For the last 36 weeks, the most elite teams in AAA hockey have bolstered their resumes, won tournaments, league championships and national titles. The results are in, schedules completed and the World Rankings, presented by World Hockey Hub, have been finalized.
As the 2022-23 season comes to a close, we crown the No. 1 teams across six different age groups to finish as the best in the youth hockey landscape:
Ending the ‘22-23 campaign as National Champions among 2006-born U.S. teams, the Long Island Gulls cemented their status as the best program in that birth year. A 17-game unbeaten streak to start the season would only be a sign of further things to come for this squad. They secured a district title at the New York State Amateur Hockey Association (NYSAHA) with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. That victory earned them a spot at USA Hockey Nationals, where the team skated to a 5-1-0 record. Long Island deservedly won the championship by shutting out Little Caesars 2-0 in the title matchup. In 15 of the 17 World Rankings updates this season, the Gulls were the No. 1 team.
Forward Jesse Orlowsky and defenseman Donato Bracco were invited to the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s (USNTDP) annual U17 Evaluation Camp. Bracco was later announced as having earned a spot on the team. Earlier this month, five Gulls were selected in the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Phase-I Draft. Orlowsky, Ethan Wyttenbach, Malachi McKinnon, Nicholas Sykora and Brendan DeFeo all had their names called.
You would be hard pressed to find another youth hockey team this season that won as much as ‘07 Little Caesars. After alternating wins and losses in the first four games of the year, the team hit its stride with a 46-game unbeaten streak. Along the way, Caesars nabbed titles at the CCM World Invite and USHL Youth Fall Classic. At USA Hockey Nationals, the skilled group was positioned as favorites to win the tournament. That was, until they fell in the semifinal round in overtime to Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
Despite a tough ending to an almost storybook season, players from Caesars were among some of the most popular this offseason. Goaltender Joey Slavick, defenseman Charlie Thretheway and forward Will Horcoff were named to the USNTDP U17 roster. Additionally, seven players — including Horcoff and Tretheway — were also chosen in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Draft. Six others were also selected in the USHL’s Phase-I Draft as well.
The Vaughan Kings have held down the No. 1 spot in the ‘09 World Rankings for 24 consecutive weeks. They made their first big splash of the season by going undefeated at the Little Caesars Invitational. The team continued to roll along into the Vaughan Kings Classic, where they defeated York Simcoe Express in the final. The New Year began with another tournament win, this time by emerging as champions at the International Silver Stick. It was the second year in a row that the Kings were the last team standing at the major event. Next up was the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) Championships. It was here that Vaughan bested the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in a tough five-game series. The Kings wrapped up the campaign with an appearance at the U15 All-Ontario Championships. In the title game, they shut out the Soo Jr. Greyhounds 4-0.
The ‘09 Toronto Jr. Canadiens had a strong finish to their ‘22-23 schedule. This allowed them to hold onto the No. 1 World Rankings spot since May 7th. Since that date, JRC were winners in 10 of its final 13 contests. The pinnacle of their season was a 5-0-0 run at the U14 OHL Cup. Included in that performance were victories over fellow World-ranked teams Don Mills Flyers and Sun County Panthers. The club was undefeated in three different stretches of at least eight games. One of the most offensively gifted rosters in the world, the Jr. Canadiens finished with an incredible goal differential of plus-199.
What else can be said about 2011-born CSKA Moscow that hasn’t been written already? The team opened their schedule with one of the best winning streaks in recent memory. Winding up in the win column in the first 36 games of a season is nothing short of spectacular. And when adversity finally did hit, they rebounded in full. After they suffered their only loss of the season — in overtime to Spartak — . The major players who helped CSKA’s incredible performance were the dynamic duo of Nikita Siniken and Roman Andreev. Siniken used stellar hockey sense and puck-handling skills en route to putting up 76 goals and 169 points. Andreev managed to record 98 goals and 165 points. Odds were one of these two were tasked with getting the job done if a big play was needed.
