MOSCOW/BUFFALO – Russian U20 national team coach Mikhail Varnakov named 29 candidates for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, and received one more as the Buffalo Sabres will loan forward Mikhail Grigorenko for the tournament.
Grigorenko is one of two Russian U20 players currently competing in the National Hockey League, with Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin being the other.
The 19-year-old, who will play his third World Junior Championship after helping Russia win silver in 2012 and bronze in 2013 on home ice in Ufa, was Buffalo’s first-round draft pick in 2012 and joined the Sabres during the 2012/2013 season. In 43 NHL games he scored three goals and picked five assists.
Grigorenko will be joined by Nikita Zadorov, who also started the season with the Sabres but was reassigned to the OHL’s London Knights. Other players from Canadian junior teams are Denis Gorbunov and Valentin Zykov, who both play for the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
Most of the players on the roster come from Russian clubs. 11 of them play in the Kontinental Hockey League while the others compete in the junior league MHL. Among the KHL players are three who scored five or more goals this season with Damir Zhafyarov, Pavel Buchnevich and Bogdan Yakimov and two defenceman with six or more points with Nikita Tryamkin and Andrei Mironov.
Goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevski will play his third World Junior Championship and has become the starting netminder with Salavat Yulayev Ufa, currently ranked third in the KHL’s Eastern Conference.
Apart from Grigorenko and Vasilevski also Igor Ustinski, Mironov and Anton Slepyshev were part of last year’s bronze-winning team.
By calling 29 players, coach Varnakov hopes to have flexibility also because Eduard Gimatov is currently injured. “But the doctor said everything will be okay,” Varnakov said.
“That (Daniil) Zharkov and (Pavel) Koledov are not on the team can be explained by the fact that we are not focusing on past work,” Varnakov said when explaining why not all eligible players from last year’s squad were invited. “Our team is here and now. We invited the guys who we preferred for this season.”
He also praised players from the own junior league MHL whom he tested during the Subway Super Series, along with Russian players from Canadian teams against selections from the OHL, QMJHL and WHL.
“I think our defencemen Vladislav Gavrikov and Rushan Rafikov performed better than their competitors serving in the KHL although that does not necessarily mean they will make the final roster,” Varnakov said.
Russia will play host Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and recently promoted Norway in the preliminary round of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship that will be staged from 26 December to 5 January in Malmö.
Russian U20 national team preliminary roster
Ivan Nalimov, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg
Igor Ustinski, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk
Andrei Vasilevski, Salavat Yulayev Ufa
Alexei Bereglazov, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk
Vladislav Gavrikov, Loko Yaroslavl
Ilya Lyubushkin, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Kirill Maslov, Loko Yaroslavl
Andrei Mironov, Dynamo Moscow
Rushan Rafikov, Loko Yaroslavl
Nikita Tryamkin, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg
Valeri Vasiliev, Spartak Moscow
Kirill Vorobyov, Krasnaya Armia Moscow
Nikita Zadorov, London Knights (OHL)
Alexander Barabanov, VMF-Karelia St. Petersburg
Ivan Barbashyov, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Pavel Buchnevich, Several Cherepovets
Georgi Busarov, Dizel Penza
Eduard Gimatov, Avto Yekaterinburg
Denis Gorbunov, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Vadim Khlopotov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Vyacheslav Osnovin, Traktor Chelyabinsk
Igor Rudenkov, Chaika Nizhni Novgorod
Ildar Shiksatdarov, Krasnaya Armia Moscow
Nikolai Skladnichenko, Kuznetskie Medvedi
Anton Slepyshev, Salavat Yulayev Ufa
Kirill Voronin, Loko Yaroslavl
Bogdan Yakimov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
Damir Zhafyarov, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
Valentin Zykov, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)