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  • Baie-Comeau 17-year-old Valentin Zykov (Remi Senechal, The Canadian Press)When it comes to serious international tournaments, coaches don't like taking any chances. They tend to choose experienced players over young guns, which is especially true for junior hockey. However, Valentin Zykov of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar made the cut for the Subway Super Series.

    He was put on the line with fellow QMJHLers Anton Zlobin and Mikhail Grigorenko and didn't frustrate Russia's head coach Mikhail Varnakov. In fact, the 17-year-old was tied for first in points with a goal and an assist, and led the team with a plus-3 in the series' first game. You don't expect a guy who is two years his everyone's junior to pull off something like that, do you?

    Let's get this straight: the kid makes a journey to Baie-Comeau and clicks right away with 11 goals and 20 points in 17 games and then he continues to perform on his nation's junior team? How is that normal?

    "Here everything's faster," says Zykov about his experience at the Subway Super Series.

    Faster or not, Zykov did score in his very first game for U20 Team Russia as a 17-year-old.

    Read More »from Baie-Comeau youngster Valentin Zykov impressive in Subway Super Series
  • Top draft prospect Nathan MacKinnon had 4 points on Wednesday (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images)

    Buzzing The Net's Three Stars from Team QMJHL's 5-2 win over the Russian Selects in Game 2 of the Subway Super Series at Val-d'Or, Que."

    No. 1 star: Nathan MacKinnon, Team QMJHL

    Tuesday belonged to polling guru Nate Silver, but no vote was needed on Wednesday to know that this Nate was golden. The top prospect for the 2013 NHL draft went from being minus-4 in Game 1 to having four points (1G-3A, +2) to help the Q snap its five-game losing streak in the event. MacKinnon had some effective shifts late in Monday's game after he was moved back from the unfamiliar right wing to centre. His comfort zone got bigger when teammate Jonathan Drouin (1G-3A, +2) returned from a foot injury and the Halifax Mooseheads pair teamed up with Team Canada incumbent Jonathan Huberdeau (2G-1A, +2) to combine for 11 points.

    "I was a little more simple today," MacKinnon, who had a bad turnover that led to a Russian goal in Game 1, told Sportsnet. "I was a little more patient with my play. I kind of

    Read More »from Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jonathan Drouin enjoy big night versus Russians: Super Series 3 Stars
  • Myles Bell (Marissa Baecker)When Kelowna Rockets head coach Ryan Huska told Myles Bell he is going to move him from the back end to on the wing, the 6-foot, 210-pounder didn't know what to think.

    "It really made me wonder when I was moved up to forward," says the 19-year-old Bell. "Whether they weren't happy with my defensive play crept into my mind. But I also knew we had a lot of good defencemen. I still wasn't quite sure why I was the guy chosen to be moved to forward."

    As reported by Warren Henderson of Kelowna Capital News, Huska didn't put Bell on forward because he wasn't happy with his performance on the blueline, rather because the Rockets needed some offensive help and could afford to move up one of their defenders.

    "When we lost J.T. Barnett (to injury) on opening weekend, we felt we needed an older, offensive guy to move up front," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "Myles went up there and hasn't complained. For whatever reason, he developed immediate chemistry with Colton and Dylen and has

    Read More »from Kelowna Rockets’ Myles Bell finding his groove up front
  • Garret Sparks has been the game's first star in 2 of his past 4 games (OHL Images)

    No. 1 star: Garret Sparks, Guelph Storm (OHL)

    It is safe to say Sparks' teammates owe him a drink or two. Despite the Owen Sound Attack outshooting the Storm in every period, Sparks didn't allow a single shot past him. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect stood tall between pipes, posting a 39-save shutout for a 3-0 victory. He was the key to the Attack's power play striking out on their three separate man-advantage opportunities.

    Sparks is doing a great job of redeeming himself from letting three pucks get past him on just eight shots on November 3 against the Niagara IceDogs. The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder has only let one goal get past him in his last two games, stopping 65 of 66 shots.

    If Sparks continues his strong play, he has a great shot of representing Team USA at the upcoming world junior championship in Russia. As noted in Neate Sager's feature on Sparks, it is a huge goal for the Elmhurst, Ill., native.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Garret Sparks silences Owen Sound’s offensive attack: Wednesday’s 3 stars
  • Winning streak ends for weary Russians

    Russia's Nail Yakupov

    Acclimatization and a troubling power play sent Russia on its way to its first CHL Subway Super Series loss to Team QMJHL in three years. What else was noteworthy with Mikhail Varnakov's squad Wednesday night? Well, it's a rather lengthy list.

    • Varnakov broke up 'the Q-line' replacing Valentin Zykov with Anton Shenfeld on the right wing. Mikhail Grigorenko and Anton Zlobin remained on the line. They were Russia's third line in Game 1 but in Game 2 they were on the second line.
    • Yaroslav Kosov and Evgeni Mozer, who took part in Game 1 for Russia, were healthy scratches for this one.
    • Russia landed in Montreal last Saturday, meaning they should have reached the peak of acclimatization on Wednesday. Travelling over 50o kilometres north to Val D'Or on Tuesday also didn't help. It showed in the Russians' play throughout the game, although they did finally find their legs in the third period.
    • Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nikita Nesterov ended the night with a minus-1 and he really should
    Read More »from Winning streak ends for weary Russians
  • Minnesota Wild selection Tyler Graovac (OHL Images)Tyler Graovac has already suited up in the Subway Super Series once — there's just a little added incentive this time.