One of two teams from the Jr. Canadiens program to finish atop the World Rankings, the ‘11 squad for Toronto hit the ground running this season. Thrown into heavy competition early at the Toronto Marlboros Friendship, JRC collected its first trophy of the season with a tournament win. Shortly after, a perfect 6-0-0 weekend saw Toronto take gold at the CCM Motown. The team once more made it to another tournament final, this time at the International Silver Stick tournament. However, a solid run of championship success ended when they became runners up after a 4-2 loss to the Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers. The club added to their trophy case when they nabbed a title at the Vaughan Kings Classic by defeating Little Caesars 6-2.
Be sure to check out the complete world rankings, including Top 10s by country and World Top 25s for each of the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 birth years.
On Thursday, SKA Strelna’s improbable run to the U17 Russian National Championship ended in victory with a 6-2 win over Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl. The win snapped an undefeated tournament run for Lokomotiv, who entered the finale as winners of its last six. Ten teams originally set out for the title and were divided into two groups of five. our of those teams were mainstays in the World Rankings.
Heading into the national championship game, no other team had looked as good as Lokomotiv. They had outscored opponents 28-7, with two shutouts and had four of the top 10 scorers in the tournament. The offense was producing, the defense was holding teams to little zone time, and the goaltenders were making timely saves. That is, however, until Strelna met them in the championship game.
Strelna got out to a fast start when Kirill Potapov scored 44 seconds after puck drop. He collected a turnover from Egor Surin and sent a perfectly placed shot over the right shoulder of Semyon Konopsky. That lead would be doubled around the 10-minute mark when Georgy Tatulov sent a shot from the right circle over Konopsky’s glove following a face-off win.
After a late push back from Lokomotiv, Strelna was able to put the game away with a pair of late goals, securing the 6-2 win and ‘06 national championship.
Strelna had a tough task right out of the gate, clashing with CSKA Moscow in its first game. Forty seconds after falling into a 3-1 deficit early in the third period, Strelna cashed in to make it a one-goal game. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Artem Valuev collected his second point of the game to tie things up at 3-3. No winner was decided in overtime, thus leading to a shootout. Makar Opolinsky played hero for Strelna by scoring the only goal in the skills competition to secure the win. It was his first game-winner of the tournament, but would not be his last as the tournament wore on.
In the second game, Strelna found itself sitting on 2-0 lead over Siberia in the third period. However, goals from Egor Golovnev minutes apart evened the score and forced overtime yet again. Three minutes into the extra period Egor Kosachev tallied the winning goal for Siberia.
After splitting their next two games of pool play, SKA Strelna entered the playoffs 2-2-0 as the No. 3 team out of Group B.
Stepan Tarasenko notched his first goal of the tournament when he opened the scoring against Ak Bars seven minutes into the first period. Oleg Kuznetsov scored the only other goal in regulation during the second period to tie it at 2-2. Strelna once again found itself preparing for a third overtime game. Despite numerous chances for both sides, no player could find the back of the net. With action headed to a shootout, Opolinsky showed off his skill yet again by scoring the only goal; his second of the tournament.
The victory set up a rematch with CSKA, and Strelna wasted no time in breaking the ice. Evgeny Novikov, Ivan Kornilov and Artem Valuev propelled Strelna out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Strong defense and goaltending from Mikhail Korotkov held Moscow off the board until late in the game. Nikita Frolov, one of the most dynamic scorers of the birth year, netted two goals 43 seconds apart. With renewed hope and momentum, CSKA threw everything they had at Strelna, but their opponent held firm. By way of a 3-2 win, Strelna’s spot in the championship game was set.
Four of the top 10 scorers in the tournament hailed from Lokomotiv, with Egor Surin leading them all. In six games, he had seven goals and 14 points. Not only had Lokomotiv been the only undefeated team in the tournament, they hadn’t lost a game since March 26th. Their 13-game win streak would come to an end at the hands of Strelna in the championship though.
Strelna’s early 2-0 lead was cut into by Surin seven minutes into the second period. Team captain Artem Valuev was quick to restore the two-goal lead, cashing in on a power-play opportunity just a few minutes later. Evgeny Novikov increased the lead to 4-1 and Strelna firmly in control, cruised to a national championship victory.
