By Alex Quevillon
Ottawa’s J. Benson Cartage Center will be the home to a more international hockey experience on Thursday night as Team Russia comes to the Nation’s Capital for their third game in four days and first of two against the OHL’s All-Star Team.
The first game of the series is scheduled for November 7th in Victoriaville, with the Colisée de Québec hosting the second QMJHL-Russia matchup on the 9th. The Russians finish their Ontario visit in Sault Ste. Marie on the 14th, and wrap up their country-wide tour in Regina and Moose Jaw on the 16th and 17th respectively.
It appears as though September’s exhibition game between the Québec Remparts and Ottawa 67’s was the only chance for Ottawa fans to see the talents of 2012 NHL draft eligible forward Mikhail Grigorenko, as he is only playing in the Quebec City contest. The Russians will also part ways with Artem Sergeev and Anton Zlobin after their trip to Victoriaville.
For Thursday night, however, the Russians will get a strong OHL presence to bolster their lineup.
The most notable player to watch will be Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting. Anybody who pays attention to the NHL’s yearly draft rankings has heard the name. Yakupov, just 17, is second in OHL scoring with 35 points in 18 games and is almost a guarantee to go first overall in next year’s draft.
The only player with more points than Yakupov is Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts, who will suit up for the OHL in both the Ottawa and Sault Ste. Marie games. Pearson has 37 points in 17 games. The Colts will be well represented on Thursday. Ivan Telegin joins the Russians for this one game, while Mark Schiefele does the same for the OHL. Both Barrie forwards are also highly touted prospects of the Winnipeg Jets.
A trio of 2011 NHL draft picks from the OHL will join their fellow countrymen. Windsor Spitfires' leading scorer Alexander Khokhlachev, Guelph Storm tough guy and defenceman Andrei Pedan, and Tampa Bay first rounder Vladislav Namestnikov, a London Knights forward, will surely add a boost to the Russian squad. Namestnikov will be joined by two other Tampa Bay Lightning draft picks from 2011. The Bolts also took forwards Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov with the 58th and 148th picks in this past draft. Both forwards, spending the year in Russia, will play the entire series.
The full Russian rosters can be found here
A pair of Orleans-born defencemen will have plenty of eyes on them. Family members, hometown friends and scouts alike will all want to get a look at Peterborough Pete Slater Koekkoek and Cody Ceci of the hometown 67’s. Both were given honourable mention by TSN’s Bob McKenzie in his 2012 NHL Draft Preview.
Ceci will be joined by a number of Ottawa teammates on home ice. Centers Tyler Graovac and Sean Monahan, along with winger Tyler Toffoli were announced to the team. Chris Byrne will be an assistant coach to Belleville’s George Burnett while Neil Hoch maintains his position as trainer on Ottawa’s home bench. Former NHLer Scott Walker will be Burnett’s other assistant.
Monahan, 17, is the youngest player for the OHL All Star team. Toffoli led the OHL scoring race last season while Graovac, a Minnesota Wild draft choice, has missed a large amount of time with the flu this season.
The Ottawa connection doesn’t end there. Kingston Frontenacs forward and Kanata-born Ryan Spooner will participate in both OHL games. Also, Ottawa Senators fans will be able to watch one of their three first round picks from 2011, Matt Puempel of the Petes.
The full rosters for both OHL teams can be found here
Puck drop is at 7:00PM Eastern Time. Tickets are still available.