A lot is expected of Russia this month at the upcoming World Junior Championships. The city of Ufa, Russia, is hosting the tournament, and the Russians will not settle for anything less than a gold medal.
With the NHL mired in a lockout, a lot of attention will be on the tournament from North America, too, especially in hockey-rabid Canada.
It’s a big deal.
Nikita Kucherov, the Bolt Prospect of the Week, is a big deal for the Russian squad. This will be his second WJC tournament as he won a silver with the Russians last year in Alberta, Canada, finishing with two goals and seven points in seven games. He is expected to be an offensive leader for the home side.
Kucherov left the province of Quebec for Russia this past weekend, but not before leaving his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club, Rouyn-Noranda, wanting more from the 2010 Lightning second rounder.
Kucherov had a hat trick in his final game with the Huskies and also added two assists for his first 5-point game. For the week, he had four goals and two assists in two games.
It’s safe to say he’s ready for Russia
Kucherov, who will return to Quebec in January, is the No. 12-ranked prospect in the BoltProspects.com top-25 rankings. He projects as an elite scoring winger at the NHL level if he can learn to adapt to a more physical and responsible game in North America. The Lightning signed Kucherov prior to the 2012-2013 season.
For the year, Kucherov has 22 points (nine goals) in 13 games split between the Quebec Remparts and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He requested and was granted a trade out of Quebec earlier this season when he was the odd-man out in a unique import player situation with the Remparts. Now Kucherov has a regular lineup spot with the Huskies and he’s making the most of it.
Honorable Mention: Tanner Richard, C/W, Guelph (OHL – Canada). Like Kucherov, Richard left his junior club on a high note, notching four assists in his last game with the Storm – an 8-0 win over Erie. He had one goal and five assists in three games last week. He will play for Switzerland at the WJCs. Other Lightning prospects in the tournament include Andrei Vasilevskiy, Artem Sergeev, and Nikita Nesterov, all of Russia.