Ranked as high as fourth in the world among 2006-born teams this season, Strelna’s championship caps off a 36-10-0 record. They entered the national championship after taking first place in the St. Petersburg District. Opolinsky, Novikov and Tarasenko all eclipsed the 40-point mark this season, with five more players averaging a point per game as well. It is also back-to-back national championships for Strelna, as the ‘06 squad won the U16 tournament last year.
As mentioned earlier this week, the ‘09 and ‘10 World Selects Invitationals (WSI) are running concurrently in two separate European cities. While the international tournaments have been vastly different, the favorites to win both events may hail from the same club. The ‘09 Czech Knights completed pool play with a 5-0-0 record and are the top seed entering the 14U playoffs. Their ‘10 team is also 5-0-0, and they enter playoffs as the No. 1 seed as well.
The Czech Knights have proven to be a wildly successful club on the international stage. The organization has two WSI championships to its name already. They’ve also won the PeeWee Quebec in 2018 and 2020, as well as finalists in 2016 and 2019.
The ‘10 squad won last year’s 12U tournament, and is off to an undefeated start to the 13U event this week as well. If the Knights were able to claim two WSI titles simultaneously, it would be the first time since 2011 that one club won at multiple age groups in the same season. That year, CSKA Moscow won the 15U, 13U and 12U tournaments in the same spring season.
He played the ‘22-23 season for Chicago Mission, and now, Oliver McKinney is the front-runner to win the scoring title at the ‘09 WSI. As the top forward for Pro Hockey, McKinney has scored five goals and eight points through pool play. His performance, along with teammates Michael Tang and Tyler Lee have put Pro Hockey into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with a 3-2-0 record.
While the Czech Knights are undefeated, Pro Hockey may stand the best chance at knocking off the Euros in the playoffs. The two teams began the tournament on Tuesday, with the Knights pulling away with a 7-4 win. Goals from McKinney and Tang gave Pro Hockey a 3-1 lead early in the game, which is the only time the Czechs have trailed in the tournament thus far. Three goals in a four-minute span allowed the Knights to escape defeat. However, can a championship rematch net a different result? McKinney and company will certainly hope so.
The Czechs will draw Barys in the quarterfinals, while Pro Hockey faces off against Finland Selects. Should chalk prevail, a championship matchup of the Czech Knights and Pro Hockey would be the first 1-v-2 finale since top-seeded CSKA Moscow defeated No. 2 WCAN in 2019.
The highest scoring offense at the ‘10 WSI is neither the No. 1 or No. 2 seed heading into the playoffs. Three-seeded Slovakia Selects has scored a tournament-high 42 goals in five games, with the top seven point producers. Patrik Šušoliak, Dominik Bičkoš and Dominik Domonkoš are tied for the tournament lead with 12 points apiece. Teammates David Macejka and Luka Križanovič are close behind with 10 points each. Simon Sisík (nine points) and Leonard Švajda (eight) add even more scoring depth to an already deep Slovakia Selects squad.
However, a 6-4 loss to top-seeded Barys has kept the Slovaks out of a top spot in the playoffs.
Miras Zhumabay recorded a hat trick in that game for Barys. As the team’s leading scorer, he has six goals and eight points in the tournament thus far. They’ll draw DraftDay in a quarterfinal matchup Friday morning; a team they beat 5-2 earlier in the week. A win there could set the stage for a potential Slovakia-Barys rematch on Friday evening with a trip to the championship at stake.
The ‘10 WSI has featured plenty of offense, averaging 8.1 goals per game. It hasn’t been favorable for the goalies, however, three have managed to post shutouts in the tournament thus far. None were more important than Yegor Togobitskiy’s 10-save performance for Barys. It may not have been an overwhelming workload in terms of shots, but the 2-0 result left little room for error for Togobitskiy in net.
At the Championship Cup for 2007-born teams, Dynamo Moscow lived up to its reputation as one of the premier squads this season. Following a 4-0-0 group play stage, the club went on to win its next three matchups in the playoffs. During the tournament, Dynamo’s incredible well-rounded team game was on full display. From scoring in bunches, to holding opponents to little offense, Dynamo was perfect. It all culminated in the championship game, where Dynamo edged SKA Strelna in a 3-2 victory.
