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CanucksArmy World Junior Recap: Russia 5 – 2 Switzerland

My expectations for this game weren’t high, but I didn’t expect a blowout either. That I got a highly competitive game from start to finish was like found money.

The Russians, even with a less talented team than they’ve had in recent years, are still a hockey superpower. For all the Suisse have done to build their hockey program, and they’ve really done well in that regard, they’re just not there yet.

In the end, it was the top end talent of the Russians that made the difference. St. Louis Blues prospect Klim Kostin potted a rebound to give Russia the 2-1 lead in the second, then set up the goal that regained the lead for Russia in the third. His linemate Andrei Svechnikov (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible) was buzzing too and helped set up the insurance goal, 4-2, for Russia in the dying minutes of the game.

The opportunistic Swiss converted on most of their sparse chances but couldn’t muster enough to take the 2-2 draw that they’d secured up to the middle point of the third period to the final horn.

Notes

Nando Eggenberger (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)

Coming into this tournament, Eggenberger was one of the players I most wanted to see. He’s a relatively big forward (6-foot-2) who has a lot of experience playing against men for a first-year draft eligible forward as a part of HC Davos’ organization for parts of the last three seasons in the Swiss men’s league, the NLA.

As a high-end draft prospect (likely to go somewhere in the second-round) Eggenberger was a player the Swiss leaned on in all situations. He only had one shot and an even rating, but his impact on the game was larger than his statistical profile might suggest.

Eggenberger was one of the most consistently engaged offensive players for the Swiss this game at even strength. He had one play on the penalty kill that really caught my eye though. Eggenberger stole the puck on a five-on-three penalty kill, rushed into the Russia zone, tried to create a play offensively, and upon failing, tried to drop the puck back to his defenceman to kill more time. It was just a really intelligent play for an 18-year-old to make and effectively ended the two-man advantage.

Valentin Nussbaumer (2019 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)

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After a strong game in his tournament debut, Nussbaumer was mostly quiet today. That’s fine, especially since he’s not even draft eligible until next season. It’s quite the feat to even be in Buffalo to begin with — words I never thought I’d type.

Phillip Kurashev (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)

This was another strong performance for Kurashev who’s quickly turning into the Swiss team’s best player in this tournament. Like Eggenberger, Kurashev is expected to go somewhere in the mid-rounds of the draft.

Performances like today’s will help Kurashev’s stock. He set Marco Miranda up for the Swiss’ first goal of the game and had a few chances in tight that he just couldn’t bury. Unfortunately for Kurashev, he was also right there for the Russians go-ahead goal in the third — more bad luck than poor play, honestly.

Klim Kostin (2017 STL 1st)

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This was a little more along the lines of what I expected from Kostin at this tournament. With a goal and an assist in today’s game, Kostin was awarded the Player of the Game for Team Russia.

Kostin’s wide-base and strength help him protect the puck well, and he did that against the Swiss defenders today, controlling the pace of the game and directing traffic for the Russian attack. A great example of this was on the Russians game-winning goal in the third period.

Artyom Minulin (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)

If you followed along with CanucksArmy’s draft coverage, I bet you were as surprised as some of us that Artyom Minulin went undrafted. That’s right, he’s a re-entry for this year’s draft, after not going in any of the seven rounds in last year’s.

Part of the reason Minulin went undrafted is that he’s a poor skater (perhaps an understatement) and watching the Russians in their first game, he didn’t do much to prove his detractors wrong. Quite the opposite, frankly.

This game was a nice step forward for Minulin. His skating wasn’t that much better, but he made some solid reads in transition and set up his teammates with crisp, hard passes to move the puck up ice.

Andrei Svechnikov (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)

Russian head coach Valeri Bragin is known for leaning heavily on 19-year-olds in this tournament, so I wasn’t surprised that Svechnikov didn’t play a tonne last game. When I saw him taking regular shifts with Kostin in this one, well, I was caught a little off guard. So too were the Swiss on multiple occasions by Svechnikov.

Svechnikov played a big role in the Russian go-ahead goal in the third period, even though he didn’t get credited with an assist, and he set up the 4-2 goal with an assist in the dying minutes of the third.