A Breakdown of the International Players Bound for the CHL in 2021-22

Since its inception in 1992, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft has served as a way for the three major junior leagues to manage international talent entering their storied franchises. 

The 30th edition of the Import Draft featured 57 CHL clubs participating; all 22 of the Western Hockey League (WHL), 18 of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and 17 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Only the Halifax Mooseheads, the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Mississauga Steelheads opted to pass, as they retained both of their previous import draft choices.

The CHL clubs traveled the globe for their selections; a breakdown by countries of origin paints a very diverse picture of a talent pool.

What may garner some eyeballs is how quickly Latvia and Ukraine appeared on the draft board – No. 1 and No. 3, to be exact.

Fitting surprises for the strange situation that was this year’s Import Draft, as it took place before the NHL Entry Draft, not afterward like usual. Normally, the Import Draft is filled with recent NHL draftees who make the decision with their new parent organization to come to the CHL in order to acclimate with the North American game immediately.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 players, normally all a safe bet to appear in the CHL the following season (there’s already one exception, which is noted below):

No. 10 – Louis Robin – Forward – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Rounding out the top ten was the first Swiss player selected in the CHL Import Draft, as the Rimouski Oceanic selected right winger Louis Robin. A 2003 birth-year skater, he went undrafted this summer by NHL clubs, but after racking up 51 points and 81 penalty minutes in 45 games with Zug of the U20 Elit league in his native Switzerland, the Oceanic must like what they saw. He has been with Zug for the last three seasons; before that, Robin skated in the Lausanne organization from 2014-18. Robin wore an “A” for his Swiss club at the Under-18 Worlds this past spring, recording two points in three games. 

No. 9 – Filip Mesar – Forward – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

The Kitchener Rangers opted for Slovakian forward Filip Mesar, a 2004 birth-year winger who is considered a possible first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. At 5-foot-10, he won’t be an intimidating presence, but those 41 points in 33 games with his HK Poprad U20 team in 2019-2020, and 14 in 36 against professionals a year later looks appealing to any franchise. As it stands now, however, Mesar is not on the Rangers’ preseason roster; perhaps another season of pro hockey in his home country will be Mesar’s preferred route leading into the NHL Draft.

No. 8 – Jesper Vikman – Goaltender – Vancouver Giants (WHL)

The first of five Swedish products was selected at No. 8, as Jesper Vikman was claimed by the Giants to make it back-to-back net minders in the import draft. Vikman is older than most of the prospects selected, as he is a 2002 birth-year goaltender who was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020 (fifth round, 125th overall). Elite Prospects lists him as a dual citizen between Sweden and Finland, but he has spent the majority of his days skating with the AIK club in Stockholm. While the Giants haven’t released a preseason roster to date, Vikman has been skating with the team and he told members of the media that he’s excited to be in Vancouver.

No. 7 – Ivan Zhigalov – Goaltender – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

The first goaltender selected was the 6-foot-3, 165-pounder Ivan Zhigalov, who hails from Minsk, Belarus. He caught some scouts’ eyes at the U18 Worlds but went undrafted in the NHL selection process. This will be his first taste of North American hockey, after Zhigalov rose through the ranks with Dynamo Moscow

No. 6 – Kirill Kudryavtsev – Defense – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)

Another ’04 birth-year defenseman, Kirill Kudryavtsev was the first Russian product taken in the 2021 CHL Import Draft. A native of Yaroslavl, Kudryavstev has been playing for his hometown Lokomotiv Yaroslavl through his formative years, playing in the top U20 league in Eurasia in 2020-21. He’s been a key piece of a Russian club that has dominated in prestigious international tournaments, helping his country to gold at the Youth Olympic Games with four points in four games, and then gold again at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with two points and a plus-5 rating.

No. 5 – Rayan Bettahar – Defense – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

This one’s definitely coming across the pond. Rayan Bettahar, a prospect eligible for the 2022 Draft, is a 2004-birth year defenseman who is listed as a native of Germany on the CHL site, but a dual citizen with Poland, citing a hometown of Nowy Targ on EP. He racked up 29 penalty minutes in three games at the U18 Worlds, so the Broncos know they’re getting somebody who won’t be afraid of fighting some battles in front of the crease and in the corners. Bettahar has been playing for Jungadler Mannheim of the Germany U17 league for three seasons, while getting the call up to the U20 team on occasion.