Dynamo was one of five WHH-ranked teams in attendance at this year’s championship. Along with SKA Strelna, Dynamo joined Severstal Cherapovets, Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Siberia in Group B. Group A was home to world-ranked Avangard Omsk, Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl and Salavat Yulaev. Rounding out the Group A teams were Dynamo Minsk and Amur. Each club played one game against its fellow group teams for playoff seeding. Avangard and Dynamo Moscow were the only teams to go undefeated in the group stage, ensuring them decent positioning in the quarterfinals of the playoff round.
Dynamo out-scored opponents by a combined 45-3 and was the only Group B team with a positive goal differential. They burned out goal lights as they averaged an incredible 11 goals per game, to go along with three shutouts. It’s defense didn’t allow much, and when it did, solid goaltending from Vladimir Selivanov and Kirill Golubev came up clutch. Avangard finished with a plus-21 goal differential and also carved through fellow group teams with ease.
It was an all-Dynamo opener when Moscow defeated Minsk 9-3 in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Mikhail Melikov collected a hat trick, while Ivan Ryabkin dished out three assists. Ryabkin and Melikov once again were standouts for Dynamo in their next contest. The duo combined for five points in a 7-1 victory over Amur, which secured them a spot in the championship game. Avangard emerged victorious in its first playoff game as well when it bested Metallurg 6-3. Janusz Heybatov notched two goals and an assist and six other players collected at least two points. The win set up a meeting with SKA Strelna in the semifinals with a future date with Dynamo Moscow on the line.
Strelna came out flying and opened up a two-goal lead in the first period. After regaining composure at the intermission, Avangard cut into the lead with a goal from Yegor Privalov. With about 10 minutes remaining in the game, Maxim Moiseev tied the game at 2 to force overtime. A little over three minutes into the extra frame, Alexander Moskalenko was the hero for Strelna when he tallied the game-winning goal. Roman Frass made a great individual rush up the ice and sent a perfect pass over to Moskalenko who sent a shot off the far post and in.
Dynamo Moscow once again got on the board first when Ivan Arkhipov tipped a shot from the point to kick off the scoring with 10 minutes left in the first period. With just over three minutes left, Melikov ripped a shot into the net to double Moscow’s lead. Ryabkin slid a pass over to Arseniy Anisimov, who then fed it through the crease to Melikov. Strelna, determined to change its fortunes, struck early in the second period to make it a 2-1 game. Erik Serbin rushed up the ice and created a partial two-on-one with Mikhail Lebdev. Lebdev finished the play when he shot the puck past the glove of Vladmir Selivanov. Ryabkin restored the two-goal lead when he one-timed a shot from the blue line through traffic with five minutes remaining in the second period.
Strelna made it a close game once more when it cashed in on an early power play in the third period. After goaltender Matvey Karbainov made a great outlet pass from near his crease, Strelna gained the offensive zone. The puck was thrown on net and deflected off Egor Platanov and in. Only down a goal, the remainder of regulation saw Strelna with numerous opportunities to tie the game, but a strong Dynamo defense held firm. Selivanov also came up with crucial saves down the final stages of the game as well to secure the championship. Ryabkin (10G, 15A) and Melikov (10G, 10A) finished as the top two scorers among all skaters.
The 2009 and 2010-born World Selects Invitational tournaments take place simultaneously this week in separate European cities. Games will get underway on Tuesday with teams competing in host cities Bolzano, Italy and Chamonix, France. Eight 13U teams will clash for the ‘10 WSI while eight other 14U teams compete for the ‘09 championship. Last month, CCM All Out won the 15U championship in Nashville, while Team Minnesota won the 16U championship. Plus, Slovakia Selects won the 12U WSI this past weekend to become world champions as well. The pair of tournaments this week will close the book on WSI Elite tournaments for the 2023 season.
We take a closer look at each of the ‘09 and ‘10 WSIs before action gets underway on Tuesday.
Sweden Selects won the 14U World Selects Invitational last spring thanks to the efforts of ‘08-born Marcus Nordmark and Alexander Command. If the ‘09s are going to repeat as WSI champions for Sweden, they’ll need big performances from the likes of Love Lorentzon, Tom Pråhl and Oliver Sundberg.