    Many of the OHL's best and brightest Canadian players who will perform in the middle leg of the six-game series with the Russian selects are already under contract with their NHL organization, already have a vague idea about what awaits them beyond the junior level. Graovac, as a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, is unsigned amid the ongoing lockout. Yet the 19-year-old is producing well with the Ottawa 67's; his OHL-leading 18 goals in 17 games — gives him only two fewer than he produced his first three seasons in Canada's capital.

    A strong showing among the top-flight talent in Guelph on Thursday and Sarnia on Monday would improve his darkhorse chances at Team Canada and help him land that pro deal.

    Read More »from Ottawa 67′s Tyler Graovac delivering in a critical season
  • Spencer Watson is the second-leading scorer among the OHL's incoming draft class (OHL Images)

    Rookie Spencer Watson traces his fast start to the power of two.

    It might be too-too much to construct a story this way, but attention should be paid when a second-round pick — the second of the Kingston Frontenacs' second-rounders in April — is tied for second in points among players drafted into the Ontario Hockey League last spring. The Frontenacs nabbed Watson with the No. 24 overall pick after he received glowing notices as one of the best pure goal scorers in Ontario minor hockey while playing for the London Jr. Knights. Few expected that at the quarter-pole, he would be playing on a top line.

    Like the Erie Otters' Connor McDavid, Watson represents his birth year on his jersey. In his case, wearing No. 96 symbolizes the birthdate for both he and his twin brother Matthew Watson, a defenceman also drafted by Kingston. The pair who were born two minutes apart 16 years ago are separated this season, but Spencer Watson is drawing on their bond regularly.

    "It's a great way to develop everything," says Watson, who's slight at 5-foot-10 and 157 pounds but seems to have the goal scorer's gift for finding the sliver of space to get a shot away. "We both push each other so we get that competitive edge to push each other and make each other that much better ... You always want to one-up the other one."

    Read More »from Kingston Frontenacs’ Spencer Watson finds sibling rivalry pays off
  • Brock Beukeboom was acquired last week by Guelph (OHL Images)Dwelling on the past will not get Brock Beukeboom anywhere.

    Two years ago, the odds that the 6-foot-2, 215-pound defenceman would end up playing an overage season in junior would have been remote. The Uxbridge, Ont., native was a relatively high NHL pick, 63rd overall, attended Hockey Canada's under-20 summer development camp and was named captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds early in his third season. Of course, a concussion sustained that season set him back; he missed 46 games due to injuries across the last two years with the Soo and Niagara IceDogs.

    Now the veteran defenceman, determined not to be discouraged, is hoping for a bounce-back year with the Guelph Storm. Beukeboom was the first big-name blueliner to move to a contender when the Storm picked him up last week from the IceDogs for three priority selection draft picks, including a 2014 second-rounder. It's another lifeline and shot at a pro contract for Beukeboom, whom the St. Louis Blues declined to sign last spring.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Brock Beukeboom eager to make up for lost time, earn pro shot
  • Mississauga Steelheads owner Elliott Kerr (centre) has a 3-year commitment (OHL Images)

    The long-running line about the Brampton Battalion and Mississauga IceDogs, Majors and now Steelheads was that they had enough fans between them to perhaps sustain one Ontario Hockey League franchise.

    Now that is set to become a reality with the Battalion bowing to market reality and decamping for North Bay, the focus switches to the rechristened Steelheads. Well-connected owner Elliott Kerr has talked a big game about being the saviour of major junior hockey in the Greater Toronto Area against daunting odds and very reasonable doubts. It's worth noting, though, that Kerr, told the Toronto Star the Steelheads' attendance figures "aren't sustainable." However, there might be reason for some cautious optimism, although it's open to question how many of the few, the proud, the about to be disenfranchised Battalion fans will convert to the last GTA team standing.

    Read More »from Mississauga Steelheads have seen ‘the needle move’ on low attendance, but Battalion move alone isn’t a saviour
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    The Edmonton Oil Kings' trade for David Musil means Curtis Lazar is trading billet houses. The 17-year-old standout was billeting with the family of Mason Geertsen, the defenceman who went to Vancouver in the deal. (Vancouver Province)

    Team Canada hopeful Laurent Brossoit revived his spring 2012 form to help Edmonton hand league-leading Kamloops its first regulation loss at home. (Kamloops Daily News)

    Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey got the W over his twin, Connor Honey, and the Seattle Thunderbirds. (Luber's LoungeBrandon Sun)

    Rookie goalie Garret Hughson helped injury-riddled Spokane blank Everett. (Spokane Spokesman-Review)

    The Kootenay Ice's 14-year streak of playoff appearances will likely end, but a bumper bantam draft crop awaits. (Ice Chips)

    Coach Dave Lowry's Victoria Royals are struggling to win lately once they leave Vancouver Island. (Victoria Times-Colonist)

    OHL

    The transplanted Troops, the soon to be North Bay Battalion, are likely to remain in the Central Division next season, reports Ryan Pyette. That does not mean no one can have fun pitching realignment. Does Battalion coach-GM Stan Butler also head north? (London Free Press)

    In the words of GM Kyle Dubas, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are hoping they "might play a couple extra games" against North Bay. That would not mean changing divisions. (Sault This Week)

    Read More »from Anthony Duclair has setback with wonky ankle: Wednesday’s coast-to-coast

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