2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series Storylines to Follow

The on-ice battle between Canada and Russia dates back decades. The 1972 Summit Series is the pinnacle of that battle, at least for Canadians. Ever since, the competition has spread to numerous other tournaments. One of which has been a large part of the CHL season every year, the Canada Russia Series.

In the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series, teams from the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL will face off against a Russian under-20 team. For anyone looking to check out this great tournament, here’s the schedule:

Monday, Nov. 4: Russia vs. QMJHL

Tuesday, Nov. 5: QMJHL vs. Russia

Thursday, Nov. 7: Russia vs. OHL

Monday, Nov. 11: OHL vs. Russia

Wednesday, Nov. 13: Russia vs. WHL

Thursday, Nov. 14: WHL vs. Russia

On top of the incredible hockey that will be on display, there are lots of other stories to discuss heading into the tournament. Here are four to keep top of mind as the competition gets going.

Lafrenière vs. Byfield

Alright, Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield aren’t actually playing against each other, but this tournament will give a great look at the two top talents ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft. Despite the age gap, the Canada Russia Series will provide a look at these two prospects on a level playing field. They’ll face the same team in the same sample size (two games).

For anyone questioning whether or not Byfield should be ahead of Lafrenière in 2020 NHL Draft Rankings, although the early point totals might be quieting that, this event will give a look at where the two prospects are at. More than just points, who can lead their team over Team Russia and stand out in a talent-packed tournament?

Can Podkolzin Lead Russia to Repeat Victory?

Vancouver Canucks prospect Vasily Podkolzin will be leading the Russian charge, as he’s been a proven leader for Russia. Just last season, he was the captain for Russia in the World Under-18 Championship, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and the World Junior A Challenge. There’s no question that he’s the leader of this squad.

Vasily Podkolzin Canucks Draft
Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canada Russia Series has seen the CHL come out on top 12 times to Russia’s four. On top of that, the Russian squad has never won in back-to-back years. Can Podkolzin and the Russians change that? They have a strong group with the ability to score and will be looking to leave a historic mark on this tournament. Podkolzin will look to make sure that they do.

2020 NHL Entry Draft Prospects to Follow

This year’s edition of the Canada Russia Series is ahead of what looks like one of the best drafts ever. Due to this, the tournament is filled with high-end, draft-eligible talent that you won’t want to miss. We’ve already touched on the top two, Lafrenière and Byfield, but here’s a few more to keep an eye on.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft: Bell’s Top-62 Preseason Rankings

Team Russia has two draft-eligible players in Rodion Amirov and Maxim Groshev. Amirov is a first-round talent, already playing games in the KHL at just 18. He’s a clutch performer and should make that known in the tournament. Groshev is likely to be a fourth to seventh-round pick, but definitely worth a look if you get a chance.

Team Russia Rodion Amirov
Rodion Amirov of Team Russia (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

On the CHL side, there are many more players to watch. For the QMJHL, along with Lafrenière, prospects Dawson Mercer, Ryan Francis, Mavrik Bourque, and Hendrix Lapierre are all players to watch. Mercer and Lapierre look to be locked for the first round, with Bourque right on the edge. Francis will be a later pick, but if you’re doing your homework, you’ll be sure to check him out. Lapierre suffered a concussion just before the tournament, so he might not end up dressing. But if he has any say, he’ll be on the ice.

But that’s just the forwards. On defence, we have a couple more potential first-rounders in Justin Barron and Jeremie Poirier – likely top-20 picks. Then there’s Lukas Cormier, another solid defenseman who should be selected in the top-50. This QMJHL team is a draft-eligible dream.

Moving west, the OHL looks stacked heading into this tournament. Cole Perfetti and Jamie Drysdale could likely take the rest of the year off and still be top-10 selections come June. The roster also boasts defenseman Ryan O’Rourke, who has looked like a second-rounder but has been on the rise. Along with Byfield, it’s a strong group.

Saginaw Spirit Cole Perfetti
Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit (Credit: Saginaw Spirit / OHL)

Finally, moving to the WHL, Connor Zary and Braden Schneider are the lone draft-eligible players participating. The good news is that both look to be first-round talent. If you just watch one game through this tournament, no matter which one that is, you’ll still be catching some of the best players to watch ahead of the draft.

Which Players Will Lock Their Spot on the 2020 World Junior Championship Roster?

Finally, but possibly most importantly, all of these players are auditioning for a chance to spend their holidays playing hockey. Arguably the most popular international hockey event, the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship kicks off on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and the teams will be made up largely of players in this tournament.

The Russian squad might look very similar to how it does for the Canada Russia Series, but the Canadian squad will be a bit more complicated. You have three teams, and that will be cut down to one to represent the nation. There’s a lot riding on the Canada Russia Series for the Canadian players, and they will be looking to impress. If I haven’t mentioned it already, this is a tournament you don’t want to miss.