The 2017 CIBC Canada/Russia Series took six games and a tie-breaking shootout to decide which side came out on top. After the Russian team and the three CHL league teams played six games to a 3-3 draw, the CHL side came out on top of Thursday night’s shootout to win the series.
Over those six games we saw some great performances, some of which will influence WJC camp decisions in the weeks to come. We’ll explore those early next week, but for now we’re going to highlight who put forth some of the best efforts through the Canada/Russia Series.
10. Carter Hart (Team WHL Game 1, November 6 in Moose Jaw): Hart made 20 saves in a 7-0 win over Russia in Game 1 of the series played in Moose Jaw. While it seems a little generous to earn a top performance rating in such a blowout, consider Hart faced five breakaways and another nine shots from within the home plate area. The Flyers prospect had one six-minute stretch in each of the three periods where he didn’t face a shot, making the shutout even more impressive because of how focused he had to remain.
9. Artyom Manukyan (Team Russia Game 3, November 9, in Owen Sound): Manukyan owns the Russian Junior League record with his 105 points last season in 60 games. His two-goal effort in a 5-2 Russia win over Team OHL included the lone power play marker Russia scored over the past two years. He also chipped in with the game-winner midway through the second period.
8. Nick Suzuki (Team OHL Game 4, November 13 in Sudbury):
Suzuki, who should contend for an OHL scoring title this season, dazzled the Sudbury faithful with a three-point night helping Team OHL earn a 4-2 decision to even the series. Suzuki opened the scoring before the game was three-and-a-half minutes old, assisted on the game-tying goal in the second period and scored the game-winning goal 4:09 into the third period. All told, Suzuki was plus-1, scored on two of his three shots and won 14 of 22 faceoffs.
7. Alexei Polodyan (Team Russia Game 3, November 9 in Owen Sound): Scouts were a buzz over the play of the undrafted Polodyan who is represented by former CHLer Serge Payer. Polodyan’s empty-netter was well deserved as one of Russia’s standouts in the 5-2 win. If for nothing else he should be lauded for his first goal, which came late in the second period, where he took the puck end-to-end down the wing before burning two OHL defencemen and cutting to the middle for a picture perfect shot while falling to the ice. He gets credit here for the nicest goal in the series.
6. Andrei Altybarmakyan (Team Russia Game 2, November 7 in Swift Current): It became clear why the Chicago Blackhawks used their third-round pick to procure Altybarmakyan in the 2017 draft. A smaller skilled player who played hard every shift, Altybarmakyan never backed down from a challenge. His third-period goal brought Russia all the way back from a 3-0 deficit, and while shorthanded just two minutes later, he assisted on Mikhail Maltsev’s short-handed, game-winning goal.
5. Conor Timmins (Team OHL Game 4, November 13 in Sudbury): In much the same fashion as Kale Clague in Game 1 of the series, Timmins controlled the play every shift. The one-goal, two-assist effort speaks to his offensive proficiency in the match, but what was so much more impressive was the play in his own zone, where he defended well and broke pucks out efficiently. He used excellent body position and puck skills to consistently relieve Russian pressure from Canada’s defensive zone.
4. Mikhail Maltsev (Team Russia Game 2, November 7 in Swift Current)
Maltsev, a New Jersey Devils pick, proved to be Russia’s most well-rounded player over the six-game series. While he scored just two goals, they both came in the same game. His second marker, a short-handed gem in the third, proved to be the game-winner. Maltsev was a plus-3, recorded seven shots in the game and won half of his 20 face-offs.
3. Samuel Harvey (Team QMJHL Games 5, 6 November 14, 16 in Charlottetown/Moncton): Harvey became just the fourth goalie in the 15-year history of the event to play in two games of the Canada/Russia series. None of the previous three represented Canada at the WJC. Harvey may change that narrative with back-to-back brilliant performances against Russia to win the series. On November 14, Harvey recorded 25 saves in a 3-1 win, then backed that up with a 31-save effort despite losing 2-1 in regulation. Harvey was able to avenge the regulation loss by stopping all five Russian shooters in the series tie-breaking shootout to clinch the CHL a series win. I’d hate to be the one to have to figure out how to properly record that in the annals of hockey: an overtime loss and shootout win in the same game.
2. Alexey Melnichuk (Team Russia Game 3, November 9 in Owen Sound): Melnichuk played in five of the six games, including two relief appearances and three starts. His tournament stat line reads 2-1-0-1, 1.96 GAA, .926 SP, but without a doubt his best game was the third. Melnichuk repelled 35 Team OHL shots, but what made the performance so impressive is that he fell behind just 36 seconds in on a Taylor Raddysh penalty shot goal. Melnichuk seemed unfazed by the early adversity and a power play marker in the second was the only other blemish in an otherwise perfect performance.
1. Kale Clague (Team WHL Game 1, November 6 in Moose Jaw): The Los Angeles Kings prospect came into the series as the WHL’s top scoring defenceman and Game 1 showed you why. Clague earned three assists, including the secondary helper on Kole Lind’s game-winner. Statistically, Clague finished the night with three assists and a stunning plus-5 rating. Digging deeper, Clague controlled the game in all three zones, was highly effective in transition and showed off a much-improved defensive game. He will be on Canada’s top pairing at the world juniors.