After five games in three provinces over the past 10 days, the CHL Subway Super Series will be decided Thursday when Team WHL faces Team Russia in the finale of the six-game showdown at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia.
Team WHL's 1-0 shootout win Wednesday in Vancouver gave the CHL stars an 8-7 lead in points through five games, but a regulation win by either side will decide the series. If Russia wins in a shootout, another shootout will be held to decide the series champion.
The game can be seen at 10 p.m. ET on NHL Network in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada.
Ten players who were part of Wednesday's win for Team WHL will skate in Thursday's game, including goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who stopped all 30 shots he faced in regulation and three more in the shootout.
The Calgary Flames draft pick could start again, but 2013 NHL Draft prospect Eric Comrie of the Tri-City Americans, who earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary rankings of players to watch for this year's draft, also could get in the net.
Team WHL coach Don Nachbaur said after Wednesday's game he wasn't ready to name a starter.
"I'm pretty confident that the kids are going to play hard [Thursday] regardless of who's in the net," he said.
A number of 2013 draft hopefuls will get a chance to showcase themselves for NHL scouts. Edmonton Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar, like Comrie an A-rated prospect, will get another opportunity. The 5-foot-11.75, 193-pound center has 14 points in 21 Western Hockey League games and is a player talent evaluators are keeping a close eye on.
"I really like his speed, he has a real nose for the net," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "His skill set is good. I like to say about some of these players that are A players: You watch them play and they get it. He gets it. He gets the game and knows how to filter through it all."
Making his Super Series debut Thursday will be WHL leading scorer J.C. Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers. The 19-year-old forward, who was passed over in the 2012 draft but remains eligible for the 2013 selection process, leads the league with 43 points, is tied for first with 17 goals and is second with 26 assists.
"This kid has just exploded out of the gate," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "Here's a kid that in his [initial] draft year wasn't drafted, and guys that were drafted in the first two rounds [last year], he's better now at this point than the kids that were drafted."
Team WHL's defense will feature four of the first eight players picked in the 2012 draft -- Griffin Reinhart (No. 4, N.Y. Islanders), Morgan Rielly (No. 5, Toronto), Mathew Dumba (No. 7, Minnesota) and Derrick Pouliot (No. 8, Pittsburgh).
Beside national and league pride, the game also marks the final chance for players hoping to earn a spot on Canada's team for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"I think for us it's about getting the correct 22 at Christmas," said Steve Spott, who will coach Canada at the WJC. "This is an extremely important evaluation for the players that were there in August [at the Canada-Russia Challenge]. It's a secondary opportunity to make an impression."
Also skating for Team Russia is 6-4, 196-pound right wing Valeri Nichushkin, an A-rated skater for this year's draft. He has been held scoreless in the first five games of the Super Series, but has eight points in nine games with Chelyabinsk in the MHL, Russia's top minor league.
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*-injured and unable to play
Goalies: Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton (Calgary); Eric Comrie, Tri-City (2013 draft eligible)
Defensemen: Mathew Dumba, Red Deer (Minnesota); Keegan Lowe, Edmonton (Carolina); Derrick Pouliot, Portland (Pittsburgh); Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (N.Y. Islanders); Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (Toronto); Tyler Wotherspoon, Portland (Calgary)
Forwards: Graham Black, Swift Current (New Jersey); Brady Brassart, Calgary (2013 draft eligible); Travis Ewanyk*, Edmonton (Edmonton); Sam Fioretti, Moose Jaw (2013 draft eligible); Mitchell Holmberg, Spokane (2013 draft eligible); Steven Hodges, Victoria (Florida); Curtis Lazar, Edmonton (2013 draft eligible); JC Lipon, Kamloops (2013 draft eligible); Adam Lowry, Swift Current (Winnipeg); Mark McNeill, Prince Albert (Chicago); Mitchell Moroz*, Edmonton (Edmonton); Ty Rattie, Portland (St. Louis); Colin Smith, Kamloops (Colorado); Michael St. Croix, Edmonton (N.Y. Rangers)
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); Alexei Vasilevskiy, Ufa 2, Russia Jr. (2013 draft eligible); Albert Yarullin, Kazan, KHL (2013 draft eligible)
Forwards: Alexander Delnov, Seattle, WHL (Florida); 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)
2012 SUBWAY SUPER SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Team Russia 6, Team QMJHL 2
Game 2: Team QMJHL 5, Team Russia 2
Game 3: Team Russia 2, Team OHL 1
Game 4: Team OHL 2, Team Russia 1
Game 5: Team WHL 1, Team Russia 0, SO
Game 6: Nov. 15 at Victoria, B.C.
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