The 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series continues Thursday with Team OHL set to face off with Team Russia. Here are 10 things you need to know ahead of puck drop:
Series at a glance: Team OHL enters the 17th edition of the CIBC Canada Russia Series and the 99th game in series history owning an all-time mark of 25-6-0-1, while Russia stands at 34-60-1-3. Russia has won the tournament four times since 2010, including 2018 by an 11-7 margin when the two sides split their series 1-1.
World Junior evaluation: Often used as a springboard for national representation at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, Russia has medaled 13 times at the year-end tournament since 2003, including a gold-medal finish in 2011. Canada has medaled 12 times including seven golds in the same stretch. The 2019 edition saw nine OHL talents join Team Canada on the national stage.
Coach Hunter: Stepping behind the bench for Team OHL is London Knights head coach Dale Hunter, who will guide the CHL across all six games of the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series. In Kitchener, he’ll be flanked by Rangers head coach Jay McKee and Andre Tourigny of the Ottawa 67’s. Named head coach of Team Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, Hunter will have an up-close opportunity to evaluate which players will earn a spot on the national stage.
Back to Kitchener: The 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series returns to Kitchener for the third time in event history. Previous showings were in 2005 and 2007, which saw Team OHL win both contests by 5-2 and 5-3 scores, respectively. Starring for Kitchener in 2005 included forwards Mike Duco and Evan McGarth, while 2007 saw forwards Justin Azevedo, Matt Halischuk, and Nick Spaling representing the Rangers.
Familiar face: Fans in Kitchener will see a familiar face lining up for Team OHL in forward Riley Damiani, who earlier this season was named co-captain of the Rangers. Through 13 appearances in 2019-20, the Dallas Stars prospect has recorded a team-leading 16 points counting seven goals and nine assists.
Representing Russia: A pair of OHL skaters in Windsor Spitfires forward Egor Afanasyev (Nashville Predators) and Ottawa 67’s defenceman Nikita Okhotyuk (New Jersey Devils) will line up for Team Russia. Among the skaters competing for Russia in Game 3, Nikita Zorkin (KHL) tops the charts with two points, with both coming as assists.
Dudas leads the way: Owen Sound Attack forward and Los Angeles Kings prospect Aidan Dudas will captain Team OHL, while Flint Firebirds forward Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) and Ottawa 67’s defenceman Kevin Bahl (Arizona Coyotes) will serve as alternates.
Prospect central: A total of 62 NHL prospects are competing in the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series, with 28 of the 31 NHL clubs represented by at least one player. The Vegas Golden Knights lead the way with five, followed by the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues each at four. In Game 3, the Dallas Stars will have the most representation with three players (Riley Damiani, Kitchener; Ty Dellandrea, Flint; Thomas Harley, Mississauga), followed by the Kings (Dudas, Owen Sound; Thomas, Niagara) and Nashville Predators (Afanasyev, Russia; Tomasino, Niagara) each with two.
CHL representation: In all, 35 CHL clubs are represented by at least one NHL prospect, including the London Knights and Ottawa 67’s who lead the OHL with three each. Representing London includes forwards Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals), plus defenceman Ryan Merkley (San Jose Sharks). From Ottawa, the list includes forward Graeme Clarke (*injured, New Jersey Devils) and defencemen Kevin Bahl (Arizona Coyotes) and Nikita Okhotyuk (Team Russia, New Jersey Devils).
2020 NHL Draft hopefuls: Several prospects earmarked for the 2020 NHL Draft are competing in the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series, including Sudbury Wolves centre Quinton Byfield, Saginaw Spirit centre Cole Perfetti, and Erie Otters defenceman Jamie Drysdale, all of whom project as first-round candidates in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch report for October.