No. 4 – Simon Nemec – Defense – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

In the weird world of 2021, it looks like the No. 4 overall pick in the CHL Import Draft may not be coming to North America. Cape Breton took a chance on defenseman Simon Nemec of Slovakia, but he doesn’t appear on their preseason roster. It was certainly worth the risk, as Nemec is rated the No. 3 overall prospect in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft in Elite Prospects’ consolidated rankings system. The 6-foot-1 native of Liptovsky Mikulas appears to be playing another season with HK Nitra back home. He wore the ‘C’ for Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer, recording six points in five games from the backend.

No. 3 – Artur Cholach – Defense – Barrie Colts (OHL)

Selected in the NHL Draft shortly after the CHL edition, Artur Cholach became the first Ukrainian to be selected by an NHL club since 2007. A native of Lviv, Ukraine, Cholach played with Sokol Kyiv of the Ukrainian Professional Hockey League in 2020-21, playing an increased role in the playoffs (he recorded a pair of goals in nine games). This won’t be his first time playing North American hockey, as Cholach came to the United States to play with the New Jersey Jr. Titans of the NAPHL and AYHL in 2019-2020. Before that, he skated for CSKA Moscow of the Russia 16U junior league, while being called up for a few games at the 18U level with the same club. His 6-foot-4, 201-pound frame made him an appealing late-round choice for the Vegas Golden Knights, who selected him in the sixth round this summer.

No. 2 – Niko Huuhtanen – Forward – Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Niko Huuhtanen, a native of Helsinki, Finland, heard his name called twice this summer, first by the WHL’s Everett Silvertips at No. 2 overall, and then, by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL Draft. After playing many of his formative years with the Espoo Blues organization, this past season Huuhtanen suited up for Tappara U20 in the SM-Sarja — Finland’s top Under-20 league — where he posted 34 points in 37 games, along with 73 penalty minutes. In the 2021 Under-18 Worlds, he recorded two goals and three assists, along with a plus-3 rating, for Finland in seven games.

No. 1 – Niks Fenenko – Defense – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

Baie-Comeau selected Niks Fenenko with the first overall pick of this summer’s selection process, a notable pick as there hasn’t been much talk about the 2004 birth-year defenseman out of Latvia. Fenenko, a 6-foot-1 left-handed blue-liner, has been playing for HS Riga, his hometown club, in the top-tier Latvian league. He skated for Latvia at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship this past spring, finishing with a minus-3 rating in four games. Before his time with Riga, Fenenko spent two seasons playing in the Latvia U17 league with HK Pirati, playing up multiple age groups.

The CHL is still widely considered the top developmental league for junior hockey players around the world. More than 1,100 active professional players first competed in one of the CHL’s three subsidiary leagues before being drafted into the NHL. It routinely bridges the gap between youth hockey and college/professional hockey for hundreds of players each year, and the season is set to start next month.

World Hockey Hub continues to monitor and track top youth hockey athletes as they climb the hockey ladder to higher levels of competition. For more from WHH, follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

A pair of ‘07 Toronto teams look to climb WHH’s first ever Preseason Rankings

For the first time in World Hockey Hub Rankings history, Canadian teams have made the cut. 

Now, we know what you’re thinking, ‘How can that be possible? It’s Canada’s game and some of the best hockey in the world comes from The North!’ When the World Rankings debuted last November, Canada — along with much of the world — was in the midst of a pretty strict nationwide shutdown due to COVID-19, and the entire 2020-21 youth hockey season was lost. This presented an extraordinary challenge, making it impossible to rank Canadian teams in the absence of games last season.

September marks the beginning of a new season for youth hockey players around the world, and the #OurGameIsBack movement is sweeping across the provinces as Hockey Canada sets the stage for a safe return to the ice. The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) announced that tryouts would begin this month and game action could start as early as Nov. 1st. 

The global climate regarding COVID-19 continues to change by the day. However, Canada’s return to the ice, Sweden and Finland set to return, as well as the United States and Russia already off and running, has the hockey community feeling a sense of normalcy for the first time in a long time. 