If Sweden returns to prominence in Bolzano this week, it would be the first time an organization has ever gone back-to-back at the 14U WSI.
A repeat will be no easy task, as seven other teams from around the world make a case for championship gold as well. North American-based Pro Hockey has four players from the No. 1-ranked team in Canada, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Similarly, Finland Selects brings players from various Top-10 teams as well, including Kiekko-Espoo, Tappara and Jokerit.
Czech Knights, ALPS Selects and Latvia Selects all draw players from various Central European regions. Plus, Barys (Kazakhstan) and Eastern U.S. Selects round out the field of participating teams.
Each team will compete in five pool-play games from Tuesday to Thursday. Single-elimination playoffs will begin on Friday, with the ’09 WSI championship final going down on Saturday.
CSKA Moscow was the last 13U team to win the World Selects Invitational in 2019. That was a tournament of top ‘06-born players in the city of Chamonix. Four years later, the ‘10s return to the same city in search of the first 13U WSI championship since CSKA hoisted the trophy.
Due to COVID-19 and significant travel restrictions, there has been a drought in 13U champions. Now in 2023, eight teams from around the world look to be the first to recapture gold in the age group.
In years past, prospects like Connor Bedard, Macklin Celebrini and Alexey Dontsov have made their mark in this very tournament. Dontsov is a top European prospect in the 2024 NHL Draft class; he currently plays for No. 1-ranked CSKA Moscow. Celebrini was just named the USHL Player of the Year after scoring 86 points in the Tier-I junior league. And Bedard, the all-time leading scorer of the 13U WSI, is slated to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft next month.
The youth hockey community will get a good look at a ’10 WSI tournament that’s featured some of the best youth hockey players in the world. The eight participating teams hail from Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia and Slovakia, as well as the Alps region of Europe. Additionally, DraftDay and Eastern U.S. Selects bring top prospects from North America. Barys will represent Kazakhstan, as the club participates in its third World Selects event of the spring.
Each team will compete in five pool-play games from Tuesday to Thursday. Single-elimination playoffs will begin on Friday, with the championship final going down on Saturday. There’s also an All-Star Game consisting of top performers from the tournament slotted for Friday afternoon.
World Hockey Hub is the exclusive media provider of all 12 of the World Selects Invitational tournaments. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for the latest WSI news and announcements!
The Championship of Russia among 2006-born teams will kick off on Tuesday. Ten teams will be divided into two groups of five, with four mainstays from the WHH Rankings among them. Group A will consist of No. 7 Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Ak Bars Kazan, Crystal, Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl and Dynamo Minsk. Group B will include No. 1 CSKA Moscow, No. 4 SKA Silver Lions, No. 5 SKA Strelna, Siberia and Severstal Cherepovets. Here’s how we predict each team will finish in the divisions, and who has the best chance to secure the championship.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa kicked off its 2022-23 campaign with a 10-game win streak. A performance that gave them solid enough ground to earn a spot in the Top 10 Russian rankings. For the entirety of this season, they have not relinquished a spot among the premier Russian clubs. Incredible scoring depth and dependable goaltending allowed the team to skate to a 30-5-3 record. Six of the top 10 scorers on the team have scored more than 30 points.
No one did it better than the duo of Georgy Sukharev and Daniel Kurmanaev. Each player ended with 57 and 47 points, respectively. Sukharev found the back of the net 35 times in 36 contests, recording almost a goal per game. Assisting on a majority of those was Kurmanaev, who notched 36 assists. Most of the team’s ranked matchups came against Yugra Yukior, with earlier in-season battles with Avangard Omsk. The bottom line is they have no issue handling teams they should beat.
The case for Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl is an interesting one. A strong finish to the regular season gave them a 13-13-7 record. The results in the win column were not there as often as the team would have hoped, but they still held their own against some of the best in Russia. Close losses to CSKA Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow proved that the team has the ability to hang with the big clubs. A different bounce here or there may have led to more positive results. Entering the tournament as one of the hotter teams, they are riding a four-game win streak. A big question for Lokomotiv will be if Matvey Kazakov can continue to lead the attack and build upon his 18 goals and 38 points.
