Photo Courtesy of the CHL
Welcome back to my mid-week, every week Prospect Ramblings! As usual, I’ll be taking a look around the prospect world and trying to make sense of the endless chaos. This week I’ll be looking at the pair of games that the QMJHL played in their leg of the Canada-Russia this week. The pair of games were split with Russia winning game one and the QMJHL claiming victory in the second matchup. There were standout performances from both squads, with a pair of prospects who play in the Canadian Maritimes playing the hero in each game.
Russia wins 4-3 on the back of Khovanov’s Four Points
If you were a Minnesota Wild fan, you must have been pretty happy to hear about Alexander Khovanov’s four-point night against the league that he’s called home the past three years. Not only did he have a point on every Russian goal, but he had a primary point on each. He started the game with a beautiful goal where he faked a slap shot from about four-feet out before tucking it behind Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Alexis Gravel, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect.
The QMJHL stormed back in the second period, scoring three straight goals in the frame. After tying the game up on a goal where Tampa Bay prospect, and Baie-Comeau captain, Gabriel Fortier snapped a shot home over the Russian goaltender’s shoulder on the rush. The QMJHL took the lead on a great two-on-one where Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier set up Dawson Mercer, a first-round talent for the 2020 Draft.
After going up 3-1, the Russian junior squad was able to pull within a goal in the final seconds of the second period. Khovanov was once again playing a feature role in the goal as he drove wide of the net, protecting the puck and then throwing a pass out front from behind the net to Dmitry Zavgorodniy of the Rimouski Oceanic. As crazy as it sounds, Zavgorodniy can score without Alexis Lafrenière who sat out of the series with an injury.
The third period was close to even in terms of shots and possession but only the Russians were able to get on the board. After tying the game on a snipe from their captain, Khovanov, the Russians seemed to find the momentum. Khovanov collected the loose puck in the offensive zone and turns the play around quickly. After trying to pass the puck cross-ice at the top of the circles, the puck is s blocked and bounces right back to Khovanov who threads a beautiful pass to the top of the crease where it was redirected into the net again by Zavgorodniy for the game-winner.
Overall, the first game is exactly what you hope for as a fan of junior hockey. It was a tight game that had great individual performances and some highlight real plays. The Russians were led by their captain and Moncton Wildcat leading scorer, Alexander Khovanov who had a pair of goals and a pair of primary assists. The QMJHL had some chances to pull away in this game but came up against a strong goaltending performance from 19-year-old Daniil Isayev who plays in the MHL. A 4-3 win for the Russians put them in control of the series early on the East coast of Canada.
The Q Strikes Back on Lavoie’s Overtime Heroics
After tasting defeat in game one, the QMJHL was looking to even the series going into Ontario later this week. They were able to do just that on the back of a strong performance from Halifax Mooseheads center Raphael Lavoie and Moncton Wildcats winger Jakob Pelletier who both had a multi-point night. It wasn’t an easy win but it was an exciting win for the QMJHL group that hasn’t beaten the Russians in the series since the first game in 2017. Lavoie opened the scoring early in the game, scoring a weak goal that trickled through Amir Miftakhov, an undrafted goaltender playing in the VHL for Bars Kazan. The QMJHL was able to get off to the start that they wanted on the back of one of their top talents.
With the QMJHL pressing, Miftakhov was forced to make multiple big saves in order to keep the Russian contingent in the game. The save below came during an onslaught from the QMJHL, where even captain Benoit-Olivier Groulx thought that Fortier had put the puck past Miftakhov on a tight angle shot.
The Russians get on the board late in the first on a beautiful goal where he shows off great hands and good finish around the net. The Cape Breton Screaming Eagle’s forward puts his nation on even terms with his league on the dirty dangle through the QMJHL defense.
The QMJHL regained the lead on a nice passing play with Nathan Légaré, the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, but the lead didn’t last long. Just under two minutes later, Calgary Flames prospect Dmitry Zavgorodniy decided to put on a show with an amazing goal. Showing off his speed and hands, Zavgorodniy was able to walk around defender Xavier Bouchard, a Vegas Golden Knights draft pick. Zavgorodniy drove to the net once past Bouchard and tucked the puck past the goaltender on the far side of the net.
The Russian junior team was able to take the lead on a goal from in tight midway through the second frame, but again the QMJHL was able to tie the game up at three less than two minutes later. A carbon copy of the goal that they scored the day before, Pelletier and Mercer hook up again on a two-on-one rush to find the back of the net tying the game at three.
With both teams going scoreless in the third period, overtime was needed to decide the second game of the series. After a strong performance in regulation, the overtime hero was none other than Edmonton Oilers second-round pick, Raphael Lavoie. Joining the rush a little late, Lavoie cuts to the middle of the ice finding a soft spot before sniping home the game-winner. Almost as good as the game-winning goal was the celebration from the Halifax Moosehead’s Lavoie where he flapped his arms like an eagle, mocking Moncton Wildcats’ forward Khovanov.
Game two of the series was another tight game. The highlight-reel goals came courtesy of the Russian squad but the win went to the QMJHL contingent. Khovanov and Zavgorodniy led the way yet again for the Russians but it was Lavoie who stole the show in Moncton, Khovanov’s back yard. The drama between Lavoie and Khovanov could spill into the QMJHL regular season next time Moncton and Halifax play each other on November 23rd. The Quebec league was able to get their first win in their last five games in the Russian series, dating back to 2017.
The Canada-Russia series is a showcase of some of the best junior players across Canada and Russia, putting them on display prior to the World Junior Championship at the end of December. With the series split with the QMJHL, the Russians will be in Ontario on Thursday night to take on the OHL in what should be another good set of games. With the likes of Quinton Byfield, Phillip Tomasino and Connor McMichael staring for the OHL in addition to the stars representing Russia, the Canada-Russia series should continue to shine in Ontario.
Thanks for joining me as I ramble on every week, mid-week. Who are your scary good players? Which player has surprised you the most? Comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my newest project, Shift Work: Quinton Byfield, where I do a shift-by-shift analysis of Byfield’s game and figure out what makes him a top-three prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Until next time, enjoy the rest of the Canada-Russia series and the rest of the hockey around the world!