BOISBRIAND, Quebec -- Top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads may take his first step toward an eventual inclusion on the Canadian junior national team Monday, when he skates in an unfamiliar position for the team representing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in Game 1 of the Canadian Hockey League Subway Super Series against Team Russia.
Team QMJHL coach Andre Tourigny, who also will serve as an assistant to Steve Spott on the team Canada sends to Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, said he will be playing MacKinnon on the wing Monday, alongside fellow 2013 NHL Draft hopeful Jean-Sebastien Dea of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Florida Panthers top prospect Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs.
It will be the first time MacKinnon will play out of his natural position of center, but Tourigny said there's a specific reason behind the decision, which goes beyond Monday's game (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).
"We want to see what he can do on the wing," Tourigny said following Team QMJHL's practice Monday morning. "It's a position he's never played. He's always played center, so he'll have to get used to playing on the wing. It will be a nice challenge for him. He's obviously playing with good players in J-S Dea and Huberdeau, but we want to see Nate's intensity.
"With the national team, we'll need some energy players, some players who can play at both ends of the ice. I think playing Nate on the wing here will be a good experience for him, and it will add something to his tool box when it comes time to select the team, knowing he can play on the wing and at center, he can play an energy role or an offensive role."
How perturbed is MacKinnon over the development? Not in the least, seeing as he didn't mention it when he revealed he would be playing with Dea and Huberdeau.
"Those two guys are great players and hopefully we perform tonight," was all MacKinnon would say.
Tourigny said he spoke to Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme about the position change beforehand and that he warned MacKinnon it was coming, so that might explain why he wasn't shocked to learn of the move Monday morning.
What may have been a bit more shocking came a night earlier, when MacKinnon's Mooseheads saw their 14-game win streak come to a halt with a 6-5 shootout loss at the Rimouski Oceanic, a game Halifax led 5-1 after two periods. MacKinnon failed to get a point in that game, snapping his points streak at 13 games, which dated to Oct. 2.
He's hoping to get back on the score sheet against Team Russia on Monday, but as his coach said, he also wants to show the defensive aspects of his game.
"Obviously the Russians are a fast, strong, skilled team," MacKinnon said. "We're going to have to be sharp in both zones if we're going to beat them. For me personally, I'm just going to play hard, bring energy and try to play a good defensive game."
Team Russia features Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers, the first pick of the 2012 draft, and Mikhail Grigorenko, chosen No. 12 by the Buffalo Sabres who also plays in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts.
The task of trying to slow Yakupov will fall on the shoulders of three drafted players: Francis Beauvillier (Florida Panthers), Charles Hudon (Montreal Canadiens) and Philip Danault (Chicago Blackhawks).
"They're going to have to watch Yakupov," Tourigny said, "so it will be a nice challenge for them."
Tourigny conceded the cards are stacked against his team in this game, but it's a rare opportunity for his players to show what they are made of.
"We have the 25 best players from our league, but they have the 25 best players in their country, so we're obviously not talking about the same sample size," he said. "But it's a nice opportunity for our players to prove how good they are, to prove they can find a way to win, to find a way to play together and to play a Canadian game to go and get a win."
*- injured and will not play
Defensemen-- Nikolas Brouillard, Drummondville (2013 Draft eligible), Ryan Culkin, Quebec (Calgary), Dillon Fournier, Rouyn-Noranda (Chicago), *Matt Murphy, Val-d'Or (2013 Draft eligible), James Melindy, Moncton (Phoenix), Jimmy Oligny, PEI (2013 Draft eligible), Xavier Ouellet, Blainville-Boisbriand (Detroit), Jonathan Racine, Moncton (Florida)
Forwards-- Brent Andrews, Halifax (Nashville), Francis Beauvillier, Rimouski (Florida), William Carrier, Cape Breton (2013 Draft eligible), Christopher Clapperton, Blainville-Boisbriand (2013 Draft eligible), Phillip Danault, Victoriaville (Chicago), Jean-Sebastien Dea, Rouyn-Noranda (2013 Draft eligible), *Jonathan Drouin, Halifax (2013 Draft eligible), Samuel Henley, Val-d'Or (2013 Draft eligible), Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (Florida), Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi (Montreal), Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax (2013 Draft eligible), Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or (2013 Draft eligible), Cedric Paquette, Blainville-Boisbriand (Tampa Bay), Ryan Tesink, Saint John (St. Louis)
Defensemen: Kirill Diyakov, Khanty-Mansiysk, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Yaroslav Dyblenko, Mytischi 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Pavel Koledov, Yaroslavl 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Ilya Lyubushin, Yaroslavl 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Andrei Mironov, Dynamo Moscow, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Mikhail Naumenkov, CSKA 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Nikita Nesterov, Chelyabinsk, KHL (Tampa Bay); Artem Sergeev^, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (Tampa Bay); Alexei Vasilevskiy, Ufa 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Albert Yarullin, Kazan, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Nikita Zadorov**, London, OHL (2013 draft eligible)
Forwards: Mikhail Grigorenko*, Quebec, QMJHL (Buffalo); Kirill Kapustin, Yaroslavl, VHL (2013 draft eligible); Alexander Khokhlachev, Spartak, KHL (Boston); Yaroslav Kosov, Magnitogorsk, KHL (Florida); Yevgeni Mozer, Omsk 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Valeri Nichushkin, Chelyabinsk 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Nikolay Prokhorkin, Manchester, AHL (Los Angeles); Maxim Shalunov, Chelyabinsk, KHL (Chicago); Anton Shenfeld, Magnitogorsk, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Andrei Sigarev, St. Petersburg, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Vladimir Tkachev, Kazan, KHL (2013 draft eligible); Bogdan Yakimov, Penza, Russia-2 (2013 draft eligible); Nail Yakupov, Nizhnekamsk, KHL (Edmonton); Damir Zhafyarov, Novokuznetsk 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Daniil Zharkov, Belleville, OHL (Edmonton) ; Anton Zlobin*, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (Pittsburgh); Valentin Zykov*, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL (2013 draft eligible)
*- skating in QMJHL games only
^- skating in Val-d'Or game only
**- skating in Guelph game only
^^- skating in WHL games only
2012 SUBWAY SUPER SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1 -- Nov. 5 at Blainville-Boisbriand, Que.
Game 2 -- Nov. 7 at Val-d’Or, Que.
Game 3 -- Nov. 8 at Guelph, Ont.
Game 4 -- Nov. 12 at Sarnia, Ont.
Game 5 -- Nov. 14 at Vancouver, B.C.
Game 6 -- Nov. 15 at Victoria, B.C.
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