Ak Bars Kazan hovered around the bubble of entering the Top 10 Russian rankings but was unable to crack it. Despite a 38-3-1 record, they have yet to clash with any of the premier programs from the ‘06 birth year. As a result, all eyes will be on them to see how they fare when the talent level rises. Leading scorer Oleg Kuznetsov will be tasked with doing the heavy lifting on offense. He has recorded 34 goals and 75 points.
Crystal ended the regular season 27-9-0, and are in the midst of a three-game win streak. Consistent production from Matvei Vasilyuk was a large part of that record. With 14 points (4G, 9A) in his last 10 games, Vasilyuk brought his season total to 53 points by the club’s final contest. Artem Leichenko’s 19 goals and 49 points are second behind him.
Similar to Crystal, Dynamo Minsk comes into the championship tournament on a win streak of its own. The team was victorious in the last four outings to bring their total to 28-11-5.
Having been defeated just twice all season, CSKA Moscow has been a mainstay atop the ‘06 Russian rankings all year long. The schedule was littered with matchups against the top teams of the birth year, and they answered the call with a resounding 33-2-0 record. CSKA does have previous meetings with two teams in the group. On August 26th, they defeated SKA Strelna 8-1. They also opened their season with a 3-0 shutout of SKA Silver Lions on August 23rd of last year.
On a 12-game winning streak, you have to go all the way back to December 12 for their last loss, 6-5 to Spartak Moscow. 10 players have recorded at least 20 points collectively, led by Ivan Okunev (37G, 41A) and Ilya Pautov (17G, 34A). Both players have also suited up in action for CSKA Moscow’s U18 team as well. Battle tested and deep, CSKA enters this tournament as favorites to win it all.
Despite dropping their most recent decision to SKA Silver Lions, SKA Strelna has gotten the better of them in their regular season series. In eight contests, Strelna was victorious in five of them. Three of the meetings went past regulation, with Strelna winning twice in overtime and once in a shootout. Four of the games were also decided by just one goal, with the largest margin of victory coming for Silver Lions in a 6-0 final on September 25th. Makar Opolinsky’s 27 goals and 62 points are first for Strelna, tied with Evgeny Novikov (26G, 36A).
The Silver Lions ended their regular season schedule strong with a four-game win streak. Included in that run was a 5-3 victory over SKA Strelna on April 15th. Along with CSKA and Strelna, the Silver Lions make Group B a three-team race to see who will come out on top. Egor Grakhov has done most of the scoring for the Silver Lions, collecting 61 points. Three other players behind him have also notched at least 50 points as well. With a high-powered, heavy attack up front, the Silver Lions should be on the radar to contend for a playoff spot.
Severstal has experience against Strelna and the Silver Lions, facing off with each three times during the regular season. They were unable to get a win in those games, and were collectively outscored 40-11. Searching to find some positive ground, Severstal have lost their last five games heading into the tournament.
On an impressive 20-game winning streak dating back to January 14th, Siberia has yet to play consistently among the best competition of the birth year. They have experience against some bubble teams such as Auto Spartakovets and Avangard Omsk. Siberia even had a clash with No. 8 Metallurg Magnitogorsk earlier this season, falling in a 5-0 final.
The third annual World Youth Championships (WYC) in Philadelphia are set to begin on Friday. Thirty-eight teams will compete in the ’08 Division, with players from as many as 10 different countries in attendance. More than 500 individuals from the U.S. and Canada, as well teams from Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia will be on hand. Players from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Austria and China are also rostered amongst participating teams.
Over the course of the next three days, teams will compete in five pool-play games. From there, 16 teams will advance to the single-elimination playoffs, where a champion will be determined by Tuesday afternoon.
Maroon Hockey won the ‘07 tournament last spring, and the organization returns to defend its title. Blue Army won the inaugural ‘06 tournament in 2021, and they too, look to win a second WYC title as well. In that span, 54.1 percent of all games have been decided by two goals or fewer. The ’08 WYC is loaded with teams in an event that’s proven to be highly competitive. The next 90-plus games from the Voorhees Skate Zones are certain to be high level, and packed with late-game heroics.
