A Better Option for the Canada/Russia Series
Long time listeners of The Pipeline Show will be very familiar with this subject as its one I’ve talked about annually on the program for the last decade.
The annual Canada-Russia Series begins this week and will feature a touring Russia squad playing a pair of games against Canadian WHLers and two more against similar teams from the OHL and QMJHL. The competition is largely a showcase tool for Hockey Canada to assess players they are considering for the upcoming World Junior Championship beginning on Boxing Day.
For many years, the Russians would send over a collection of players that would be destroyed by their Canadian counterparts. In recent editions of the exhibition series, the Russians have been more competitive but their roster consists of, for most fans, complete unknowns.
Personally, I’ve grown tired of the format and feel strongly that there is an opportunity being wasted by both Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League. What I would do to revamp the event is have the Canadian team squaring off against a “World” team made up of the American and import players currently playing in the WHL (and OHL and QMJHL when the series shifts to those leagues).
From Hockey Canada’s perspective, it would still allow them the same opportunity to assess players ahead of the World Junior Championship. The level of competition would certainly not be weaker than what the Russians normally send over, in fact, I would argue that it would be stronger.
For the Canadian Hockey League, it would allow them to showcase the non-Canadian talent playing in their three leagues. That alone could be used as a recruiting tool for teams looking to entice European targets to commit for the CHL Import Draft.
This year, the only WHL player on the Russian roster is Red Deer Rebels defender Alexander Alexeyev. In my scenario, there would be 20 WHLers representing the United States and a number of European countries that are talent pools for the WHL and any little exposure for the league in those areas should be taken.
For the sake of clarity, here is the 20-man “WHL World” roster that I would have playing the Canadian WHL squad this week:
Dustin Wolf (Everett) USA
Jiri Patera (Brandon) Czech Republic
Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer) Russia
Filip Kral (Spokane) Czech Republic
Emil Malysjev (Saskatoon) Sweden
Sergei Sapego (Prince Albert) Belarus
Lassi Thomson (Kelowna) Finland
Wyatt Wylie (Everett) USA
Vlad Alistrov (Edmonton) Belarus
Sergei Alkhimov (Regina) Russia
Martin Fasko-Rudas (Everett) Slovakia
Jake Gricius (Portland) USA
Mark Kastelic (Calgary) USA
Andrej Kukuca (Seattle) Slovakia
Andrei Pavlenko (Edmonton) Belarus
Aliaksei Protas (Prince Albert) Czech Republic
Milos Roman (Vancouver) Slovakia
Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (Saskatoon) Norway
Luke Toporowski (Spokane) USA
Oleg Zaytsev (Red Deer) Russia
By my count that would be eight countries represented and most of those players are either already drafted by NHL teams or are eligible for the first time in 2019. In my mind, this is a true representation of what the WHL has to offer fans, and what the league has to offer to non-Canadian talent.
The Canada-Russia Series is OK as it is but this is so much better for the league, the players, Hockey Canada and for the fans. It’s better for EVERYONE.
Time for a change.