The ‘07 World Rankings put high expectations on the Toronto Jr. Canadiens and Toronto Marlboros, who check in at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. Both are members of the GTHL, and should see plenty of head-to-head action as they battle for supremacy in ‘The Six’ as well as the top spot in the World Rankings. Three other Canadian teams check in to the Top 25 as well, including the London Jr. Knights and Ottawa Myers. It’s been 18 months since London last took the ice in March, 2020. That ‘07 squad won 60 games as PeeWees two seasons ago, and we expect the Jr. Knights to return to that level of dominance this season. 

Russia’s Dynamo Moscow debuts at the top spot of the Preseason Rankings, followed by Kiekko Espoo of Finland, then the pair of Toronto teams and Sweden’s HV 71 round out the Top 5. Dynamo won the 2007-born Moscow Open Championship last season as the top team in the region with an 11-0-0 record. However, it appears their top two leading scorers from a season ago, Yanush Kheybatov and Roman Rizvanov, have found new homes to play for in the 2021-22 season.

WHH will continue to follow the 2007-birth year closely all season long with the latest news, rankings, highlights, prospects and more. Check out your No. 1 resource for everything regarding the 14U (or under-15) age group HERE

‘06 Shattuck-St. Mary’s Debuts at No. 1 in Preseason Rankings

Last season, the 14U squad at Shattuck-St. Mary’s was arguably the best pound-for-pound team in all of youth hockey. A 47-1-2 record and a dominant performance in the USA Hockey Nationals tournament cemented names like Cole Eiserman, Macklin Celebrini and Aidan Park as some of the top up-and-coming prospects in the game. It’s only fitting that just five months later, the Sabres debuted at No. 1 in World Hockey Hub’s first ever preseason rankings for the 2021-22 season.

The 15U squad returns 13 players off of last season’s championship team, but all three members of its top line in Eiserman, Celebrini and Park have all opted up to the program’s 18U and 16U teams. The trio accounted for 203 of the 402 goals Shattuck scored last season, leaving returners like Kristian Epperson, Ryker Lee and Brodie Ziemer to fill the void. It’s tough to lose three of the biggest prospects in the 2006-birth year and still keep the status quo. The departures from Shattuck’s ‘06 squad may close the gap a bit between them and the field, but this group is still in great shape to defend its title as tops in the age group.

Russia packs the world-wide rankings with three in the Top 10 and six in the Top 25. The 2006-birth year is loaded with talent, headlined by Arseni Vorobyov, who led No. 2-ranked CSKA Moscow in scoring last season with 67 points. He’s already produced 16 points in the team’s first 10 games of 2021-22, and CSKA is 10-0-1 in the early stages of the season.

Finland’s Kiekko Espoo was undefeated last season with a 13-0-0 record before it was cut short by COVID-19, and the country paused all activity. Forward Tuomas Suoniemi compiled 27 goals and 50 points, and was one of six players from Kiekko in the Top 10 for scoring in the league. The ‘06 group started out ‘20-21 white hot and didn’t get a chance to see the season through. This time around, Kiekko Espoo checks in at No. 4 in the preseason rankings and could contend for the top spot in the age group all season long. 

The 15-only age group — or under-16 age group internationally — is a crucial year for youth hockey players inching closer and closer to junior hockey worldwide. World Hockey Hub will have exclusive coverage of the latest news, rankings, prospects, events and more regarding the 2006-birth year and you can check it all out HERE.

World Hockey Group and Total Package Hockey Announce New International Youth Tournament, the 2022 Champions League

Top 2008-born winter club teams from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia will compete for the first ever world championship.

EXETER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — World Hockey Group (WHG) and Total Package Hockey (TPH), in partnership with the Panthers IceDen, are proud to announce a ‘first-of-its-kind’ youth hockey tournament, the 2022 Champions League. This invitation-only event is the first and only youth hockey event to have international teams face off to decide one World Champion. Featuring 2008-born winter club teams from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the Champions League will be hosted at the Panthers IceDen, from Dec. 28, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022.

“The idea of the Champions League is something that’s been on my mind for a long time,” said WHG’s Chief Executive Officer, Travis Bezio. “With the resources that we have in various countries around the globe, as well as working alongside TPH and its team, we were able to bring this vision to life.”

