of the junior team that won bronze and will be among the core players expected to lead the way against Russia.

Tom Wilson
Wilson is the lone forward from the 2012 NHL Entry draft that will be representing Canada in the challenge. The Washington Capitals selected him 16th overall. Wilson will be expected to bring grit to the roster.

Ryan Murray 
Murray has to be one of the most anxious players to get back on the ice and prove to the coaching staff that he belongs at the 2013 World Junior Championship. During last years junior championship the coaching staff asked Murray to change his game slightly, he panicked and went overboard and became to defensive minded. As a result he had a miserable tournament including deflecting two goals into his own net and wiping out his own goaltender. Murray is ready to get back to his game during the Russia challenge and prove he belongs.

Dougie Hamilton
Possibly the best defenceman Canada has going into this challenge. The Boston Bruins drafted him 9th overall in 2011 and he could become the first defenceman from that draft to break into the NHL next season. He's had three phenomenal years in the OHL with the Niagara Ice Dogs where he racked up 146 points. He also won the OHL's most outstanding defenceman award last season for his play with the Ice Dogs. Hamilton is one of seven returning from the 2012 bronze medal winning junior team. He'll be relied on heavily to lead the blue line.

Cody Ceci Griffin Reinhart
Ceci and Reinhart were both first round draft picks from the 2012 Draft. Both will be looking to have impressive debuts against Russia.


Malcolm Subban and Laurent Brossoit
Canada has yet to announce who their starting goaltender for the tournament will be, but the battle is between Subban and Brossoit. Canada may split the games evenly at two each but if one goalie were to get the edge it will likely be Subban.

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