The 2019 CIBC Canada-Russia Series is all wrapped up, and it came right down to the wire. Some of the best under-20 players from Russia faced off against the best from the QMJHL, OHL, and the WHL, with Russia playing each of these groups twice, splitting each mini-series. Of the six games played, four of them went to overtime – a record for the tournament.
To determine the series winner, the WHL and Team Russia had to have a second shootout in the final game – that’s right. The sixth game of the tournament went into a shootout itself, and since that ended with the Russia winning, evening the CHL versus Russia tournament at three games apiece, a second shootout was held. The player who capped the series winner just happens to be one of the standouts in the tournament.
There were a great number of players who performed well in the tournament, here are the five that I think stood out the most (and some honourable mentions at the end)
Nolan Foote, Team WHL
That player that won the series for the CHL? Well, that would be Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nolan Foote. The Kelowna Rockets winger was a standout in last year’s Canada Russia Series and put that skill on display once again this year.
On top of this series-winning shootout goal, Foote scored two goals and another shootout goal – all four of which came in the second game against Russia. He made his presence known in the first installment of the series as well though. He collected an assist on the game-tying goal, which led to the WHL winning that first game in overtime.
That second game performance saw him rack up the goals, but his overall play in the tournament is why he’s on this list. He was dominant all over the ice, running the offence and coming up clutch on defence. He’d rush back into his own end, steal the puck from his opponents and just like that, the play was headed the other way.
It’s not hard to see why the Lightning drafted this left-winger with the 27th pick of the 2019 NHL Draft. They have to be happy with how the young player is coming along.
Alexander Khovanov, Team Russia
Playing against the QMJHL, Alexander Khovanov put on a show. That can be seen in the video below, where the Russian showed off his speed, rushing down the sideboards and beating the defenders before cutting to the front of the net and burying the goal.
That goal was one of two for Khovanov in his two games and he added three assists for five points – tying the points lead for the entire tournament. We’ll get to the other player that shared the lead. The young player started the series off on the right foot for Team Russia, leading the team to victory with two goals and two assists in the 4-3 win over the QMJHL.
Khovanov is a prospect for the Minnesota Wild, drafted 86th overall in 2018. He’s having a stellar season with the Moncton Wildcats and that carried over into the CIBC Canada Russia Series. It looks like the Wild knew what they were doing with this pick.
Raphael Lavoie, Team QMJHL
Edmonton Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie put his skill on display in the tournament, collecting three goals and one assist for four points. He scored one goal in the first game, before potting two in the second – including the game-winner in overtime. He collected his assist in the game as well.
In the above video, Lavoie gets the puck in the neutral zone and battles through four defenders to break into the offensive zone, doing so, and scoring. He’s dominant when he’s on, and he’s been on a lot as of late.
The Halifax Moosehead is having a big season in the Q, and Team QMJHL had the pleasure of taking full advantage of that. Coming into the second game Canada Russia Series, Team QMJHL had lost four straight games to Team Russia, spanning over three years and including the first game of the 2019 edition. Lavoie snapped that streak, becoming the hero for the league.
Nolan Maier, Team WHL
The first and only goaltender on this list, Team WHL’s Nolan Maier stood on his head in his one game played. Kicking off the WHL vs Russia mini-series, Maier stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced, leading the tournament with a 1.00 goals against average and a .962 save percentage.
But, that’s not all he did. Maier made history in the tournament, with an assist on the overtime goal in that first WHL game. It was the first time in the 17 years of the Canada Russia Series that a WHL goaltender recorded a point and the first time since 2015 (Mackenzie Blackwood) that a goaltender from any team in the series did so.
Team WHL had a number of bad turnover through the game, and Maier was there to bail them out. He kept that going into the overtime period, allowing the team to keep trying in the other zone. He had great positioning, moved effortlessly from post to post, and his reflexes were on point. The goaltender was passed over in the 2019 NHL Draft, something that shouldn’t happen again in 2020.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Team Russia
Last but certainly not least, Dmitry Zavorodniy was one of the best players in this tournament. The Calgary Flames prospect led the series in points with fellow Russian Khovanov, collecting three goals and two assists through his two games against the QMJHL.
Just like Khovanov, Zavgorodniy had four points in game one of the series, two goals and two assists. With that mark, they each tied the single-game record for points from a player on Team Russia in the tournament. The Flames prospects’ two goals included a game-tying goal the game-winner, proving that he can show up in clutch moments.
Zavgorodniy used this tournament to show off his blazing speed, his offensive prowess and ability to not only compliment star players on his line but be the star player. He’s one to keep an eye on for Flames fans.
- Hunter Jones, Team OHL:
- Jakob Pelletier, Team QMJHL
- Dawson Mercer, Team QMJHL
- Rodin Amirov, Team Russia
- Connor McMichael, Team OHL
- Calen Addison, Team WHL
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.