Later this week, the top European countries will clash once again to take the crown of the Czech Hockey Games and prepare for the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia. In the third stage, in Sweden, Russia won all three games with Igor Larionov behind the bench. This time, the Russians will be led by Valery Bragin, who will soon have his debut at the IIHF WC level.
KHL representatives: Harri Sateri (Sibir), Janne Juvonen (Jokerit), Juho Olkinuora (Metallurg), Ville Pokka, Oliwer Kaski (both Avangard), Niklas Friman, Tommi Kivisto, Petteri Lindbohm, Marko Anttila, Veli-Matti Savinainen, Hannes Bjorninen, Markus Hannikainen, Teemu Turunen, Saku Maenalanen, Iiro Pakarinen (all Jokerit), Jere Karjalainen (Dinamo Riga).
As the Leijonat gets closer to the IIHF WC, more Jokerit representatives are on the roster. In the latest stage, no Jokerit players were called to Sweden, while this time, the team’s head coach Jukka Jalonen wanted 11 players from the Finnish franchise on his list. It will also be an excellent chance to get to know some new Jokerit players like Hannes Bjorninen or Petteri Lindbohm, who just signed in Helsinki for the 2021-2022 season. Moreover, the whole goaltending line will be made up of KHL players, with Sateri, Juvonen, and Olkinuora fighting for the starting position.
Only six KHL players made the roster this time. However, a few of them, like Mario Kempe or Mikael Ruohomaa, have more than one chance to remain in the league as the transfer campaign continues. Lawrence Pilut had an excellent season with Traktor and is now looking forward his debut at the WC level. Anton Wedin, who has recently inked a deal with Sibir Novosibirsk, is also going to try and use this chance to show himself for the upcoming WC and get acquainted with some players and coaches from his new league.
The Czech Republic, similarly to Sweden, will play its home stage with only five KHL representatives, even if several players like Hynek Zohorna or Lukas Radil are still up for grabs on the market. Most likely, the starting netminder will be one between Avangard’s Simon Hrubec and Traktor’s Roman Will. Hrubec, who just lifted the Gagarin Cup and then signed a two-year deal with the Hawks, is the most logical option, considering his shape. Interestingly enough, even the Czech Republic will feature a player from Jokerit, with David Sklenicka en route to his third World Championship participation.
KHL representatives: Ivan Bocharov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexander Samonov (SKA), Ivan Fedotov (CSKA); Yegor Yakovlev, Grigory Dronov (Metallurg), Dinar Khafizullin, Igor Ozhiganov, Kirill Kirsanov (all SKA), Rushan Rafikov, Alexei Marchenko (Lokomotiv), Mikhail Naumenkov (Salavat Yulaev), Dmitry Yudin (Ak Bars), Daniil Pylenkov (Vityaz); Anton Slepyshev, Maxim Shalunov, Konstantin Okulov, Pavel Karnaukhov (CSKA), Kirill Marchenko, Anton Burdasov, Ivan Morozov, Emil Galimov, Artyom Shvets-Rogovoy, Vladislav Kamenev, Evgeny Timkin, Vasily Podkolzin, Andrei Kuzmenko (all SKA), Denis Zernov, Sergey Tolchinsky (Avangard), Dmitry Voronkov, Ilya Safonov (Ak Bars), Pavel Kraskovsky (Lokomotiv).
Valery Bragin has called a good mix of veteran and young players, with options like Vasily Podkolzin and Dmitry Voronkov to represent the youth and other more experienced players like Igor Ozhiganov or Andrei Kuzmenko trying to become leaders for the Russian side. It will also be interesting to see how the recent playoffs MVP Sergey Tolchinsky and his teammate Denis Zernov will do on the bigger stage — both have a tremendous chance to have their debut at the World Championship level.
The Czech Hockey Games will kick off on May 12th and will play through Sunday, May 16th. The 2021 IIHF World Championship is less than 10 days ahead, with the inaugural game scheduled for May 21st.