Russia U-20: roster
Dosto's prediction

DEC.16 (RHI) -- Russian National U-20 team opened its training camp for the World Junior Championship last Thursday at the Novogorsk's facilities in Moscow region. Head coach Rafail Ishmatov called 29 players to the camp. 22 of them - 2 netminders, 8 blueliners and 12 forwards - will be a part of a team that will defend its title in Canada later this month. On December 18 and 21 Ishmatov's side will play exhibition games against the Soviet Wings - an RSL club.

Insider's editor Max Dostoevsky unleashes his predictions on line-up combinations and the final cuts...

Andrei Medvedev         Spartak Moscow / Calgary
Konstantin Barulin      Gazovik Tyumen / '03 eligible
Ruslan Sidikov          CSKA-2 Moscow / '03 eligible

That's an easy take. Big boned Andrei is practically a lock to be a starter. However look-out for Konstantin Barulin to step in and provide quality effort, if things get out of hand for Medvedev. Barulin is and 18-year old part batterfly/part stand-up netminder who's allready a starter for High League's Tyumen this season, he's certainly a significant improvement over last year's back-up Dmitry Mylnikov. Odd man out: Sidikov - haven't been facing this season a competition of a level as high as the other two netminders.

Konstantin Korneev      Krylia Sovetov Moscow / Montreal
Denis Grebeshkov        Lokomotiv Yaroslavl / Los Angeles
Dmitry Fakhrutdinov     Lokomotiv Yaroslavl / '03 eligible
Leonid Zhvachkin        Guelph Storm / NY Rangers
Mikhail Lyubushin       Krylia Sovetov Moscow / Los Angeles
Vladimir Korsunov       Spartak Moscow / Anaheim
Alexander Shinin        Severstal Cherepovets / '03 eligible
Maxim Kondratiev        Lada Togliatti / Toronto
Alexei Petrov           Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk / '03 eligible
Fedor Tyutin            SKA Saint-Petersburg / NY Rangers
Kirill Koltsov          Avangard Omsk / Vancouver

Going into camp Ishmatov allready has two sets of rearguards that did play together and enjoyed significant success in not so distant past. Look for Korsunov and Shinin to be team's top pairing - they did very well at the Pardubice Four Nations Cup as members of Russia's first five-man unit including the notorious TOP trio (look forwards section). Lyubushin and Korneev play alongside for Moscow's Krylia Sovetov in Russian Superleague this season. Lyubushin is a stay-at-home rearguard who cleans up well the lapses of his offense-minded partner... There's another duo of defenseman that saw some time in pair this season as well - Yaroslavl's Grebeshkov and Fakhrutdinov played a few games together at the RSL level in October, although Fakhrutdinov performed poorly for both Lokomotiv (team low -9 in 20 games) and Russian U-20 side in Czech Republic. Ishmatov is an old-school coach who likes to have allready fixed sets of players on his five-man units, however Omsk's outstanding Kirill Koltsov easily beats Fakhrutdinov as a left defender on the unit with Grebeshkov. Tyutin and Kondratiev should make the remaining set of blueliners... Too bad for Alexei Petrov, who truly deserves a spot on the team but is an unlikely candidate to make it due to Russia's impressive depth at the back...  Zhvachkin's invitation to the camp is beyond explanation... Is Ishmatov's appointment a sit back for Russian National program (?) following Vladimir Plyuschev's I'll stick-swing all those agents and scouts if they'll  bother my players... Everyone thought that the Federation cleaned up its act by firing corrupted Pyotr Vorobiev two years ago. But than came  Ishmatov's appointment who he's a type of guy that faced in the past accusations similar to the ones current Lada head coach had to face back at the time... Remains to be seen...

Alexander Polushin      CSKA Moscow / Tampa Bay
Nikolai Zherdev         CSKA Moscow / '03 eligible
Sergei Anshakov         CSKA Moscow / Los Angeles
Andrei Taratukhin       Avangard Omsk / Calgary
Alexander Golovin       Avangard Omsk / Chicago
Alexander Perezhogin    Avangard Omsk / Montreal
Dmitry Pestunov         Metallurg Magnitogorsk / '03 eligible
Alexei Kaigorodov       Metallurg Magnitogorsk / Ottawa
Yuri Trubachev          Severstal Cherepovets / Calgary
Alexander Ovechkin      Dynamo Moscow / '04 eligible
Igor Grigorenko         Lada Togliatti / Detroit
Igor Volkov             Salavat Yulaev Ufa / '03 eligible
Dmitry Semin            Spartak Moscow / St.Louis
Timofei Shishkanov      Quebec Remparts / Nashville
Yevgeny Artyukhin       Moncton Wildcats / Tampa Bay

Russia allready has a world class line that combined for 14 goals and 37 points in six games at the two Four Nation's tournaments this fall. The TOP line of Yuri Trubachev, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Polushin should be WJC's main attraction... However the top question for Russia up front follows - Will Ishmatov let Nikolai Zherdev out of his doghouse for the tournament? Or the unquestionable (well, in my opinion that is) No.1 pic at the upcoming NHL entry is doomed for the fate similar to the one of Oleg Kvasha's at the '98 WJC in Helsinki - limited fourth line duty that is. Ishmatov  underutilized Zherdev at both Sollefteå and Pardubice tournaments this fall, will he continue to waste Nikolai's immense talent ? Unlike Vorobiev, Ishmatov is a type of coach who usually does what's best required to win. Zherdev would be at home on the third unit alongside longtime line-mate Anshakov and sweet-skating playmaker (aka shrinking © HF boards) Kaigorodov... Russia's second unit, with potential to become the top, should see Grigorenko at center (unlike noted in all the scouting reports C is Igor's natural position and he plays it for Lada) with Perezhogin and Shishkanov on the wings... Expect Dmitry Semin to challenge Shishkanov and Anshakov (natural RW who plays at LW for Ishmatov)  for the LW position on their respective units ... Taratukhin and Golovin are in superb shape at this stage and would be a perfect feed on the fourth line as role players.  The third guy on their unit got to be Dmitry Pestunov. He's a great prospect. Stocky, hardworking two-way pivot with all sorts of offensive smarts - definitely a dark horse at the next draft... That leaves Artyukhin (another questionable selection), Volkov and (we give it to................) Semin out of the spotlight for the tournament...

Notable absentee: Albert Vishnyakov - fast, powerful winger with great puckhandling skills and remarkable hockey sense. Plays for Kazan in RSL.

So long...
-- Max Dostoevsky