Less than a week after playing in the 15U World Selects Invitational, Provorovs Selects remains states-side to compete in the ’08 WYC. The 800-mile trip from Nashville to Philadelphia this week was a quick jaunt compared to the 5,000-mile transcontinental flight from Yaroslavl, Russia.
Provorovs Selects went 3-2-0 in pool play at the WSI, and was knocked out in the first round of playoffs. Aleksandr Shalabanov, Dmitrii Drobyshevskii and Vladimir Provorov will be hoping for better results this week in Philly.
Shalabanov led the team in scoring with eight points, factoring in on the offense in all six tournament games. He’ll need to continue that production at the ’08 WYC for Provorovs to have success.
Provorovs Selects won’t be the only organization to compete at both events back-to-back. Boston Hockey Club, DevCo Hockey, DraftDay and National Hockey Prospects will all migrate from Nashville to Philly for this weekend’s event.
Alex McLean is coming off of a record-breaking performance at last week’s WSI. He’ll look to continue his dominance over the ‘08 birth year while skating for Everest Academy this Friday. McLean will once again be joined by Kent Greer. The tandem played together this season for No. 3 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. They also helped CCM All Out win the WSI championship last week. Can McLean and Greer help carry another team to a championship this week in Philadelphia?
Rudolfs Berzkalns and Max Crete — CCM All Out teammates of McLean and Greer’s — will now become foes at the World Youth Championships. They worked together to win the ‘08 WSI championship on Sunday and will now compete against one another to win a WYC.
Berzkalns scored nine goals and 25 points last week. He joins an Evolve Hockey team loaded with players from Pens Elite and Bishop Kearney Selects.
Maroon Hockey looks to defend its title as 15U WYC champs with a bevy of top Canadian prospects. Alessandro Di Iorio, Evan Hendrick and Andrew Robinson are among those suiting up for Maroon after playing this past season for No. 1 Vaughan Kings.
Top talent from the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) will suit up for WCAN Prime as well. Edge School’s Cruz Pavao and Landon DuPont, as well as Northern Alberta Xtreme’s Knox Bendera and Maddox Rose were standout performers in Western Canada’s top youth hockey league this past season.
Want more from the World Youth Championships? WHH will have exclusive coverage of the 15U tournament in Philadelphia all week long. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for more!
Pool play is over at the ‘08 World Selects Invitational from Nashville. A field that started with 34 teams has been cut down to 24 left in the hunt for youth hockey’s world championship. Eighty-five games featuring some of the best 2008-born youth hockey players has seen 44 of those contests decided by two goals or fewer. It’s been a tightly contested tournament thus far, and playoff hockey moving forward should only continue that trend.
Elimination rounds begin on Friday afternoon with eight play-in games. Winners of those matchups will advance to face the top eight seeds in the round of 16.
Here’s how I see the playoffs unfolding in the Music City:
Chaos in the early rounds could lead to chalk in the later rounds. I like Team Minnesota — the last team to qualify for the playoffs as the 24-seed — to pull off not one, but two upsets. Andrew Clark, Danny Peate and Ryder Siedow have shown to be offensive threats. Plus, I feel like Kazakhstan Selects may have benefitted from a weaker schedule in pool play. Obviously, not something they could control but all three of their wins came against teams that have already been eliminated from the tournament. I like Team MN to be victorious, but really whoever wins that 9-v-24 matchup should make it to the quarterfinals.
I like another Minnesota-based team to pull off a stunner in the opening round as well. Hard not to, I mean there’s six playoff teams that call the State of Hockey home. Similar to Kazakhstan, I think Swiss Selects benefitted from a 3-0-0 start against opponents that failed to qualify for the playoffs. Minnesota Generals, on the other hand, have played everyone tough, even in defeat. They win on Friday and set the stage for a Generals-vs-SKA Yunost rematch from Thursday — SKA defeated the Generals 4-1 and out-shot them 30-19 in the process.
CCM Selects and Finland Selects have set themselves apart from the group in a big way. I like the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to cruise to the semifinals, but only have one of them making it to the championship.
