The Western Hockey League has released the names of the players who will comprise the league's entry to the 2008 ADT Canada Russia Challenge. You can find details by checking out the official press release here. The WHL has a 9-1 record in the series against the Russians and have collectively outscored their opponent to the tune of 52-17.
Together with the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the hosts have dominated the Russians by a 25-5 margin.
Some will see those stats, bang their chests and proclaim "See!? Canada is #1 in the hockey world! Bwah ha ha ha!"
I look at those numbers and ask: "Why are we still doing this?"
Every year the Russians send over a team made up primarily of undrafted and unheralded players - a far cry from the team they submit to the World Junior Championship at Christmas - and then get annihilated by a trio of CHL All-Star teams.
Hockey Canada supposedly uses these games as a precursor to their December WJC workouts. The Russians... well who knows what they're doing most of the time?
I seriously believe that the event has some use but not in it's current format. Hell, I don't think playing against Team Switzerland would be much of a step back from playing this version of Team Russia, especially as they wear themsevles out from their cross-country tour. (Remember, the Russians are playing 6 games in 11 days!)
I have a proposal.
If the three CHL leagues want to showcase their talent, fantastic! I suggest using players who can benefit the most from the spotlight. Instead of using players already chosen by NHL teams, use a combination of those who have been passed over in their draft years and those top kids eligible for the coming draft in June.
Here would be my ADT Roster using the 15 forwards, 8 defencemen and 2 goalies that the league released today: (red indicates players eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, blue is for players who have been passed over at least once by NHL teams but in my opinion deserve a second look)
1. Evander Kane - Vancouver
2. Brayden Schenn - Brandon
3. Jimmy Bubnick - Kamloops
4. Landon Ferraro - Red Deer
5. Scott Glennie - Brandon
6. Cody Eakin - Swift Current
7. Burke Gallimore - Saskatoon
8. Levko Koper - Spokane
9. Tristan King - Medicine Hat
10. Brandon Kozun - Calgary (tied 7th in league scoring)
11. Dustin Sylvester - Kootenay
12. Jason Reese - Tri-City (20-year-old, 9th in league scoring)
13. Brett Breitkreuz - Edmonton (tied 10th in league scoring)
14. Kyle Bortis - Calgary (tied 10th in league scoring)
15. Kyle St. Denis - Kelowna (19th in league scoring)
1. Jared Cowan - Spokane
2. Stefan Elliot - Saskatoon
3. Tyson Barrie - Kelowna
4. Craig Schira - Vancouver (20-year-old, 2nd in d-men scoring)
5. Giffen Nyren - Kamloops (3rd in D-scoring)
6. Victor Bartley - Regina
7. Dallas Jackson - Prince George
8. Mark Isherwood - Medicine Hat
1. Mark Guggenberger - Swift Current 2.31 GAA and .923 sv%
2. Steve Stanford - Prince Albert 2.70 GAA and .923 sv%
There were a few other options at all positions but the point is made (I think). The WHL, and the other leagues, have a chance to showcase players who haven't received as much as the marquee names. Scouts would be all over this idea because they'd get a chance to see some late bloomers or guys that fell through the cracks, in a competitive environment with others in the same position.
It would also be a nice reward for those undrafted players, getting to represent the league on a major stage (all games televised). For a few of those names, it's probably CIS or ECHL next year unless they can get some attention, and this would be a good way to do it.
I don't know how many people really care about the ADT Canada Russia Challenge but I can tell you that I'd be more inclined to watch my version than the uneven, lopsided, one-way beating that is the current one.
That's my opinion though, love to hear yours and please... throw some other names of undrafted players you think should have made my list!