The 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series continues Wednesday with Game 5 featuring Team WHL and Team Russia. Here are 10 things you need to know ahead of puck drop:
Series at a glance: Team WHL enters the 17th edition of the CIBC Canada Russia Series owning an all-time mark of 21-8-1-2, while Russia stands at 35-61-1-3. Russia has won the tournament four times since 2010, including 2018 by an 11-7 margin. The 2019 edition sees the series tied after four games for just the fourth time in event history (2012, 2017, 2018).
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 six WHL talents join Team Canada on the national stage.
Back to Saskatoon: The 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series returns to Saskatoon for the third time in event history following previous stops in 2005 and 2014. Team WHL is undefeated in regulation across the two showings, coming away with a 1-0-0-1 record, including 2005’s 9-2 final that saw Saskatoon Blades star Devin Setoguchi score a hat-trick to claim Player of the Game honours.
Between the pipes: Saskatoon Blades netminder Nolan Maier will get the call for Game 5 in front of the home crowd. Across 17 appearances with Saskatoon this season, Maier has picked up nine wins alongside a .912 save percentage and 2.74 goals-against average.
Wouters and Williams: Maier will be joined by one familiar face in the Team WHL lineup as teammate Chase Wouters becomes a late addition alongside Edmonton Oil Kings forward Josh Williams. The two enter the lineup as Team WHL forward Peyton Krebs of the Winnipeg ICE continues to rehab a torn Achilles injury, while fellow forward Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades is currently with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Donning the ‘C’: Sporting the captaincy for Team WHL is Spokane Chiefs captain and New Jersey Devils first-round pick Ty Smith, while also serving as part of the leadership group includes Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants/Colorado Avalanche), Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes/Buffalo Sabres), and Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets/Tampa Bay Lightning).
Zary tops the charts: Leading the offensive ranks for Team WHL is Kamloops Blazers forward and 2020 NHL Draft hopeful Connor Zary, who headlines the circuit with 30 points counting 13 goals and 17 assists across 19 games.
Russian addition: After going without any CHL talent in Game 4, Team Russia will have a boost in Saskatoon as Calgary Hitmen blue-liner and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Egor Zamula joins his native squad. Through 17 contests this season, Zamula has scored at a point-per-game pace in collecting six goals and 11 assists to sit second in team scoring.
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 5, the Vancouver Canucks lead the way with three NHL prospects, including Calgary Hitmen teammates Carson Focht and Jett Woo in addition to Russian forward Vasili Podkolzin.
2020 NHL Draft hopefuls: Several prospects earmarked for the 2020 NHL Draft are competing in the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series, including Zary and Brandon Wheat Kings blue-liner Braden Schneider, both of whom project as first-round candidates in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch report for November.