At its core, the annual Subway Super Series is a glorified, nationalistic exhibition round. Once a year, around the second half of October, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation selects a roster of junior aged players eligible to play in the forthcoming World Junior Championships and brings them to Canada to play in a series of matches of similarly aged teams from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL in turn. The Russian squad is generally supplemented by Russian youth playing in the Canadian Junior ranks, while the WHL, OHL and QMJHL teams only use players eligible to play for the Canadian squad, so the tournament falls just short of All-Star status in that non-Russian imports and American teens are excluded from the proceedings.
While exhibition tournaments are generally not cause for overmuch analysis, this tournament in particular, especially from the Canadian side of the ice, tends to play heavily in the run-up to roster selection to the WJC. To help anticipate the upcoming Canadian roster as well as to get a flavor for some of the Russian players, I attended the OHL game in Peterborough, while watching game footage of the remainder of the tournament, which was won by the Russian squad four games to two.*
*There is way too much noise in a tournament of this nature, with the Russian team relatively stable, while the Canadian sides switched every second game.
D Darnell Nurse – Has great recovery capability due both to natural foot speed and improving recognition skills. In one memorable sequence, his stick shattered on a point shot attempt, which led to turnover. Nurse raced back without any hesitation and without losing his man and wiped him out just inside his own blueline. Any hesitation would have resulted in a high percentage offensive attempt by Russia…Usually timing his hits perfectly…Owns a hard shot from the point. In a post game interview with Hockey Prospectus, he noted that the “Difference between this game and a regular OHL game is that Russia plays faster, makes plays faster. Everything is faster.”
LW Nick Ritchie – Good stickhandling, phonebooth maneuvering…Has man size and strength but could be more forceful about staking out positioning in the offensive zone.
RW Travis Konecny – Fantastic edge work and body control but can disappear for long stretches.
RW Zach Nastasiuk – Made a nice drop pass on the rush from the wing showing creativity with good vision in the offensive zone.
D Ben Harpur – Low energy motor, but fluid skater, good edge work for a very big man…Poor pinch decision led to a 2-on-0 break for Russia that didn’t end up in the OHL net only due to a muffed last pass. Have seen tremendous growth in his game over the past 12 months, but still prone to poor decision making.
G Spencer Martin – Good lateral movement, in control of his body…was out of position on some goals as his teammates could not clear the puck during PK swarm.
C Cole Cassels – Dirty slash and ensuing brouhaha gave Russia a two-man advantage. Not the first, nor the last time, I have seen this player play callously, endangering the opposition…Good vision in O-zone, crisp passer.
RW Josh Ho-Sang- A bit passive in his own zone….employs great creative skating and stickhandling to gain the zone – team OHL scored after this entry…entertaining stickhandling, fast and agile hands used to score on penalty shot…strong centering pass led to another OHL goal…electric skater and dangler.
G Mackenzie Blackwood – Looks good on wrap-around attempt, showcasing good lateral agility, all the more impressive given his plus size. Should be one of the top goalies taken in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
C Max Domi – Showed a good burst of speed to break in on net, able to protect puck from the sticks of defenders and scored…Scored again in game on rebound from shot by Ritchie…Great offensive vision. Weaved in and out of traffic in slot and hit an open teammate through a tight seam in front of the Russian netminder.
LW Michael Dal Colle – Good break pass from N-zone to Domi entering the O-zone allowed the latter to walk in and score…Can disappear for stretches while looking like the best player on the ice for other stretches.
C Jason Dickinson – Johnny on the spot to score on a rebound.
D Chris Bigras – Has a good shot from the point.
LW Remi Elie – Scored on an open shot from right in front of the net after receiving good centering pass from Ho-Sang. Displaying more assertiveness in his game compared to 12 months ago.
D Mitchell Vande Sompel – lacks some functional strength but has the makings of a good puck rusher.
C Dylan Strome – great backchecking, defensively responsible two-way pivot.
C Connor McDavid – Missed the series due to a hand injury, notes from previous, recent viewings of player…Incredible speed of brain, feet and hands. Most dynamic junior aged player I have ever seen. (Note: I never scouted Crosby as a junior). Have seen him burst from zone to zone without the opposition able to so much as transition from facing one direction to the other. Has incredible vision in the offensive zone finding seams that simply do not seem possible from any other vantage point. If his defender gives him an inch, he may as well be playing with the man advantage. Superlatives aside, can be pushed off game if played very physically. Playing him tight can be a challenge, but may be best/only way to neutralize the player. As disastrous fight against Mississauga proved, if you check him very hard, he will overthink things and lose some dynamism.
G Igor Shestyerkin – Does well at keeping a clear line of vision and seeing the shooting lanes so as to cut off holes…Can utilize the pokecheck to keep opponent away when in tight…very quick, reactive glove hand…Great reaction times. Should start for Russia in WJC.
