Friday, 24 August 2007

Elite Vs. Elite

I had decided to wait on posting anything about the upcoming Canada-Russia Super Series until it was finally upon us. Well, it is upon us with the eight-game series starting on Monday in Ufa, Russia. If this series turns out to be anything like the recent World Junior Championships, it should be fast-paced and exciting. But to be honest, should we expect anything else from the best players from the most successful hockey countries to play the game of hockey?

Both teams are fielding rosters in what could be called "the NHL of the future". The Russians have 12 NHL-drafted players, plus four players eligible for the 2008 draft, playing in the series. Canada has 22 NHL-drafted players, plus three players eligible for the 2008 draft and one player eligible for the 2009 draft, playing in the series.

A few Russians to keep an eye on in this series are goaltender Semen Varlamov (WAS), forwards Alexei Cherepanov (NYR), and youngster Kirill Petrov (2008 draft). Cherepanov will attract a lot of attention from the Canadians and scouts. Varlamov will also be watched closely by scouts as he is predicted to be the next goaltending sensation in Washington once Olaf Kolzig retires.

The Canadians to watch will be forwards Sam Gagner (EDM), Colton Gillies (MIN), and wonderkid John Tavares (2009 draft). Unfortunately, Angelo Esposito will not be playing for Team Canada as he is out with a groin injury, but Canada should have enough talent to still compete with the speedy Russians.

Another concern is goaltending. There is no concern over the talent in net, but rather who will start. Jonathan Bernier (LAK), Leland Irving (CAL), and Steve Mason (CBJ) all have the talent to be the starter for Canada. My bet is on Irving due to Sutter seeing him regularly in the WHL when he played for Everett. However, Bernier did backstop the Lewiston Maineiacs to the QMJHL Championship and the Memorial Cup tournament last season, and is certainly capable of carrying the team.

No matter who is in net, I expect this series to be up-tempo and exciting. Both TSN and Rogers Sportsnet will be covering the games live on television. Peter Loubardias of Rogers Sportsnet, who normally covers the CHL games shown on Sportsnet, will be the play-by-play man calling the games. Pierre Maguire of TSN's and NBC's hockey telecasts will be the colour commentator in the booth with Loubardias. TSN reporter Ryan Rishaug will be the rinkside reporter for the series.

Here's the broadcaster, location, and time for each of the eight games. Please note that all game times are listed in Eastern Time. If you have a broadband connection, you can also watch the games at TSN's website or Rogers Sportnet's website.

Monday, August 27 @ 9AM - Ufa, Russia - TSN
Wednesday, August 29 @ 9AM - Ufa, Russia - Sportsnet
Friday, August 31 @ 8AM - Omsk, Russia - Sportsnet
Saturday, September 1 @ 6AM - Omsk, Russia - TSN
Tuesday, September 4 @ 8PM - Winnipeg - TSN
Wednesday, September 5 @ 8PM - Saskatoon - TSN
Friday, September 7 @ 10PM - Red Deer - Sportsnet
Sunday, September 9 @ 8PM - Vancouver - Sportsnet

The 1972 Summit Series was an incredible display of hockey talent. I have no doubt that the 2008 Super Series will be much the same, and that bodes well for the game of hockey for both the present and the future.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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