EDMONTON, AB - Just over a week ago, four Oilers prospects converged in Buffalo, NY, for the annual hockey holiday event that is the IIHF World Junior Championship. Kailer Yamamoto (USA), Aapeli Rasanen (Finland), Ostap Safin (Czech Republic) and Dmitri Samorukov (Russia) each made their respective nation's clubs in an effort to bring home hardware. As the perennial circuit draws a conclusion, EdmontonOilers.com provides an update on the four Oilers prospects that competed.
Video: MINORS MINUTE | Maksimov Power
The Oilers first-round (22nd-overall) selection in the 2017 NHL Draft is still in the tournament with Team USA, set to face a highly skilled Sweden team which features projected 2018 first-overall selection Rasmus Dahlin in the semifinals. Yamamoto, who earned a brief stint with the Oilers early in the 2017-18 season, is up to two goals and three points in five games, at times playing alongside scoring leader Casey Mittelstadt. The winger participated in the first-ever outdoor game of the tournament, played in New Era Field, in what became a snowy game of pond hockey between two powerhouses in Canada and America. USA edged Canada 4-3 in a shootout.
Ostap Safin, another selection from the 2017 NHL Draft (4th round, 115th-overall) is experiencing the smaller ice surfaces of North America for the first time in his career. The 6-foot-4, 192-pound left-shooting right winger is also still in the tournament, having defeated Finland 4-3 in the shootout on Tuesday, setting up a semifinal match against Canada. Safin only played 6:00 in the victory and has collected three points thus far, including one goal. Typically known for playing a game filled with offensive finesse, Safin is using the World Juniors to prove he can play a balanced, 200-foot game. "I am trying to do more of the defense," Safin told Julie Robenhymer. "I always try to score… but playing for the team is most important. I don't care about points and other stuff here. Whatever they ask me to do, I will do."
Oilers prospect Aapeli Rasanen (6th round, 153rd-overall in the 2016 NHL Draft) experienced a much better team outing in the 2018 edition of the circuit as opposed to 2017. The last tournament, the club did not have a favourable outcome, as members of Finland's coaching staff were fired mid-tournament and the team succumbed to the relegation round - only one year after winning the grail. They staved off elimination to compete this year and Rasanen was once again a contributor offensively, at times teaming up with his former Sioux City Musketeers linemate Eeli Tolvanen. He had four goals in five games, including two on the power play. The forward also showed his expertise in the dot, winning 64.4 percent of his faceoffs but was eliminated from medal contention following Czech Republic's shootout win on Tuesday.
Dmitri Samorukov, the defender who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers in September, was a physical presence on the back end for Team Russia. The third round, 84th-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft was eliminated from the competition by Yamamoto and the Americans on Tuesday, being handed a 4-2 loss. Samorukov registered an assist in the game, ending the tournament with one point, four shots on goal and four penalty minutes in five matches.