Two-time Stanley Cup winner and former New York Ranger Sergei Nemchinov, who will once again reprise his role as head coach of the Russian under-20 team this season at the World Junior Championships in Ottawa, has gathered a group of 35 prospects for this year’s squad in Novogorsk to begin evaluating players and preparing for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic next week. Among the camp attendees is New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov. Missing are 2008 NHL Draft picks such as Columbus’ Nikita Filatov and the Rangers own Evgeni Grachev, both of whom will leave Russia to play in North America this season, along with the likes of Andrei Loktionov, Vyacheslav Voinov and Dmitri Kugryshev. “This year more than ever before, many youngsters have left for abroad. And the majority of them are candidates for the country’s national team” Nemchinov pointed out in one of two articles posted at Sports.ru. Only five 1990-born players have joined the team in Novogorsk this week. “I talked to many of the [1990-born] kids, they literally leave [for overseas] any day now” he offered as explanation for the perceived lack of depth on the camp roster. But he noted that many would join the national team later in the year, contradicting rumors from earlier this summer that players who left for North America would be suspended from the national team. “In November, we will hold six exhibition games in Canada. There we will have the opportunity to involve those who are playing in the [Canadian] junior league.” While he admitted it would be impossible for those who make their respective NHL rosters to join the team at the World Junior Championships, he remains hopeful that those who end up in the AHL will once again be allowed to join the squad, as Rangers’ prospect Artem Anisimov did last year. “The players playing for farm clubs cannot help us with exhibition matches [in November], but for the World [Junior] Championships all of them will arrive. The same situation as in this past year. I hope that the North American clubs will not prevent it this year.”
As for Cherepanov, Nemchinov is hopeful that after an off-year at last year’s tournament, due in part to a bout with bronchitis, he will be able to return to the form he displayed in the 2007 tournament. When asked as part of the second article at Sports.ru if he though it was possible Nemchinov replied “I hope for it,” adding “Maybe the example of Jagr will help Cherepanov.” The author of the article, Alexei Shevchenko, noted the following about the young Russian: “By the way, Cherepanov has changed noticeably. He grew up, perhaps. It is visible even in his behavior. He became a more serious person than a year ago.” For his part, Cherepanov is happy to be back with the junior national team, despite rumors of conflict between him and Nemchinov and a late withdrawal from a Four Nations tournament last April. “I always go to the national team with pleasure” he explained, and reiterated a goal he set and hoped to achieve before leaving for the NHL “I dream of getting to the World Championships.”
The Russian junior team will play an exhibition match against Moscow Dynamo’s farm team tomorrow, August 22nd, before leaving for the Czech Republic on August 25th. Once there they’ll play three games as part of the Four Nations Tournament: August 26 vs. Finland, August 27 vs. Sweden, and on August 28 they’ll finish up with a match against the tournament hosts.
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