As reported by different Russian media outlets, the original U18 team won’t be flying to the States to participate in the IIHF 2016 U18 WJC in Grand Forks, North Dakota. According to the most recent news, Team Russia’s roster will be the U17 team, coached by Sergei Golubovich, with his assistants being Igor Znarok, the younger brother of Oleg, the head coach of the senior national team. The team should depart from Russia tomorrow, April 7. The news was initially reported by the same head coach, Vitali Prokhorov.
“We discussed with the Russian Minister of Sports,” Provorov told r-sport.ru. “I won’t be flying to the US, I can’t give you any other comment.”
German Rubtsov, the alleged top player of the team, later told rsport.ru, “We have been told nothing. We are ready to go, we prepared the tournament for the whole season.”
This news is quite a shock for the tournament, and of course many rumored that the decision is due to doping, in particular to Meldonium abuse, similarly to what caused other prominent Russia international in other sports, including the famous tennis star Maria Sharapova. But at this point, these are only rumors and it should be better to wait for an official declaration from the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. It should be noted that recently similar cases happened with Russian football and curling teams.
At this point, it is hard to understand what will happen to players who are now playing in North America. It looks like only defensemen Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor Spitfires, OHL) and Artyom Minulin (Swift Current Broncos, WHL) were going to join Prokhorov’s team, but since the coaching staff changed, it is hard to understand what is going to happen with them. Another high-profile available player is Dmitry Sokolov, who recently ended his OHL season with the Sudbury Wolves and was rumored to not be in favor with the Prokhorov coaching staff. Thus, it was expected he would not participate in Grand Folks. But at this point, anything can happen.
The best Russian 1999-born players are Klim Kostin, Kirill Slepets, Mikhail Bitsadze, and Ivan Chekhovich. The starting goalie is Maxim Zhukov. It will be interesting to know if 2000-born players Andrei Svechnikov and Danila Galenyuk will be called up to play. Stay tuned for more information as it is available.