Similar to the Little League World Series in youth baseball, the Champions League will feature the absolute best youth hockey teams, from various countries, in a six-day spectacle set to take place in Coral Springs, Florida. Participating teams will be divided into groups for pool play. Groups will be composed of teams from various countries so that pool play provides unique, unparalleled international competition. After completing five preliminary-round games, teams will qualify for either the championship rounds or consolation rounds, based on in-pool standings. In the championship rounds, teams will compete in an elimination-style playoff, where the World Hockey Group and Total Package Hockey will award youth hockey’s first ever world champion.

“We couldn’t be happier to be a part of this world-class event,” said TPH’s Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Bowen. “At TPH, we strive to be the world leader in positively impacting the lives of student-athletes, and hosting the Champions League with World Hockey Group creates an opportunity to make a real impression on hockey families across the global hockey landscape.”

The state-of-the-art Panthers IceDen, the practice facility for the NHL’s Florida Panthers in Coral Springs, Florida, will be home to the Champions League this holiday season.

“We’re thrilled to host the first-ever 2022 Champions League Youth Tournament at Panthers IceDen,” said Panthers IceDen General Manager Keith Fine. “Our Coral Springs-based athletes and the South Florida community will have the opportunity to watch elite youth hockey talent compete from all over the world for this special weekend tournament.” 

The Champions League runs parallel to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) under-20 world championships. With both events running simultaneously, the hockey world will now get to experience top-notch international competition at the amateur and youth levels at the same time.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere in youth hockey,” said Bezio. “There are many opportunities in the spring and summer to compete in international tournaments, but when it comes to in-season, winter club competition featuring Swedish versus American teams, Canadian versus Russian teams, Czech against Finnish teams, those matchups are extremely rare. The Champions League is designed to bring the top teams from around the world together for a week of the most competitive hockey you’ll find at the youth level.” 

Currently, 16 teams have formally accepted invitations to the inaugural event, and any interested teams are welcome to apply at worldhockeyhub.com/champions-league.

The list of currently accepted teams are:

Ak Bars (Russia)Los Angeles Jr. Kings (United States)
CSKA Moscow (Russia)Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers (United States)
Czech Knights (Czech Republic)SDE Hockey (Sweden)
Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)Seacoast Performance Academy (United States)
Dynamo Moscow (Russia)SKA Yunost (Russia)
HoneyBaked (United States)Tappara (Finland)
Kiekko-Espoo (Finland)Toronto Jr. Canadiens (Canada)
Little Caesars (United States)Windy City (United States)

For more information and the latest news regarding the Champions League, click HERE or follow WHH on  InstagramTikTokYouTubeTwitter and Facebook

About World Hockey Group: The worldwide leader in youth hockey tournaments and events. World Hockey Group (WHG) provides more than two dozen unique events in exotic locations around the globe. The team at WHG is deeply involved in the youth hockey community, with an international presence in various countries including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and central Europe. WHG prides itself on providing world-class competition along with a first-class travel experience. Events like the Champions League and World Selects tournament series offer amazing opportunities abroad both on and off the ice for the entire family to enjoy.

About World Hockey Hub: The Pulse of Youth Hockey. World Hockey Hub (WHH) is your number one resource for the latest news, team rankings, highlights, analysis and more from the world of youth hockey. WHH is the worldwide leader in providing global coverage of the game year-round. With an international rankings system, a comprehensive list of more than 100 tournaments, event ratings and reviews as well as the latest team and prospect news, WHH is your one-stop-shop for everything youth hockey related. 

About Total Package Hockey: Founded in 2001, it is Total Package Hockey’s (TPH) vision to become the world leader in positively impacting the lives of student-athletes through sport. TPH prides itself on operating at a standard that exceeds expectations of student-athletes, families, coaches, teachers, advisors and all other entities within both athletic and academic circles. With platforms that include association management, elite prospects programs, tournaments and showcases, camps and clinics and its hallmark Center of Excellence academy model, TPH services over 10,000 student-athletes on an annual basis, throughout 15 U.S. based divisions.