Should ID Selects and CCM clash in one half of the bracket, it’ll be the greatest collection of ‘08-born North American talent you’ll find in one place all year. J.P. Hurlbert, Michael Berchild, Cam Nimmer, Lukas Zajic on one side for ID. Alex McLean, Kent Greer, Maximus Crete, Avry Antsis on the other for CCM. It has the makings for an offensive track meet; a 6-4 type final. If you win that game, you win the tournament.
Finland Selects’ top players are something special. We’ve talked about players like Oliver Torkki and Viljo Kahkonen for about six months now. The team’s offense is dynamic, but in the playoffs of these elite tournaments, I think Finland may struggle to score. Teams tighten up defensively when it’s best on best. I just don’t see those top players having enough time and space to continue producing against Minnesota Blades, ID Selects and CCM. I’ll take Finland to squeak by the Blades, but come up just short in the title game.
Nearly 70 games are in the books at the 15U World Selects Invitational in Nashville. The tournament nears the halfway point, as playoff matchups will begin Friday afternoon and a champion ultimately crowned on Sunday. WHH takes a look at 10 teams with the best odds of winning the ’08 Elite world championship.
Disclaimer: This is purely for entertainment purposes only. We do not encourage sports betting on youth hockey games in any form.
|National Hockey Prospects
Led by a pair of Los Angeles Jr. Kings in Tyus Sparks, Logan Stuart and Noah Davidson, Western Selects comes in as the current front-runner through four games. Each Jr. King has scored at least three goals apiece, with Sparks leading the charge with seven points. They did fall 5-1 to another favorite on the list, Minnesota Blades.
CCM Selects has won, and won big in all four games so far. We talked about some of their standouts thus far, and they’ve continued to tear it up into Day 2. Through four games, their average margin of victory 7.75 goals. However, their opponent’s combined record in the tournament is 1-13-0.
Viljo Kahkonen and Oliver Torkki have shown out to be two of the most productive ’08s in the tournament. That duo has led Finland Selects to a 3-0-0 start, and has combined for 17 points; the team as a whole has scored 22 goals.
ID Selects is loaded with some of the top talent in the U.S. That includes forward Cam Nimmer whose fresh off of a national championship run. Michael Berchild leads the team with six points. That’s matched by defenseman A.J. Francisco who began the tournament with points in three straight games.
ID Selects will open up Friday morning action against SKA Yunost. That matchup could have significant playoff seeding implications as well.
As mentioned, Minnesota Blades did beat Western Selects on Thursday. Forward Riley Zupfer posted three points in the win for Minnesota. He leads the team in scoring with seven points, and factored in on half the Blades’ offense.
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Heading into a matchup with No. 2 Spartak Moscow back on March 18th, CSKA Moscow could not have been feeling better about its season. At the time, they were winners of 36 straight contests and the perennial No. 1 team in the WHH Rankings. But Spartak was able to do what no team had done, and defeated CSKA 6-5 in an overtime thriller. Seven skaters from both squads collected two or more points.
Not letting that loss set them back, CSKA rebounded by emerging victorious in its next nine outings since then. Five of those came during an undefeated run at the Vladislav Tretiak Cup last weekend. 12 participating teams were placed in two divisions of six, with CSKA finding a spot in Group B. Joining them were No. 4 SKA Strelna, Metallurg Cherepovets, Kazakhstan, Metallurg Novokuznetsk and Buffalos. In the five group wins, CSKA out-scored opponents 61-11.
No. 9 Ak Bars Kazan entered the championship game with an undefeated group play record as well, but eventually fell to CSKA. But it was not the first tournament CSKA secured a championship this season. They kicked off the 2022-23 campaign with a first-place finish at the Alexander Ovechkin Cup last August.
A large reason CSKA has found success this season is a talented group of skaters led by one of the most dynamic duos in youth hockey. Roman Andreev and Nikita Siniken have been the definition of consistency, each amassing more than 100 points. One or both of their names are found on the final scoresheet often more than once on a daily basis. Andreev has recorded at least one point in every regular season game dating back to August 27th. For Siniken, there has yet to be a contest outside of tournament play where he has failed to register at least one point. Persistent offensive output that has allowed Andreev to score 84 goals and 124 points while Siniken has scored 64 goals and 142 points.