The tournament doesn't start for another week, but the World U18 Championships have already seen a major surprise. Yesterday, it was reported that nearly the entire Russian U18 team had failed a doping test and would not be playing in the tournament. Russia will instead largely be represented by their national U17 team at the tournament, and U18 head coach Vitaly Prokhorov was fired from his position.
The cause of the failed test was allegedly meldonium. Meldonium is supposed to increase blood flow and aid the body in recovery time. The World Anti-Doping Agency outlawed the drug in September of 2015. Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova was one of many athletes to test positive for the drug in recent months since it was added to the banned substances list.
Russian power forward German Rubtsov, a likely first round pick, was reported as one of the players to fail the test and will not be at the tournament. Russian players in North America were not affected, meaning Windsor Spitfires defenseman and likely top ten pick Mikhail Sergachev will still play in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Canada began to nail down the moving target of their roster as players were eliminated from CHL playoff contention. It looks like the Canadians could be bringing one of their best teams in recent memory to Grand Forks this year.
Bob McKenzie reported the names of six potential first round draft picks expected to play in the tournament:
CAN's U-18 team bolstered by high profile additions: Jakob Chychrun, Mike McLeod, Jake Bean, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, Logan Stanley...— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 7, 2016
The most important name on that list might be Jakob Chychrun, who was born in Florida and has dual citizenship. It was expected that he would play for Canada internationally, but playing in this tournament will lock him in for the Canadians going forward.
It was thought that Chychrun and Michael McLeod, who missed time this year with minor knee surgery would opt to skip the tournament, but with both players perhaps trending downward a slight bit in draft rankings(we're talking from top-5 to top-10), one last good showing in front of scouts wouldn't hurt.
Penticton's shocking ouster in the BCHL means will get to see future NCAA players Tyson Jost(North Dakota) and Dante Fabbro(BU) play in this tournament as well. This should be a good showcase for both players, who perhaps had some questions about the quality of their competition this year.
Finally, Finland and Team USA took the ice for their first practice yesterday at a pre-camp tournament in Blaine, Minnesota. I was there and there's not much to report other than there is not much to report. For the US, the newcomers Casey Mittelstadt, Logan Brown, and Kailer Yamamoto were all skating together on what is ostensibly the second line for the US team.
The two practices back-to-back did highlight the huge advantage the US has coming into this tournament. There was a lot of jersey-swapping in the Team Finland practice as they mixed and matched trying to find combinations that fit. For the US, they came out with their four lines set, and though the drills I saw weren't super-high intensity, they looked fast and crisp. Those two teams meet in an exhibition on Friday night, which should be a very fun game.