About Panthers IceDen: The Florida Panthers IceDen is a community facility that hosts over 1 million annual guests in the tri-county area. Located in Coral Springs, Fla. the 125,000-square-foot facility is the official practice facility of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers IceDen is home to the Coral Springs Makos, Youth Hockey Leagues, Learn To Skate, Learn To Play as well as figure skating lessons, making it the perfect location to serve families in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. For more information on Panthers IceDen and its offerings, please visit PanthersIceDen.com or follow @PanthersIceDen on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Red Army dominates challenging round robin to win 2006 national championship

The 2020-21 Russian youth hockey winter season came to a close this week, as the 2006 age group completed its national tournament on Sunday. It was the last age group in the country to conclude its postseason — 2005s concluded two weeks ago — as various age levels finished throughout the month of May.

CSKA Moscow was one of the top teams in the world all season long, ranking second in the world with a 27-4-0 record and the odds-on favorite at the beginning of the national tournament. Different from the ‘05 format, the 2006 event consisted of nine teams competing in a round-robin tournament over the course of 10 days in Sochi, Russia. There was no single-elimination playoff, so the team with the most points after the round robin would be crowned the national champion.

CSKA won its first three games handedly, defeating opponents by a combined score of 28-3, and living up to pre-tournament expectations. Meanwhile, Lokomotiv 2004 Yaroslavl, SKA Silver Lions and Metallurg Magnitogorsk spent the first few days of the event battling it out in tightly-contested overtime games. Egor Surin scored not one, but two game-winning goals to keep Lokomotiv in the hunt in the early days of the tournament.

Metallurg and SKA may have had the most exciting moment of the week in their meeting last Monday. With just 15 seconds left to go in regulation, Silver Lions forward Roman Golnik scored to tie the game at 1-1 and force overtime between two teams contending for the top spot. Then four minutes into overtime, Andrey Florovsky completed the late-game comeback for SKA, scoring the game winner to take the extra point in the standings.

The Red Army continued to roll through the round robin, scoring four-or-more goals in seven of the eight games they played. Even when the top two teams in the field met on Friday, No. 1 CSKA was too much for No. 2 Lokomotiv. A three-point performance from the tournament leader in points, Arseny Vorobiev, would give CSKA the 4-1 win and essentially clinch the championship with one game left to play.

In the finale, the Silver Lions did what no other opponent could do and shut down the CSKA offense. After giving up an early first-period goal, SKA would go on to hold CSKA scoreless for the next 51 minutes; the Red Army’s longest stretch of scoreless hockey throughout the entire event. During that time, Vladimir Bakhtov would score his tournament-leading 11th goal to tie the game at 1-1 and then Daniil Anatsky would score the eventual game-winning goal for the Silver Lions, just past the halfway point of the contest. 

The ‘06 Russian national championship closes the book on the 2020-21 winter season. Much of the world experienced pauses, delays or shut down completely over the past several months, so acknowledging national champions at this time of year feels even more important. Many in the youth hockey community were unable to have a season, much less a championship, and keeping that in perspective brings on a newfound appreciation for those hoisting a trophy. 

As the global climate slowly begins to shift towards a new normal, we at World Hockey Hub look forward to providing extensive coverage of youth hockey worldwide. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for the latest news, updates, events and more as we turn the page to a new 2021-22 hockey season this summer.

Names to know and standouts from the ‘05 Russian nationals tournament.

The 2021 under-16 Russian national tournament concluded over the weekend. Eight of the top teams converged on Khanty-Mansiysk in the Ural District of the country for the 24-game event. 

The teams were split into two pools of four, where they played three round-robin games before being seeded in a single-elimination bracket. After pool play, Dynamo Moscow was the top team from Group A and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was the top team in Group B. The two teams cruised through the quarterfinals and semifinals, setting the stage for a championship game on Sunday between the top two teams in the tournament.

After a scoreless first period, defenseman Mark Ulyev scored his first goal of the tournament to put Lokomotiv on the board first. Just three minutes later, Alexander Rybakov doubled his team’s lead on Dynamo to make the score 2-0 heading into the third period.

The team’s leading scorer, Daniil But added an empty-net goal in the final seconds of the game to secure the 3-0 victory. The goal was his third point of the game and eleventh of the tournament, as But finished among the leaders in the event. 

Nikolay Nikulshin backstopped Lokomotiv in impressive fashion, giving up just one goal during the elimination rounds. He held opponents scoreless for 174 minutes and 42 seconds, posting back-to-back shutouts, including the championship game against Dynamo.

