The Subway Super Series is underway with Team Russia taking game 1 in a convincing 6-2 victory over the QMJHL squad in Blainville-Boisbriand, QC two days ago. Game 2 will go tonight in Val d’Or, QC followed by two games vs the OHL stars (Guelph, Sarnia) and finishing up with two games vs the WHL squad (Vancouver, Victoria).
There are no shortage of junior stars on the ice on any of the six games, and the fans in those venues will be treated to high octane hockey on each night. The Super Series provides a great opportunity to showcase the number of Canadian Hockey League stars.
Sure there is the World Junior Championships over the Christmas break that shows the cream of the junior crop. There is the 22 members of the Canadian roster, less depending on number of NCAA players, and the other various players scattered amongst the other teams.
There is also the CHL Top Prospects game prior to the draft in the new year, however it only showcases draft eligible talent.
The Subway Super Series may not have the national draw of the WJC or the future impact that the draft prospects game could potentially have, but there is no other series of games that showcases the amount of talent and top junior prospects that the CHL has to offer.
There is a total of 86 CHL players in the six games from the three CHL leagues. All of which are top players on their respective teams, and many are high end NHL team prospects or highly rated NHL draft prospects. If you include the 7 Russian players that currently playing in CHL markets, not to mention current KHL players Nail Yakupov and Alexander Khokhlachev who have OHL ties, it becomes that much more impressive.
It is also a chance for most fans across Canada and the northern US to see players who play in another market. Aside from Rogers Sportsnet having a game of the week on Friday night’s, there are no games televised nationally, with most CHL teams just televised in their local markets.
It gives fans on the west coast a chance to see stars such as Jonathan Huberdeau or Nathan MacKinnon, or fans outside of Ontario get a chance to see future NHLers like Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome in action.
This year promises to be a tightly fought affair with the Russians already taking a commanding lead after their game 1 win. Russian stars Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko were just too much and it’s hard to believe there’s any chance of them slowing down.
The Russians bring over a very talented and dynamic roster this year. Aside from the two stars just mentioned, they also have highly touted prospects such as Anton Zlobin, Khokhlachev, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevski.
There is certainly enough talent on the QMJHL roster, however, to fight back and even the series. The team is lead by team captain Huberdeau and prospective #1 overall pick MacKinnon but there is plenty more than that. They also have top end forwards like Philip Danault and Jean-Sébastien Dea, not to mention offensive defensemen like Xavier Ouellet and Jimmy Oligny.
The same can be said for the other two leagues. Especially the OHL who could potentially have the most talented group of the three. They boast blue chip NHL prospect talents like Mark Scheifele, Ryan Strome, Boone Jenner and Matt Puempel and are equally impressive on the blueline lead by Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington and Ryan Murphy. Having Bruins first rounder manning the pipes in Malcolm Subban doesn’t hurt either.
The WHL has perhaps the best overall group of defensemen with names such as Ryan Murray, Morgan Reilly, Matt Dumba and Griffin Reinhart. They also have top snipers up front in Ty Rattie and Hunter Shinkaruk to put the puck in the net.
While there are no official points awarded and no trophy handed out, the Super Series is more than just a simple set of exhibition games. First and foremost it’s about pride, neither the Russians or the CHL teams want to be embarrassed by their rival.
It also means different things to different people. Certainly players looking to suit up for Canada next month at the WJC are trying to put their best foot forward with Team Canada brass watching intently.
Players looking to make the team such as MacKinnon, Rattie, Murphy or Dumba among others will be looking to make an impression in their one or two games.
It’s also another chance for draft eligible players like MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin (QMJHL), Sean Monahan (OHL) or Max Domi (OHL) to raise their draft stock.
For players such as Huberdeau, Scheifele or Hamilton who are hoping to make their NHL debuts this year it’s an opportunity to prove they are ready to take the next step.
Whatever the motivation these games will give fans across Canada a much needed dose of exciting hockey to watch, something that hasn’t been readily available (especially on television) with the current NHL lockout.