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Yakupov to compete in Canada-Russia Challenge

by Mike G. Morreale

Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft in June, will highlight a roster of prominent Russian players participating in the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge in Yaroslavl and Halifax, N.S., next month.

Team Russia roster

Goalies: Denis Perevozchikov, Ak Bars Kazan, MHL (2013 draft eligible); Andrei Makarov, Saskatoon, WHL (2013); Andrei Vasilevski, Tolpar Ufa, MHL (Tampa Bay Lightning).

Defense: Andrei Pedan, Guelph, OHL (New York Islanders); Artyom Sergeyev, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (2013); Alexei Vasilevski, Tolpar Ufa, MHL (2013); Albert Yarullin, Ak Bars Kazan, MHL (2013); Mikhail Naumenkov, CSKA Moscow, MHL (2013); Nikita Nesterov, Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Ivan Kuznetsov, Khimik Voskresensk, MHL (2013); Kirill Diakov, Yugra Khanty-Mansisk, KHL (2013); Maxim Osipov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, VHL (2013); Vsevolod Sorokin, Spartak Moscow, MHL (2013).

Forwards: Nikolai Prokhorkin, CSKA Moscow, KHL (Los Angeles Kings); Maxim Shalunov, Traktor Chelyabinsk, MHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Nail Yakupov, Sarnia, OHL (Edmonton Oilers); Anton Slepyshev, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, KHL (2013); Andrei Sigarev, Dizel Penza, VHL (2013); Alexander Kadeykin, Mytischi Atlanti, MHL (2013); Sergei Tverdokhlebov, Mytischi Atlanti, MHL (2013); Daniil Romantsev, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, VHL (2013); Anton Zlobin, Val-d'Or, QMJHL (Pittsburgh Penguins); Yaroslav Kosov, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL (Florida Panthers); Pavel Buchnevich, Almaz Cherepovets, MHL (2013); Kirill Kapustin, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, VHL (2013); Bulatov Khammatov, Tolpar Ufa, MHL (2013); Sergei Shmelev, Mytischi Atlanti, MHL (2013); Artem Fedorov, Khimik Voskresensk, MHL (2013); Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec, QMJHL (Buffalo Sabres).

Yakupov, selected by the Edmonton Oilers, is one of three first-round selections from the 2012 Draft included on the 29-player roster. Center Mikhail Grigorenko, taken No. 12 by the Buffalo Sabres, and goalie Andrei Vasilevski (No. 19, Tampa Bay Lightning), will join Yakupov. All three players were members of silver medal-winning Team Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

There were 11 players named to the Russian team who played a part in the 2012 WJC silver medal in Calgary last year. Russia defeated Team Canada in the WJC semifinal round before dropping a 1-0 overtime decision to Sweden in the gold-medal game.

In addition to there being 20 players on the roster eligible for the 2013 Draft, six participants spent last season in the Canadian Hockey League. That list includes Grigorenko (Quebec, QMJHL), Andrei Makarov (Saskatoon, WHL), Andrei Pedan (Guelph, OHL), Artyom Sergeyev (Val-d’Or, QMJHL), Yakupov (Sarnia, OHL) and Anton Zlobin (Val-d’Or, QMJHL).

The 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge will have Canada and Russia's national junior programs face off in two games in Russia (Aug. 9-10 in Yaroslavl) and two in Canada (Aug. 13-14 in Halifax, N.S.). The event will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series, an unforgettable eight-game series held in September 1972. Canada won that series, 4-3, with one tie. Team Russia will be coached by Mikhail Varnakov.

The top point-producer for the Russians in the '72 Summit Series was Alexander Yakushev, who struck for seven goals and 11 points in eight contests. Hall of Fame goalie Vladislav Tretiak finished 3-4-1 with a 3.88 goals-against average and .882 save percentage.

For the Canadians, Phil Esposito led the team with seven goals and 13 points, while Ken Dryden (2-2-0, 4.75 GAA, .838 save percentage) and Tony Esposito (2-1-1, 3.33 GAA, .882 save percentage) split time in net.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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