D Damir Sharipzyanov – Assigned to cover Ritchie in front of his goalie on PK. Did well to help his goalie see the shooting lanes.
C Konstantin Okulov – Scored at the end of a nice passing play …Great individual effort to equalize late against WHL. Carried puck on backhand along icing line, switched to forehand in front of the net and found a hole and twine.
RW Nikita Shatsky – Great vision to see the seam used for the incisive pass to create goal…Beat goalie with wrist shot from just inside the faceoff circle to the goalie’s left, finding a hole on the stick side.
D Rushan Rafikov – Did well to keep crease clear on PK, pushing around big Nick Ritchie…Gave Russia a 2-0 lead with a strong shot after creeping up from the point… Has good puck moving skills, with a crisp pass giving open goal look for teammate for 4th goal… Very good recovery speed
RW Sergey Tolchinsky – very shifty skater…Great balance.
RW Vladimir Bryukvin – Taps in fourth Russian goal of period from open side after a nice pass from Rafikov during 5-on-3 play…In a difference game, scored on a knuckle puck after drop pass from Fishchenko.
C Pavel Kraskovsky – slick edge work…Trusted enough to kill penalties…gear offensive vision used to feed first Russia goal in second WHL game with great cross ice diagonal pass…Dangerous skater.
C Alexander Dergachev – Great size, strength. Defensively responsible. Good transfer of puck from D-zone to N-zone…While not an elite skater, has a strong second gear…protects puck well with large frame along boards but questions remain about his creativity….strong edgework.
D Alexander Bryntsev – scored against WHL on low snapshot from top of the point, through screen and through the goalie’s legs.
C Ivan Nikolishin – Good puck protection skills
LW Ilya Korenev – Big body, tenacious and effective forechecker
LW Andrey Alexeev – Easy tap in from great cross ice feed from Kraskosvky…Undersized, but responsible in own zone.
RW Vyacheslav Leshchenko – Good acceleration…gorgeous pass on backhand from behind the icing line diagonal to Yudin, forced the goalie (Fucale) to lateral movement, but not fast enough….Scored on backhand from perpendicular to the net, finding hole in netminder’s (Desrosiers) coverage of the post.
D Ivan Vereshchagin- very strong slap shot to put Russia on board in second game against OHL.
D Dmitri Yudin – One timer to top shelf. Has good offensive talents for a blueliner.
LW Evgeny Svechnikov – Good awareness in own zone to steal puck from QMJHL player and start a 2-on-1 break.
LW Daniil Vovchenko – Solid puck carrier. Can weave with speed.
RW Ivan Fishchenko – pounced on pass from Bryuvkin in the slot, and pounded it past the QMJHL netminder. Was too quick/strong for his coverage and kept stick free to receive the pass.
D Joe Hicketts – He is very small, but strong for his size…Great slapshot on display to score for WHL…Looks like the heir to the Rafalski/Spurgeon school of blueliners.
D Josh Morrissey – quick hands when handling the puck…great skater and willing to join the rush…Likes to get heavily involved in the offensive end.
LW Jake Virtanen – Tapped in a point shot that had been deflected wide of the mark…Decisive with the puck with quick release on passes…Great speed and can get separation from coverage.
C Greg Chase – Great hesitation move to shake a close check. Very fancy stickhandler and likes to dangle…Fun to watch when he has the puck
C Nic Petan – Elusive skater.
LW Cole Ully – Scored on a rebound from out wide
D Travis Sanheim – Good wrister from point after skating to middle of the ice to find a shooting lane, shot was not handled by Russian goalie and rebound ended up in the net.
C Sam Reinhart – Very intelligent player. Very high panic threshold. Smart passer, does all the little things well.
LW Francis Perron – scored from the dot on PP with strong wrister….Has a nose for the puck.
C Daniel Audette – After gaining zone on off-wing, strong wrister beat goalie to the near side. Very quick, deceptive release of shot.
RW Alexandre Ranger – Elusive skater. Can swim with the puck through traffic.
LW Joey Ratelle – Excellent skater and stickhandler. Beat his man before passing the puck to RW Anthony Richard who scored through goalie’s 5-hole….Speed to create havoc.
C Frederik Gauthier- Excellent defensive forward, but with minimal offensive impact. Very responsible in own zone and strong on faceoff. Willing shot blocker who will stand in front of point slapshots.
G Zachary Fucale – Stopped all sorts of rubber, staying with the puck and not overcommitting. Best I have seen him.
C Anthony Beauvillier – can pivot and shoot in one motion. Also able to protect puck well.
D Ryan Graves – weak coverage failed to tie up stick of Fishchenko, which led to Russian goal.
G Phillippe Desrosiers – completely fooled on bloop shot that sails over glove from distance….poor post coverage allowed for another Russia goal from poor angle.
D Nicolas Meloche – Scored from point with wrister to five-hole.
LW Anthony DeLuca – scored on a deflection of another point shot on P