Players from 20 KHL teams will line up in Russia for their respective national teams for the second stage of the Euro Hockey Tour.
After the first Euro Hockey Tour stage in Finland – won by an inspired Team Russia – international hockey is back as this time the top four European national teams will clash in Russia. Most of the games will be played at the CSKA Arena in Moscow, except for the very first game of the tournament between Finland and Czech Republic, scheduled in Tampere, and the Sunday game between Russia and Finland again, to be played at the Stadium St. Petersburg.
KHL representatives: Dominik Furch (Severstal Cherepovets), Michal Jordan (Amur Khabarovsk), Ondrej Vitasek (Kunlun Red Star), Adam Polasek (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk) Jiri Sekac (Ak Bars Kazan), Robin Hanzl (Spartak Moscow), Michal Bulir (Metallurg Magnitogorsk), Andrej Nestrasil (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk), Michal Repik (HC Slovan Bratislava), Tomas Zohorna (Amur Khabarovsk)
Milos Riha decided to call to the Russian stage of the Euro Hockey Tour ten KHL representatives – the same number of players called up for the November tournament – with some exciting changes. This time, the prime candidate for the starting goaltender position won’t be Avtomobilist’s Jakub Kovar, but Severstal’s Dominik Furch, who’s having a strong season despite the team’s low spot in the standings. Adam Polasek is having a tremendous season in Nizhnekamsk, and he finally made the squad, even if only as a substitute after an injury. If the roster changed if compared to Finland, goals, and points are still expected from Ak Bars’ Jiri Sekac and Spartak’s Robin Hanzl. It will be interesting to check how Metallurg’s newcomer Michal Bulir will play. He had a decent start in Magnitogorsk, and a good tournament can get the ball rolling for him and add him confidence. As usual, the Czechs don’t look like the team to beat, but playing with them will not be a walk in the park.
Rikard Gronborg decided to call up a younger roster, with an average age of only 25, and a mere four KHL representatives. The Tre Kronor confirmed Lars Johansson to backstop the team, but left Magnus Hellberg home, substituting him with Djurgarden’s Adam Reideborn, who never played with the senior national team. Philip Holm and John Norman already played in Finland, while CSKA’s blueliner Klas Dahlback will play for Team Sweden for the first time since the 2011-2012 season. It’s hard to predict what kind of performance to forecast from the Swedes, as they may lack a bit of experience to reasonably contend for the gold medal, considering the other team’s rosters. However, the talent is there, and surprises are always to be expected.
KHL representatives: Joni Ortio (Vityaz Podolsk), Juuso Hietanen (HC Dynamo Moscow), Jyrki Jokipakka (HC Sochi), Petri Kontiola (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl), Henri Ikonen (Jokerit Helsinki), Juuso Puustinen (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk), Jukka Peltola (Sibir Novosibirsk).
As this is not the home stage, Finland decided to get younger, and called only seven players from the KHL, with the notable omission of Kristian Vesalainen, who may be busy with the junior national team in sight of the upcoming World Junior Championship. Among the players who will debut for the Lions, there is Jokerit’s forward Henri Ikonen. The Finns will bring Russia an impressive roster, the rotation of players confirms the good depth the Lions currently have in their system. Juha Metsola didn’t look too bright at the Karjala Cup, but Vityaz’s Joni Ortio should be more than capable of substituting him. There is little doubt that Team Finland will not want to be a spectator in Russia and they will fight hard to revenge after the Karjala Cup defeat.
KHL representatives: Ilya Sorokin, Nikita Nesterov, Artyom Blazhiyevsky, Mikhail Naumenkov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Maxim Shalunov, Kirill Kaprizov, Ivan Telegin, Sergei Andronov, Anton Slepyshev (all CSKA Moscow), Alexei Vasilevsky (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg), Igor Shestyorkin, Vladislav Gavrikov, Vasily Tokranov, Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Alexander Barabanov, Sergei Plotnikov, Ilya Kablukov, Evgeny Ketov, Andrei Kuzmenko (all SKA St. Petersburg), Viktor Antipin (Metallurg), Andrey Pedan (Ak Bars Kazan), Alexander Yelesin, Andrei Loktionov (both Lokomotiv Yaroslavl), Alexander Kadeikin, Anton Burdasov (both Salavat Yulaev Ufa).
Team Russia’s head coach Ilya Vorobyov decided to go with the most familiar faces for the national stage of the Euro Hockey Tour and called up 21 players from CSKA and SKA. Differently from the Karjala Cup roster, this time there are no debutants, excluding Igor Bobkov, who however was already called up to the Team Russia roster a couple of years ago without getting a chance to play. Hardly it will be different for him this year, considering that both Sorokin and Shestyorkin are in great shape and have a lot of confidence from Vorobyov. A few players from this roster, like Kadeikin, Pedan, or Vasilevsky, conquered a spot in the lineup thanks to a solid performance at the Karjala Cup, and it will be interesting to see if they can continue the same way. All in all, Team Russia is again the favorite to win, and the tournament will be played on home soil. The Sunday game against Finland – scheduled at Stadium St. Petersburg – will almost certainly set a record for attendance in Russian hockey.
The 2018 Channel One Cup will start on December 13. The four teams will compete on a three-game round robin through Sunday, December 16. Around the same dates, Team Russia B will compete in Switzerland at the Lucerne Cup.