17 KHL players are representing Russia at the World Juniors in Canada, and most of them are giving a critical contribution. The Red Machine’s top scorer in the round-robin was Salavat Yulaev’s Rodion Amirov, who netted two goals and produced four assists for the team — including a remarkable performance in the latest match against Sweden. Following Amirov is Marat Khusnutdinov. The center — born in 2002 — just potted the game-winner against the Tre Kronor in the exciting Dec. 30 showdown, when he also had four shots on goal. Khusnutdinov, who had his KHL debut with SKA this year, also scored a goal against Austria. Completing the first line is the team’s captain Vasily Podkolzin. The SKA forward accumulated 4 (2+2) points, all recorded in the latest two games after being left off the scoresheet in the tournament’s first couple of matches. Podkolzin had seven shots against the Swedes, including the one that eventually led to Khusnutdinov’s tally in OT.
On the blue line, Artemi Knyazev is the most productive player, with 4 (1+3) points, with more than 23 minutes logged against Sweden. Kirill Kirsanov is also having an excellent tournament, scoring a terrific goal against the Tre Kronor and improving each game. The SKA defenseman is another 2002-born — things look bright for the next year for the Russian selection. Anchoring the blue line in the first line are Semyon Chistyakov and Shakir Mukhamadullin. Chistyakov leads the team, tied with Kirsanov and Arseny Gritsyuk, with a plus-3 rating, and is looking rock-solid in the D-zone with his excellent physical play and positioning, and has also contributed in the O-zone with two assists in the latest two games. Mukhamadullin is surprisingly scoreless so far and had a couple of mistakes down the road, but he will look forward to improving in the medal round.
Another player who is having a good tournament is Yegor Afanasyev. The CSKA forward found confidence after posting a three-point performance against Team Austria and netted a swift goal against Sweden after a marvelous pass by Mikhail Abramov.
In goal, the Russians have enjoyed an excellent performance by Yaroslav Askarov. The SKA goalie started in three of four games, always looking reliable and playing much better than what his stats are telling. His colleague Artur Akhtyamov had 17 saves against Team Austria in what probably was his only appearance in the tournament.
The World Junior Championship will return on Jan. 2, 2021, with the quarterfinal games.
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