Tournament Review: U18 Five Nations in Russia

Jokke Nevalainen

2019-02-11

 

The final U18 tournament before the U18 World Championship tournament was played over the last week in Sochi, Russia. The tournament included teams from Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic and USA. All five teams played four games over a span of five days which probably explains why there were so many injuries during this time.

 

USA didn’t play on the first day and the Czechs didn’t play on the final day which meant those two teams played four games in four days which is insane. The other three teams at least had one day of rest during the tournament, with Russia obviously choosing the best option, having a day off right in the middle of the tournament. Maybe next time there should be a bit more rest available, or at least teams should be better prepared with larger rosters to allow rest for some of the players.

 

Russia ended up winning the tournament by winning three of their four games. USA, Sweden and Finland won two games, and the Czechs managed to win just one game. Let’s go through all the teams and the performances of some interesting players from them.

 

Russia

 

Vasili Podkolzin (2019) was the expected top player for Russia, and he didn’t disappoint. He was the team captain and played on their top line even though it was the second line on paper. Podkolzin had an empty-net goal in the first game against Sweden, and then he scored twice against the Czechs.

 

But in the third game against Finland, he was given a match penalty for head-butting after a dirty knee to his center, and then he had to miss the fourth game against USA because of suspension. So essentially, Podkolzin had three goals in two and a half games.

 

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Another interesting player on the Russian team was center Ilya Nikolayev (2019) who was on the receiving end of that dirty knee I mentioned above. He did return to the game in the third period and played the next game against USA but maybe wasn’t playing at full capacity in those situations. Nikolayev played a solid two-way game he’s known for and generated some offense.

 

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Winger Yegor Chinakhov (2019) played a top-six role and was very interesting to watch. He’s very talented with the puck, and has a great shot as well. He had a goal and an assist against the Czechs and added a goal and two assists against USA. His five points led the team.

 

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Big right-handed shot center Yegor Spiridonov (2019) played on the line that was the first line on paper but perhaps the second-best line in reality. He had two goals against the Czechs and added another goal against USA.

 

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Defenseman Semyon Chistyakov (2019) was very noticeable throughout the tournament. He was very active offensively, played important minutes on the penalty kill, and threw a lot of big hits all over the ice. He’s not big but he likes to throw his weight around. He also carried the ‘C’ in the final game when Podkolzin was out of the lineup. He had an assist against Sweden, added another assist against the Czechs, and then had two assists against USA. Only one defenseman had more points in the tournament than Chistyakov’s four.

 

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Nikolai Burenov (2019) is another defenseman who impressed, especially in the final game against USA where he scored twice and added two assists. Those four points were his only ones in the tournament. But his shot is pretty good.

 

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USA

 

Even though Jack Hughes (2019) missed the tournament because of an injury, USA still had the best team on paper. Some of their individuals were very impressive but as a team, they were a bit disappointing. There are many possible reasons why they weren’t as good as expected, though.

 

The top player for the Americans in this tournament was center Trevor Zegras (2019). He had a goal and an assist in the game against Sweden, another goal against Finland, and a goal and three assists in the game against the Czechs, for a total of three goals and seven points in the tournament. Zegras is a potential top-five pick this summer, and that’s exactly what he looked like in this tournament.

 

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Another impressive player was center Alex Turcotte (2019) who had a goal and an assist against Sweden, two goals against Finland, and another goal against Russia, for a total of four goals and five points in the tournament. Turcotte isn’t as flashy as Zegras but plays a reliable two-way game and could be a high pick this summer as well.

 

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Tiny goal-scoring winger Cole Caufield (2019) also had a good tournament. He had a goal and an assist against Sweden, a goal against the Czechs, and a goal and an assist against Russia, for a total of three goals and five points in the tournament.

 

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Winger Matthew Boldy (2019) managed to show his high-end skill in flashes but didn’t get on the score sheet as regularly as the previously mentioned trio. He had one assist against Sweden, Finland and Russia, so he finished the tournament with three points.

 

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Cam York (2019) was the top defenseman for Team USA. He had one assist against the Czechs and two more assists against Russia. He was very active offensively and played pretty well defensively.

 

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Sweden

 

The Swedes were missing their top defensemen in Victor Söderström (2019) and Philip Broberg (2019). They also don’t have a lot of talent up front for the 2019 NHL Draft. Luckily for them, they have a stacked group of 2020 NHL Draft forwards who can carry the load offensively.

 

In my opinion, winger Lucas Raymond (2020) is the top Swede for the 2020 NHL Draft, and he also had a great tournament. He had four assists in the game against USA and added another one against the Czechs. Five points in four games is pretty good for an underager. He’s such a creative player and has all the tools needed to become a superstar in the NHL.

 

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On the opposite wing to Raymond, you’ll usually find Alexander Holtz (2020) who is also a top five prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Holtz had four goals in the game against USA, and then he added one assist against the Czechs and Finland. With six points, Holtz lead the team in points.

 

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Another top ten pick for the 2020 NHL Draft is winger Noel Gunler (2020) who had a quiet tournament – he was expected to be a top player for Sweden – but showed his great shot in the game against Finland. That was his only point in the tournament.

 

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The forgotten Swede when it comes to the 2020 NHL Draft is another winger Zion Nybeck (2020). He had an assist against USA, a goal against the Czechs, and then he added a goal and two assists against Finland. That’s a total of two goals and five points for him. He might be undersized but he’s very talented and deserves a bit more hype.

 

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Winger Albin Grewe (2019) was one of those players who was expected to create offense for the Swedes but he was on the receiving end of a huge open ice hit from Chistyakov during the first minutes of game one, and even though he returned for game two, he probably wasn’t playing at full capacity, and he also missed the last two games of the tournament entirely.