2020 WJC Players to Watch: Kazakhstan
It’s everyone’s favourite time of the year! Not Christmas, not the New Year, not the days off, or even the sales on Boxing Day. No. I mean the World Junior Championships! Personally, along with my home country, I have a soft spot for the underdog, and the underdog is very clear this year. Kazakhstan enters their first consecutive WJC in over a decade, and they’re very much the underdog. Don’t know anything about the team? No one blames you, but that’s what I’m here for! Here’s a quick Team Kazakhstan Preview!
Kazakhstan enters this tournament fighting relegation. That’s their only goal at this point. The roster isn’t what one would call the strongest, far from it. Still, the vast majority of their roster plays in either the VHL (Russian 2nd tier hockey) or the MHL (Russian Junior Hockey), and they’re definitely not players to count out. This season, Kazakhstan is icing their youngest team in years, with an average age of 18.30.
Notable Players Not Available
Last year, the star of the tournament for Kazakhstan, Artur Gatiyatov, was an instrumental part of Kazakhstan’s run, but he’s no longer eligible for the tournament.
Dias Guseinov has been one of the most impressive Kazakh players this season, with 41 points in 36 MHL games. However, Guseinov was injured shortly before the tournament, so Kazakhstan will have to go on without a potential star player.
Players to Watch
Don’t know any of the players? Here are some key names to look out for.
Maxim Musorov is arguably the best and most promising of the team. Musorov is currently the only player on the roster that has played in the KHL this season, appearing in 12 games (with an assist) at 18. Musorov hasn’t been able to produce as much at the pro level, also going scoreless in 10 games in the VHL. In the MHL, he’s doing very well as the alternate captain of Snezhnye Barsy Astana, one of two Kazakh MHL teams. 23 points in 17 games have him tied for the most on the Kazakh WJC roster… in 25 games less than the next guy. Pretty impressive.
We can’t not mention the starting goalie. Vladislav Nurek is definitely deserving of the starting goalie role for Kazakhstan. League-wise, Nurek is a fairly average goalie in the MHL, his .909 SV% puts him 45th in the league among goalies with over 10 games, tied with his backup, Roman Kalmykov. Nurek does have one thing, he’s the undisputed starter for Altay Ust-Kamenogorsk, the other Kazakh MHL team. In his debut in the VHL, Nurek came up strong, stopping 26 out of 28 shots. Nurek likely won’t be the star here but he’ll do his best to backstop Kazakhstan to… not relegation?
Temirlan Gaitamirov isn’t the flashiest player, but the captain of the Kazakhs is definitely a force in his own zone. The 6’4 defenseman is known for being a heavy force defensively, but don’t expect him to score. In his 2nd season in the USHL, Gairamirov is still waiting on his first goal. Still, he comes in as a player to watch in his last season of eligibility.
2020 NHL Draft Watch
Team Kazakhstan doesn’t look like a team full of future NHLers, but there are a few names that have the potential to get drafted.
Yeah, I’ll mention him again here. Musorov was first eligible in 2019, but a mediocre MHL season and a scoreless WJC made him go undrafted. The season prior to that, he was noted by some to be on some radars, with an impressive look in the MHL, and a good showing at the U18 WJC D1A, and it’s possible he can get back on those radars. A strong WJC could potentially make him a wild-card option for the late rounds, but it’s likely an uphill battle.
Stanislav Alexandrov is one of three 2002-born players playing for Kazakhstan this year. Alexandrov has shown himself this season to be a goalscorer, with 12 goals in 27 games, adding 2 assists to his point total. He’s 2nd in goals on Snezhnye Barsy Astana, but if you’re just going by the boxscore, then his lack of assists has to be alarming. Still, he has a nice shot, which shows on the scoreboard. He’s been mentioned on numerous “Players to Watch” lists for this draft, but the highest he’s been ranked is 223rd on Steve Kournianos’ draft list in August. It’s another uphill battle, but honestly, his goal-scoring prowess is reason enough to take a look at him.
Wow, that’s pretty much it! They have two other players entering their first year of draft eligibility, Maxim Pavlenko and Ansar Shaikhmeddenov, but only Pavlenko even has a mention with regards to being drafted aside from the WJC… in a Sim League Draft in 2017. Everyone else has quite a long way before they can be considered draft material.
Kazakhstan likely won’t make much of an impact throughout the WJC or the upcoming draft, but they’re a very interesting team to support as the tournament goes on, and I honestly kind of hope they stave off elimination.
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