Other noteworthy performances include Severstal Cherepovets top pair of forwards, Mikhail Ilyin and Egor Smirnov who combined to score 24 points in the tournament. Second-place Dynamo Moscow had six different players average a point per game, including Egor Rimashevsky, Matvei Maximov, Igor Chernyshov, Emil Pianov, Alexander Lisov and Alexey Zaitsev

The 2005-born national tournament concluded on Sunday, but the 2006 tournament gets underway from Sochi, Russia, on Thursday. WHH will be all over the action so be sure to like and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for more updates from nationals.

Most Represented Youth Teams at Under-18 World Junior Championships

The 2021 IIHF U18 World Junior Championships are set to begin Monday in Frisco and Plano, Texas, with a field of teams from 10 different countries. Teams Czech and Germany will begin the festivities with puck drop at 4 p.m. CT, and will be the first of 28 games over the span of 11 days. 

Team USA won the U20 World Juniors in Edmonton four months ago, and the U18 squad will be a strong favorite to win as well. Team Canada may have one of its strongest teams in recent memory because of the pandemic and Team Sweden brings a strong group across the Atlantic as well. 

With the top countries from around the world all in one location, we take a deep dive into the players’ origins and the youth organizations they represent. 

Team Canada

A pretty diverse group with 25 skaters stemming from 19 different youth programs across five different provinces. Team Canada is unique in another way as well, as three players also hail from different countries with Mason McTavish (Switzerland), Cole Sillinger (USA) and Danny Zhilkin (Russia) all claiming dual citizenship. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see that two teams from the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) account for the largest portion of the locker room, with the Don Mills Flyers and Toronto Marlboros producing three members each.

Team Czech Republic

Stanislav Svozil was a member of the Czech’s U20 team earlier this year, where he picked up an assist in the tournament and the team finished with a 2-2-0 record. The U18 squad is slightly different than previous tournament teams. Of the 25 rostered players, only four are not currently playing in the Czech Republic, making this year’s group a homegrown bunch with little influence from the CHL or other international junior leagues. Those Czech roots run deep through the youth ranks, with three players from HC Plzen and three more from HC Prerov, including the 6-foot-1 Svozil who last played for the club’s U16 team. 

Team Finland

The Finns have had great success in this tournament, winning a medal in four of the last five events including two gold and two silver. Defenseman Kalle Ervasti has ties to the States, having spent his 16U season with South Florida Hockey Academy (SFHA), scoring 61 points in 59 games for the club. In addition to him, the Blues, Jokerit and Pelicans are among some of the most represented programs on the team, but Karpat leads the way with four former players, including standout forward Samu Tuomaala.

Team Germany

A country on the rise in the sport of hockey, from NHL MVP Leon Draisaitl, to last year’s third overall pick in Tim Stützle. Germany is back in the top level of the World Juniors tournament for the first time in six years, and the players are part of an international development plan to build up the country’s competitiveness in the event. Part of that comes from an investment at the youth level, where a program like Starbulls Rosenheim and its 2017-18 under-16 team that produced three members of this year’s national team. 

Team Latvia

It’s one of the smallest countries by land area in the tournament and the national team is limited in terms of resources it can tap into for players. Just eight youth hockey programs account for Team Latvia’s entire roster makeup, and SK Riga alone produced five forwards, two D and a goalie who last played youth hockey for the club’s U16 and U15 teams. While their origins are similar, the players’ current situations vary greatly with skaters actively playing in Finland’s U20 SM-Sarja, Switzerland’s U20-Elit, Norway U21 and Russia’s MHL.

Team Russia

The Russians will bring plenty of offensive firepower to the tournament with Ivan Miroshnichenko and Matvei Michkov headlining the list of forwards. Fyodor Svechkov, Nikita Chibrikov and Ilya Ivantsov are also dangerous, in addition to several others. Eleven members of the team originated from the Central Federal District of Russia; the region surrounding the city of Moscow. One of the most storied and historic youth programs in the country, Dynamo Moscow, accounts for six of the players.

Team Sweden

Without a tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Swedes should still be considered as defending champs after defeating Russia in the 2019 event. This year, it may not have the big names on the roster that it normally boasts, but the country should certainly be considered in contention this week anyway, given its history in international play. Frolunda is one of the most recognizable youth programs in Sweden, most likely because it produces international and professional players at an impressive clip. Five Indians alumni, including some of Sweden’s top prospects, will suit up for the Swedes. Keep an eye out for forwards Liam Dower-Nilsson, Noah Hasa, Fabian Lysell and Ludwig Persson as well as defenseman Simon Edvinsson.

