Ryan Gropp (Seattle)
Mathew Barzal (Seattle)
Carter Hart (Everett)
Noah Juulsen (Everett)
The best U-20 Canadian born Western Hockey League (WHL) players faced off against a collection of Russia's best U-20 players on Monday and Tuesday in Kelowna and Kamloops British Columbia and they came away with two regulation victories.
The two squads were pitted against each other in the first two games of what is now dubbed the Canada Russia Super Series. In this series a Russian national team, made up of players under the age of 20, plays a series of two games each against select squads of Canaidan born WHL, Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) players. A regulation victory is warranted three points, while an overtime or shootout victory is warranted two points and a loss in the extra session is given one point.
The WHL got all six points in very different ways.
First, in Kelowna on Monday night, the WHL stormed out to a 6-0 lead behind goals from six different players including Everett Silvertips defenseman Noah Juulsen
. In the process if scoring their six goals, they chased Russian starting goalie Maxim Tretiak from the net. Tretiak is the grandson of Vladislav Tretiak, who started in net for the Russians in the famous "Miracle on Ice" game at the Olympics in 1980. The WHL then gave up three straight goals to the Russians before getting an insurance goal from Edmonton Oil Kings
' d-man Dysin Mayo
to close out the game.
Then, in Kamloops on Tuesday night, Portland Winterhawks' goalie Adin Hill
stopped 18 of 20 shots and the WHL completed the sweep with a 3-2 win. Prince George Cougars' forward Jansen Harkins
opened the scoring for the WHL, before the Russians took advantage of loose defense and scored two straight goals in less than a minute to take their first lead. Kamloops Blazers' forward then made the home crowd happy by making a great deke move around Tretiak after taking a great pass from Seattle Thunderbirds' Mathew Barzal
to tie the game. Brandon Wheat Kings' forward Jayce Hawryluk then forced a turnover with under four minutes left in the game and walked in along on Tretiak, making no mistake and taking a late 3-2 lead for the WHL. After Hill made a stellar save in tight on Calgary Hitmens' forward Radel Fazleev
, which started a rush the other way for an empty net goal for the WHL to close out the game 4-2.
Let's take a closer look at how each of the five U.S. Division players representing the WHL played in the two games and what the outlook is for them to make Team Canada for the U-20 World Junior Championships.
-The defenseman appears to be essentially a lock for Team Canada, as he has all the attributes you look for in a d-man for today's game. Juulsen showed off his skating when he activated in the first game and lifted a backhand shot past Tretiak He also finished with a plus three over the two games and was probably the best outlet passer for team WHL. As long as he stays healthy (he was sidelined to start the year with a concussion) he should be headed to Helsinki, Finland to compete for Team Canada. It was surprising that Team WHL coach Dave Lowry went with the left-hand shot of Joe Hicketts
on the right point of the top power play unit instead of the right-hand shot of Juulsen.
-Played the final 29:12 of the first game for Team WHL and gave up all three goals. He made only six saves on the nine shots he faced. Hart did not play that well and seemed lost on one of the Russian goals. He was placed in the really odd situation, though of coming in to defend a five goal lead. The WHL defense definitely did not play as well with the huge lead, as they had earlier for the starting goalie. He was not likely to be named as a 17-year-old to Team Canada, but he may've wasted an opportunity to impress some NHL scouts that were in attendance.
-Barzal played in both games, but played with two different groups of wingers. He assisted on Red Deer Rebels' forward Connor Bleackley's goal in the first game and on Sideroff's goal in the second game. Besides Moose Jaw Warriors' forward Brayden Point
, he was the most skilled Canadian player on the ice. His passing is elite for this level of hockey and he set up several other players in great spots that were not converted. There is no way in my opinion, that he will be left off of Team Canada come December when the team is named.
-He did not stand out in the two games as much as Barzal but still had one assist in the first game. He took a dumb penalty in the first period of game two which cannot help a guy who is likely on the bubble as far as making Team Canada. He played with Barzal in the first game and did not convert on several really nice passes that came his way. Gropp should at least get an invite to selection camp in mid-December though and between his play with Seattle before then and his play at the camp, he could still impress. If Gropp and Barzal make Team Canada, Scott Eansor makes Team USA, Gustav Olhaver
makes Team Sweden and Alexander True makes Team Denmark, Seattle could be missing five forwards for nearly a month while they attend the WJCs.
Adin HIll (Portland)
-Hill didn't dress for the first game, giving him the first rest he's seen since the month of October started. He made 18 of 20 saves in game two getting the win. The two Russian goals were both in prime scoring spots and one of them was screened, so tough to blame the Calgary native. He made several good saves in tight, including the one on Fazleev previously mentioned. I don't even think Hill knew the shot was coming but great positioning in net. made it so he didn't need to know it was coming. Positioning is one of Hill's strengths as he's learned to us his 6'4" frame a lot better this season. Being drafted by Arizona and getting the coaching of large framed Sean Burke and starting Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith (also a big goalie) could not have hurt. Hill is definitely fully on Team Canada's radar now and if he does not get an invite to camp in December, I would be surprised.