Team Switzerland

Just one player (Attilio Biasca) is currently playing junior hockey outside of Switzerland. The rest of the current roster resides in the surprisingly competitive U20-Elit Swiss League. Biasca suited up for the U20 team in January and has spent the 2020-21 season in the QMJHL. The Swiss will rely heavily on his experience because the country hasn’t fared very well in the U18 tournament. In 21 tournament appearances, Team Swiss has won a medal just once, and it was 20 years ago. Switzerland’s roster is comprised of 25 players from 17 youth organizations, with Kevin Pasche, Nathan Cantin, Benjamin Bourgo and Louis Robin hailing from Lausanne’s U15 team.

Team USA

Hockey in the States starts with the three M’s: Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota. The U18 team, however, starts with just one M… Michigan. Ten players on the roster either reside in, or played their most recent youth hockey in the Mitten State. Dylan Duke, Ty Gallagher, Sasha Pastujov and Red Savage played for Compuware’s 16U team in 2018-19 before all four of them went on to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Plymouth, Michigan. Five others also played for Michigan-based youth programs including HoneyBaked (2), Fox Motors, Little Caesars and Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.

Want more from the world of youth hockey? Get the latest news, rankings, updates and events from World Hockey Hub HERE.

‘20-21 season nears its end as tournaments are set to begin

The Moscow Open Championships will crown the top teams in the region at the ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07 and ‘08 age groups later this month. First, teams will compete in a three-week, round-robin schedule throughout March before crowning a champion.

Number of teams varies depending on the birth year, but each age group is split into Groups A and B, consisting of anywhere from 10 to 14 teams in a group. Teams play against in-pool opponents over the next three weeks before crossover games begin in April.

World Hockey Hub will have coverage and recaps of champions at each age group when the tournament concludes. For more information regarding this year’s Moscow Open Championships and following along in real-time, click HERE.

’06 St. Petersburg Selects sweep through round-robin play in Russia

Russia’s tournament of Federal District Championships concluded on Saturday. This annual event takes place between players from nine different regions of the country: Central, Far Eastern, Moscow, Northwestern, Siberian, Southern, St. Petersburg, Ural and Volga. These selects teams feature the best players in the age group from the respective areas of the country, competing in an 11-day tournament. 

The 2006 event was made final when the St. Petersburg District defeated the Northwestern District 4-0 over the weekend. The victory capped off a 7-1-0 performance at the tournament from St. Petersburg. The lone defeat coming at the hands of the Central District, 3-2 in overtime.

Forward Egor Graf, Matvey Gridin and Kirill Knyazev led a very balanced offensive attack for SPB. Count finished second in the tournament in scoring with 14 points, while Gridin and Knyazev followed close behind with 13 and 11 respectively. Mikhail Korotkov backstopped the team in seven-of-eight games and posted a 1.10 goals-against average in net as well. 

The Federal District Championships regularly serves as the primary platform for scouting and preparation for the following season’s under-16 Russian National team.

North Americans can get an up close look at many of the top players from Russia’s 2006 championship team this summer. The SKA Silver Lions are slated to travel to the United States in June for the World Selects Trophy in Nashville, and will feature more than a dozen players from this St. Petersburg district championship team.

“We’re looking forward to and hope that the pandemic situation will allow this team to join the World Selects Trophy tournament this summer,” said Silver Lions head coach Oleg Zak.

For more information on the World Selects Trophy and what other countries will be represented at this international youth tournament, click HERE.

Covid Restrictions easing up in select areas of Russia

News began to break on social media regarding the Moscow Hockey Federation’s approval of 50 percent spectator attendance in arenas for games contests. Previously, hockey games both professional and amateur had been played in front of empty stadiums. 

Parents and family members throughout the Moscow Region will certainly celebrate being able to return to the bleachers, watching their kids take the ice with a front row seat. Conversely, players will welcome an uptick in the atmosphere with cheering fans, noise makers and chants of support. 

All people in attendance will continue to observe COVID-19 restrictions in terms of face masks and social distancing during these events.

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